Episode 169: Edward Winkleman

November 23, 2008 · Print This Article

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This week: Gallerist, blogger, straight shooter, and tough-love proponent Edward Winkleman. Ed tells it like it is and gives some much needed advice for the young artist.

Edward Winkleman is vastly different than Babe Winkleman, although both are highly respected in their fields.

34 thoughts on “Episode 169: Edward Winkleman”

  1. This episode was really interesting and helpful. There are a lot of people giving advice about getting to know curators, which is hard to do in NY, if you want to start showing your work. In contrast the advice for dealers and artists super helpful and motivating.

    I’m a less than emerging artist and I’ve been having trouble figuring out how to reintroduce myself and I thought the conversation Duncan and Edward was helpful and clear.

    Great job.

  2. Richard says:

    I agree, I used to teach a Law and Business Skills for artist course at the University of Wisconsin, and this is EXACTLY the sort of solid, sensible, real world advice students need. I wish I had had this this interview then to play it for my students. This should be mandatory listening in all grad student courses.

  3. Kathryn says:

    I thought he was outstanding, I like how he was told he was “giving away all our secrets”, and his answer was “why are they secrets?”

    That’s a hell of a blog he’s got.


  4. Richard says:

    His blog is so amazing I forgot he ran a gallery as it stands out in my mind so much. Great stuff.

  5. artfagcity says:

    I totally love this interview. I also totally loved the closing

  6. Excellent interview Duncan and Edward! It was great to hear his voice after only knowing him through his written “voice.”

    The discussion with Duncan was great;you seemed well acquainted with his blog.

    By the way, the little project I have for Proximity magazine of seeking out and editing theoretical articles by practicing artists was largely inspired by Edward’s blog post and the following discussion about “Where is the Smithson of Now.”

  7. Spin says:

    Strict contracts would make it like the 40s and 50s again. Strict contracts take ALL power away from artists. If strict contracts come back then there must be a visual artist union for represented artists. Galleries have too much power as it is. They drop artists based on their age and other issues that would be considered illegal in any other setting. Pink slipped anyone lately Ed?

  8. Christopher says:

    Artists are not employees but products and the sooner they realize that and plan accordingly the better.

  9. I agree, Chris, however, want to add that realization does not necessarily entail acceptance of the demeaned status.

    It is a difficult line to walk, succeeding enough to live well, yet also attempting to change what one can simultaneously. But I think Edward as a gallerist has found some strategies for tha in open, real discussion, and there are more. Artis need to do siiiar things even more. The Sharks try in a more (sometimes “too”) aggressive way, I think BaS is also both helpful and yet adding a bit of criticism to simple sophistry.

  10. Edward_ says:

    Thanks again for this Duncan…you were a prince of an interviewer and wonderful at setting the tone.

    Spin notes: “They drop artists based on their age and other issues that would be considered illegal in any other setting. Pink slipped anyone lately Ed?”

    First of all, although you’re not coming right out and accusing me of this, for the record, I have never dropped any artist because of their age or any issue that is illegal in any context. (If you feel the need to challenge me on that, I’ll be happy to put you in contact with my attorney.) I have, one time, let artists go, though, which is what the “pink slip” jab references.

    More than a year ago now, we changed the program in one-fell swoop after I bought out my former business partner, and the program has remained the same (except growing) since then. It was a tough decision when I made it, but one based on what I felt the gallery needed to grow and to reflect the direction I, newly as sole owner then, wanted to take it. I’ll live and/or die by that decision.

    I’m sorry if you knew one of the artists we’re no longer working with and are speaking out in defense of them, but I assure you that age and other such bias factors had absolutely nothing to do with the decisions. I’ve blogged about this extensively already, though, and that’s all I’ll say about it here. (see: http://edwardwinkleman.blogspot.com/2008/04/end-of-artist-gallery-relationship-from.html)

    As for contracts hurting artists, you’re absolutely right. Which is why we don’t currently use them. My thought there, though, is that if galleries can expect artists (like Hirst) to leap over to auction houses after they’ve spent years building their markets, the galleries will have to figure out some way to protect their interests and I suspect contracts will be the route most choose to go. Perhaps a better solution (one that doesn’t take so much power away from artists) will reveal itself. It’s a brave new world out there.

  11. amytalluto says:

    refreshing to hear Edward’s forward-thinking and pragmatic thoughts on the future of art and the market…especially after last week’s trip down bitter memory lane!

  12. I remember when you put that post up, Edward, admitting your action of dropping and artist. And then put it up for discussion — and a very interesting discussion followed. I thought that was very admirable — putting you cards open on the table and taking some shit for it. That kind of thing is always so hush-hush in the artworld. Such openness, whether anyone would agree with dropping that particular artist or whatever, is what makes your blog so much of a “return reading” magnet.

  13. Tim Porges says:

    Re.” But where’s the humanity in all this? Why, in an industry that still prides itself on being predominantly built on handshakes, do people feel screwed so frequently? ” (this from Ed’s blog)

    The first thing I’d recommend (and I’d like to hear Ed’s views about this) is a book (books; you remember them? ) by Olav Velthius: _Talking Prices_ (Princeton U press,2005), instructively subtitled “Symbolic meanings of Prices on the market for Contemporary Art.”

