In 1994 Paul Morris, Matthew Marks, Pat Hearn and Colin De Land had a vision. That vision was that New York City would have an art fair. What began as the Gramercy International Contemporary Art Fair has become the the Armory fair, the jewel in the art fair empire the Merchandise Mart has amassed over the last 3 years; Art Chicago, The Armory, Art Toronto, Volta Basel, Next, and Volta NYC.
This week, Paul “the ‘marts Art Czar” Morris and Tony “Boss of Art Chicago” Karman break down why the Art Fair future is the future. Kathryn Born and Duncan MacKenzie listen with slack jaws and open minds.
The weird thing that happened is that Duncan actually started to get behind Art Chicago and the ‘marts future in the Art Business? WTF? Did he drink the Kool Aid? Was he bought off? Or is there reason to believe? Listen and find out…
Paul Morris, Matthew Marks, Pat Hearn and Colin De Land
Yurba Buena Art Center
Koln Art Fair
The New Museum
Hyde Park Art Center
Art Institute of Chicago
Direct download: Bad_at_Sports_Episode_139-Artropolis.mp3
- Episode 845: Phillip Maisel - June 9, 2023
- Episode 844: Alex Gingrow - June 1, 2023
- Episode 843: Monira Foundation and Apollo – Anne Muntges, Michael Miller, and Sarah Raskey! - May 18, 2023
Utter Shite. Wow. If I’d have paid, I’d demand a refund.
Next had its moments, but Art Chicago looked like a cheesy trade show.
Chicago is shit-otta-luck if it has hopes of returning as a “playa” on the international scene. C- work.
This was, it seems, a predictably bad year for sales made all the worse by the Mart’s greedy, maximize the balance sheet, kitchen sink approach. It was just too big. Did anyone else happen to notice that Kavi had the largest booth in the entire exposition? What makes this all the worse is that this sheer degree of out and out greed comes at a time when the art market is in serious trouble, when galleries in New York and elsewhere are simply going out of business. Many times, Art Chicago and Next exhibitors characterized it to me as at best a wild misadventure, and almost everyone I spoke with expressed a desire to seek their futures elsewhere.
It seems that there’s an unstated scandal here too, one that I think will go almost completely unreported and unconfirmed. I spoke to a number of galleries who received discounts on their booth spaces, some very significant off the retail cost of the space. By way of contrast, I wonder how many Artist Project artists were given discounts? None that I spoke with. I think this will go largely unreported because I think you’ll be hard-pressed to get the galleries to admit these discounts were given outside of a one-on-one, confidential conversation. Why piss off the Mart? I’d speculate that these discounts were given in order to lure those galleries from competing fairs, shows that Next organizers wanted theirs to look like. If so, that’s an understandable motivation. Not fair to the dealers who paid full price, but understandable. In the end, there’s a significant loss. But having heard that the jurors chose only 50, while the Mart included 250 above the jury selection, it makes me wonder. Does it not seem as if the Mart made up their balance sheet shortfalls by milking the artists?
250 additional artists x $1500 fee = $375,000. And what you ended up with was 300 artists all thinking they were going to make at least their money back, which I hope they did, but is doubtful. The thing is, why have a juried show when you can, yes, milk the artists, and include everyone in the show. The Mart got their money, but what the Artists Project got was alot of hopeful summertime street fair artists competing with each other. I’m not sure that is what the Artist Project was meant to be. To quote myself from my last post, “I smelled incense!”, and a booth with tye dyed shirts and jewelry would not have been out of place.
I applied last year, thinking I was in the company of other artists that were yet to be “discovered” by the contemporary art gallerists of Chicago. Most of these artists this year seem to have it down how to sell art from their booths, and probably through the internet. I’ll take a pass on the A.P., and continue to submit to group shows at galleries around town.
Silly Duncan….The internet DOES NOT SLEEP.
As one of the saps who paid for a booth, I’ll confirm that there weren’t discounts, in fact I was nickel&dimed at every turn: want sufficient lighting? $35 per lamp, etc…I wasn’t forced to participate so the blame will stay right here, nevertheless the whole experience left a lot to be desired…I’ve got no grand solutions for how to do a thing like this the right way( Mr.Fitzpatrick has some good ones to my way of thinking…); this sure wasn’t working though…
I’d have liked to have seen some of the Artist’s Project fees put toward an ad budget, in order to give that show it’s own identity…. and some workshops held in order to work out things like a collective data base of collectors, press and other support organizations — I’d have like to have seen some effort put into sponsorship — Places like Pearl Paint, some of the music venues– and other businesses benefit greatly from artists and I think they’d have been supportive — in short — there should have been a coherent business model pursued for the exhibitors in this fair.
This model could be great — with some planning , some judicious jurying, and a media presence buttressed with an advertising budget derived from a portion of what the artist’s paid to gain entry to this fair. My question is : What did the artists get for their 1500?….. I share Michael’s disappointment and frustration about this.
I think it’s sad how much pay-to-play stuff there is out there. Like I think ARC the women’s gallery, turns out to be pay to play, there’s some stuff in Pilsen that’s the same. There was a film festival scam where the guys charged a $100 entry fee and they played the winner’s film in their living room. I was excited about the application for the project, then I saw the number and it was out of the question. I think it should have raised some red flags- who’s going to apply? who is a big enough player to have $1500 to promote themselves, yet not be shown in a gallery for a year? It’s too small a demographic.
Michael, aren’t discounts fairly prevalent? I can’t imagine that’s not going on all over the place. Did everyone who advertised in the program pay the same amount for a 1/4 page ad?
I think Art Chicago wasn’t too big, it was too small. Miami is taken over by the art fair and you can spend an entire weekend walking around the satellite shows and still not see everything. You could knock off Art Chicago in 6 hours, so it really couldn’t fill a weekend. Artropolis isn’t much – dance? There wasn’t much going on.
My feeling is that there were too many gaps in unserved audiences. Next was experimental, Art Chicago is crazy high-end, luxury fine art… and then there’s the … antiques show? Everyone is going to cringe, but from a business point of view, I think they need a more middle brow show. Art Chicago with more of a decorative bend and cheaper price tags. Ok, Here ya go, I have the solution – a craft fair in the lobby, and on every floor the level of weirdness increases until you have Michael Asher and performance art in the penthouse.
There, I’ve figured it all out. It’s brilliant.
Miami makes good use of the WHOLE city– not just one large art-mall– this is a large and diverse city with a lot going on — these things should be spread around the city. Use the neighborhoods in the city to provide different contexts…Chicago is an interesting place — but it becomes less so when the culture of art and artists is polarized and confused with ‘shopping’. There are a myriad of ways to make this enterprise more equitable and smarter and more meaningful.
I am a painter/curator from Memphis and I came up to Chicago over the weekend for the Artfair. I started coming to Chicago for the fair when I was gradschool in Iowa City, and I continued to go up until the second to last navy pier show when things seemed to be headed downhill in a fast, big way. This was my first trip up for the fair since then. I have been listening to BAS since the Kerry James Marshall episode and I was curious to hear the feedback from the blog on the fair.
It seems like most of the comments on the fair aren’t so much about the Chicago fair but on fairs in general. The experience is like looking at art in a strange mall, people do get discounts, when you leave you feel like you need a shower, etc. But if you can get through that, they can provide a great service for the community in that they provide a good overview of what people what to be showing right now.
To offer an non-Chicago perspective, the weekend trip was a good one. I thought the walk through the 12th floor felt like going through Chelsea, in that its good to bad ratio was about the same. We had to wade through a ton of bad stuff to get to the good work, once we got downstairs to the NEXT fair the atmosphere was so much better and the work was much more interesting. (That said we didn’t make it to Artopolis or to the Intuit show.) But the trip to Chicago is only partly for the artfair. The second day was spent going around to the galleries to see what the dealers/spaces had out. (Well, that, and eating) We made it to see a ton of good shows in town. (Dianna Frid’s show at Dan Devening’s space was one of the best things we’d seen in a long time.) Chicago has some great things going on, it always has. On this visit it felt like there were many more insteresting, smaller spaces now than there were just a few years ago.
I’ll be curious to hear what Duncan and Richard have to say on next week’s show (or whenever the post the show).
Good to see you again over the weekend Tony (I was there with Tom Reed.)
As always, I think Tony’s got some great ideas for a real AP here.
The interview was very good. It reminded me to be more positive. My experience in the show last year was very good and I truly believe the “powers” have done Chicago a great service by saving the show. I think they have room to grow and just might make it something really extraordinary. This is, after all as was stated in the podcast, only the sophmore year. Paul M came across as sincere and as one seeking for further developmental ideas. I wish them luck. But get Tony or somebody similar to dream up a new general creative approach for the AP.