    What Velthius writes about is a situation in which conflicted feelings about money and value have generated parallel (and sometimes conflicting) value systems, both highly elaborate and both woven into the DNA of all art institutions, public and private. Collectors (and this is true of dealers and artists, when they collect, in my limited experience) have an amazingly exact (and current) grasp of the value of their holdings, while they simultaneously maintain a structure of appreciation, fed by criticism (and this is, in a market-driven system, the only real value criticism supplies) and social contact with artists.

    (And there is, in addition to market economics and romantic notions of value, a kind of primitive economics of desire. It’s one thing to love something, and another when you need to own it. Ed does talk about this a little. If you could bottle this stuff you’d be as rich as Bill Gates.)

    Ed notes that collectors near-universally subscribe to the notion of the “true artist” who makes art because he/she HAS to; who has no choice in the matter; who is a creature of nature. The romantic notion of a “true” artist (and I’m not sneering here; I’m using “romantic” as Mary Douglas would) is a kind of marker; a point at which the twin value systems are kept at a symbolic distance.

    I guess the question of why it’s necessary to maintain this tandem value system and the myths (collector myths, artist myths, dealer myths) that keep them separate and soften their occasional collisions, depends on people accepting that those systems exist, and that discussing them is interesting.

    Anyway, as a partial answer to “where’s the humanity in all this,” citing the above, i’d say it’s invested carefully in (at least) two conflicting value systems that are kept, via an elaborate system of productive, transactional and consummatory myths, apart.

    My own current question about these myths is, do we need them? Are they the kind of myths that explain a world we can’t navigate without them, or are they the pretty birdie the nice man shows us while he goes through our pockets?

  14. Tim Porges says:

    Regarding “bottling this stuff” — has anybody see the movie of _Perfume_? Like that.

  15. Edward says over at his blog that his book will be coming out “Summer 2009, God willing”! Let’s hope so, and get another interview after we’ve all read it!

  16. Southeby’s…huh?, where do I send my slides? Regarding hard times and better work, does the factor of nothing left to lose/more risk taking come into play? Pearls of wisdom factor is high on this interview! Thnx again.

  17. The slides-to-Southeby’s is a hilarious suggestion, Edward. They would get what they ask for! I think we should make a concerted effort to get, say, about 10 thousand of our students to send in! “Hot — MFA — not even out of school” ! And all that crap!)

  18. Bill Dolan says:

    Contracts should not be a bad thing for artists. The assumption is that the dealer holds all the cards and is going to create one that will be bad for the artist. A contract should outline the responsibilities of both parties and not be approached in an adversarial way. It protects everyone, should something go wrong.

    I know an artist that had a good relationship with his gallery. His last show sold out, however several months later he had not been paid. I know it was very frustrating for the artist, as friends and colleagues were telling him to wait it out as the gallery was going through a restructuring. A handshake agreement is fine when everything is good, but when things go bad, someone gets screwed — often times, it’s the artist.

    After The Fire of ’89 a lot of artists weren’t able to recoup losses due to a lack of proof that their work was even in the drying racks of the galleries that were in the building. A good contract would help in this situation.

    Also as artists branch out and get representation (especially secondary) in other cities, there is even less of a personal bond with the dealer. This makes having a contract imperative.

    If artists art to treat their work with respect and operate more like a business, than a contract is a good thing. It can be mutually beneficial and in a good relationship, just stashed away in a drawer. It’s like insurance — hopefully never relied on, but there if needed.

  19. Christopher says:

    Thank you Bill for writing my very thoughts. I know many artists did not get into the industry to be doing these very things but it is needed.

  20. Tim Porges says:

    I’m surprised, with all the artists’ organizations active in Chicago (and all the talk about more activity on this blog) that nobody’s posted a simple contract form for general use. Somebody, someplace, must have — this really isn’t rocket surgery.

  21. Richard says:


    There are loads of books and websites out there that have these things, however it really isn’t a one-size-fits-all beast.


  22. You know, Richard, it just struck me that you need to get some people from the Lawyers for the Arts in Chicago (if they still exist, or a similar group) and personally interview them on legal aspects having to do with being a visual artist, dealers, etc. Since you are both lawyer and artists, it would be greatly informative.

  23. Richard says:

    I’m not very impressed by that organization. I think they are great if you want to start a 501(c)3 and not so helpful otherwise.

  24. Then maybe do one yourself?

  25. Richard says:

    Fund me!

  26. Richard — you just exclaimed the most important religious chant of all of us overworked artworld souls.

  27. lynn dunham says:

    So great to hear this. I am a painter and to support myself (rather than waiting tables) I work in a gallery featuring blue chip art. I also handle pr for a TX based artists who finds it difficult to penetrate the NY scene from a distance. This has validated that I am doing exactly the right thing. Thanks to modern art obsession I have found this great Chicago site. I will post it on my blog as well. I love you Ed for your dedication to “new” chip art.

  28. Trez says:

    I’ve been reading this site for about two years. Very informative and helpful.
    I represent about 20 to 22 artists all of them very good and easy to get along with. I guess I’m lucky. The problem is often I get know it alls from outside of the gallery (usually people who volunteer for museums) telling me how to decorate my display window (unsolicited advice), who I should jury in and why don’t I have this or that artist? Also, could I furnish them with a list of the artists that I represent for their shows and such on a long term basis?
    I do have a contract, treat the artists in the gallery with respect, pay them on time and only ask that they don’t show locally.
    What’s your opnion on the people who think they can come in and dictate who I jury, how I display the art and why I should hand over a list of artist?
    I’ve had a good year.
    I did let a local artist go who did not fit the theme of the gallery.

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