The Artist Project:
Was the original number of exhibitors in this years Artist Project supposed to be only 50? Did the Mart specify the number of exhibitors last November when artists applied? And if the jurors only picked 50 as Michael Workman states, who picked the other 250?
My understanding of this, from Paul Klein’s earlier post, was that he served as a juror and that he and his fellow jurors chose 50 artists. I did not read anywhere that there was a predetermined number of artists who would participate in this year’s AP. Who chose to include the additional 200 above and beyond the jury picks? Paul could perhaps speak to this with more specificity, but my guess is that it was Mart management who made the decisions.
I was one of the jurors. My recollection is that we looked at over 450 artists. We assigned a number to each artist, 1 through 5. We gave our scores to the Mart. I commented that I thought the top 50 artists belonged. The other jurors concurred. The Mart indicated they were going to include a lot more. A portion of the â€˜top 50â€™ realized the â€˜breadthâ€™ of the talent pool and chose not to participate.
We have to thank the Mart for turning The Artist Project into a Shopping Mall Art Fair. What a shame.
If we look at the Artist Project, Intuit, & Antique shows as footnotes, how do the other two shows do? I say pretty damned well. I liked the NEXT show a lot. Not pretentious, fresh, more about the art than the market. And I liked it upstairs because there were a lot of people I knew and a fair number of worthy pictures. That, and I think having the art circus in town for a week is a good thing.
I understand and appreciate your feelings on the matter Paul, but art fairs are about the market. Regardless how good the event may be for the city, or how nice it is to have good art around, I’ll again point to the bleak sales as an indicator of Art Chicago’s relative chances at success or failure in that market. And right now, it’s a confirmed C grade market at best. Having spoken to all the art shippers–whom we also work with–I’m hearing that sales overall amount to one big zero. The shippers are the best way to gauge sales in the end, since the dealers are often sketchy about this. And they’re all saying that nothing sold, nada, zilch. Even with a few winners in the crowd, that’s bad news.
Michael, you’re right. Thatâ€™s the ultimate test. I was keeping score. I asked about 20 galleries Saturday if theyâ€™d covered their expenses and ten had. On the other hand NEXT was less about sales so freight numbers might have been skewed (a bit?).
Is profit the sole driver for galleries to sign up?
I too participated in the Artist Project and anteed up for the booth. I am usually against the “pay-to-play” aspect as well as it tends to exclude really good artists who just can’t come up with the money.There is also the stigma attached to “buying” your way in. Nevertheless, there were a few artists last year whose work was very good and they didn’t seem to suffer any damage from participating, but had, in fact, good things come of the experience. So I decided to apply this year. Embarrassingly enough, my application was rejected initially, but then I was contacted a week later to participate. I never realized that there would be 300 artists in the show, had I known I would have been reluctant to participate. But I did, and when I showed up to install my work I was doubly disappointed, because although there were some very good artists, a lot of it was frankly awful (in my opinion) and thoroughly buried anything good. It made me wonder why I had been rejected initially when so much of the art there seemed to belong in a craft fair (which I have nothing against, btw- I just felt considering the context and the audience Art Chicago, etc. usually attracts, the Artist Project’s participants would be more in line with those of the other fairs.) This is just my opinion and I’m sure there plenty of people who probably felt I didn’t belong there either, and that’s fine. But having done so and fancying myself to be serious about what I do; I was a little disappointed. I didn’t even really expect to sell my work-which would have been nice, of course, -but I would have like to have gotten some real feedback on my work from an informed audience. As the weekend progressed I found myself feeling more and more like the red-headed step-child of Art Chicago and NEXT and turning my badge over whenever I ventured to the 7th or 12th floor. Furthermore, with everything else going on, did anyone have the eyes or the stamina to wade through 300 more booths to find the interesting work that was there? It would have been impossible to have seen everything on every floor; but the Artist Project might have gotten slightly more attention if it had been the size of Intuit. As it was, however, exhausted viewers most likely dismissed most of it as unworthy based on a few booths. I kind of feel it was rather unfair that it was so massive (I don’t remember the number of participants being mentioned in the application.) Aside from all this complaining, however, it was an invaluable learning experience. It was also really enlightening to travel from floor to floor and compare the work between them. I also met some great artists from outside of Chicago and the US. As a side note, I think it would have been really interesting to see what the Artist Project would have looked like had it been up on the 12th floor with the beautifully finished drywall, good lighting, and plenty of room and white space around each piece.
Profit isn’t the only criteria, no, not at all. But in top-performing markets, it’s almost a given. Equally important is client lists, because galleries sell to the contacts they make year-round. Then comes press, and audience, a whole universe of PR and visibility benefits that can accrue from participating in a fair. Not wanting to drag the financial conversation out too far, I’ll say that it probably was easier for the galleries to cover their expenses, seeing as how discounts were in the offing, which brought their expenses down at a lower rate than retail, while the artists at best were left to fend for themselves and, at worst, left to foot the bill.
Moreover, while it’s good that galleries may have covered costs, that’s a pretty low bar. At our little hotel fair in its first year, a single gallery of ours sold almost a million dollars worth of work. That’s one gallery, in a satellite show in Miami. Most of our galleries didn’t do that well by a half, but on the average we do much better than covering costs in other markets. Things have fallen off, of course, by many accounts as much as 40% or better. But Miami is by almost every measure the top-performing of these domestically, with New York a close second. It’s gotten harder since the real problems started in the economy, of course, but we as a show do see similar results to Miami and New York in locations where the currency is stronger, since the work priced in dollars sells easier. London requires strong marketing, but there’s good soil to grow in. In fact, that’s probably why these two US locations do better than the rest of the country, including Los Angeles: they get the lion’s share of the international collectors. During the fairs, Miami is literally transformed into a multilingual art destination, packed with Germans, French, Swiss…it runs the imaginable gamut. While the bottom can be low like anywhere else, the ceiling in these locations is much, much higher
That’s a strategy for us, an attempt to adapt. It’s the same for all the other satellite fairs: Pulse, Scope, etc. They won’t entertain setting foot in Chicago yet, and that’s why the Mart had to invent its own after we walked away, though it tore our hearts out to leave. I wish Chicago could pull it together, I do love this city, despite its tendency toward self-inflicted wounds. And ultimately, a good market anywhere in the States benefits everybody in the art world, from artists to gallerists to fairs, curators, everybody.
But the Mart hasn’t solved the problems of its loss of international market destination status that occurred at the end of Blackman’s stewardship of the fair and it seems to be trending toward settling for much less. Keep in mind the talent they brought in from Armory and Volta have been working on this show since last year when the Mart announced the acquisitions during Artropolis 2007. My guess is they’re trying to find that niche, to figure out where Chicago can fit in. They can’t command the booth prices of the primary US markets, and when they went public with their costs, had to discount them still further. I don’t envy them their situation, but neither do I think smoke and mirrors an appropriate response. On top of that, it’s a shame to see the Mart squandering the goodwill of Chicago’s really and truly greatest indigenous asset–its artists. I have a feeling they’ll come to regret it.
Oh and BTW–is anybody else a Facebook junkie? I joined about a week ago and have been like literally heroin-grade addicted ever since. Bad At Sports has a “group” page there too–with a whole other separate commentary area–who knew–? You guys should let people know so they can come find you when you go out boozing, I mean, attending art openings.
i checked out the facebook BAS group and you need to set it so people can join who don’t live in chicago. unless your trying to snub me.
I know I have been meaning to fix that. Sorry.
a little bird told me the mart guys have decided to shit-can the Artist’s project , rather than fix it….
More sad M-artropolis news, particularly as relates to sales, size of the show, etc., all the things we’ve been discussing here. It’s significant fallout for the show’s reputation.
I think they sidelined it before the show. It’s impossible to believe they did not know what they were going to get, since they’d reviewed all the artists’ images and decided to go for 250 artists despite 50 being the jury’s picks; I think they wanted a street fair (Gold Coast, etc) to hit that segment of the market (whether they’d admit it or not), even if it weakened the overall event. They decided not to tape/paint the joins between the drywall slabs, which were mix and match, even though artists weren’t allowed to fix the spaces themselves; about half way through set up, they decided to charge artists to tape/paint their booths (on top of charging for every light over 3, when 3 was clearly not enough to light the space). It seems like for them, it had to be about getting the artists’ money and targeting a certain segment of the art market.
All fairs charge for extra lights, the walls however, complete crap.
Shame on the Mart for killing this off without ever trying to do it right. The artist project could be a really cool thing. Bring in a jury and listen to them.
There is a new Bad at Sports group on Facebook (called something like “the new bad at sports facebook group”) which allows for membership by all. Please remove yourself from the old group and add the new one.
Chicago keeps digging it’s own grave…new blood, you guys need new blood, new ideas, new collectors, new everything, and less hope and more action, anger, attitude…
Hey Pedro–looks like Circa is really kickin’ ass. It’s because you moved there, ain’t it? I’m sad you’re not in Chicago, but I’d lo-o-ove to visit Puerto Rico sometime. You gonna vote in the election?
Circa is a cool small art fair with a lot of energy but the sales were lackluster, still galleries agreed to come back because they like the way they were treated and believe the fair will improve. The directors of the fair are pretty cool and easy going too. Plus you can’t beat the sun and the partying. The art scene is great, very much like Chicago, there’s space for everyone, the collectors show the love sometimes, and we always get curators looking for art and the drugs…well, let’s be real, curators look for the drugs and then, if they have the time, they look at the art. But the economy is sending it all to hell anyway.
We do get to vote on the primaries but not in the main election, we are a colony.
Well, now I have to go.
Hi, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Rare Art Trade. I’ve been an art addict now since I bought my first Jacob Rysdale etching when I was 18, some 37 years ago. I’m not an artist, per se. I didn’t go to any fancy-name art school, like many of you, or even a community grunge art school, like the rest. Apart from some art history in college, I’m entirely self-taught. Oh, I own a gallery and make a good upper-middle class living from buying and selling art in Chicago. Here’s what I’ve learned about selling art, and I’m going to share it with this audience, mostly artists, so you can all succeed.
-Pursue your own vision. Don’t worry if it’s not the “juried” vision, the gallerist’s vision, or your girlfriends’ vision. Own what you do. Be an original, but be willing to learn from other artists.
-Put your money where your mouth is. I can’t believe the complaining I’ve read about the so called injustice of “pay for play”. Hey, it’s the capitalist system here–and everywhere else too- last time I checked. If you can’t invest your sweat equity, a four day weekend and $1,500.00 in promoting your work, to be seen by THOUSANDS OF HIGHLY INTERESTED, MOTIVATED, AND MONIED POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS, then you better keep that day job. You will not succeed. Maybe it’s not your fault that you expect somehow to be APPOINTED, ANOINTED, or SELECTED (those things only happen in the military, the church or the presidency) as the next worlds greatest artist since Damien Hirst. You probably have won awards since the 5th grade for your art, and your high school art teacher conned you into believing you had real “potential”. The reality is success doesn’t happen that way. A gallerist is not going to make your day, or your career. YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT. And it will take all you energy, talent and most of your spare cash to succeed as an artist. Get used to it.
-Chicago is what it is. It’s not New York, it’s not Omaha . I feel privileged to have seen such amazing modern & contemporary work as was on the 12 floor here in this city. The quality was better than the average art fair in NYC, and nearly as good as can be seen in London or Maastrich–although there they would have had less American and more Continental artists.
-Artists are snobs, have you noticed? If they let you in and everyone else, the show is a “circus”. If they let you in and only a few others, you get to bask in your own self-conceit. Get over yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re 1 in 50 or 1 in 400. If your stuff is really good, people will stop and stare in wonderment. They may even say hello and praise your work. They may pull out their wallet.
Now my opinion:
NEXT-? If you’ve seen one grad school thesis project in the last 30 years, you’ve seen ’em all. Or and my 7 year old niece said about the show: “A who lotta pencil drawings!” yea, I replied, this show has all media, from A to B.”
I can’t think of anything more deadly to commerce than one or two people playing god for the aesthetic tastes of the country. I can’t think of anything more deadly to aesthetics either. Juried shows only work when you have a jury of fairly catholic taste, where the judges respect each other’s opinion, even if they don’t agree. That almost never happens in the art world, does it.
But if you think the self-promoting artists show is on the ropes because there was TOO MUCH VARIETY (?)( an oxymoron in our culture) , NEXT is over before it started because it suffocated true variety. Unfortunately, Chicago has had this problem for a long long time. Starting with sanctified opines of Cathrine Kuhe in the 40’s & 50’s, trailing along to the rants and belligerence of ArtForum,
(truly a form if intellectual thuggery) in the 70’s & 80’s to our own now reigning king of aesthetic correctness,mr. GK, less is just plain less.
-I have to wonder how hard mr. GK worked to eliminate possible competitors, also, was it mandatory for the booth applications to be written in English, and if so, why not the booth displays. I think I missed a lot of the subtleties of booths that had their artwork described in other than English languages, my limitation, not being fluent in the language of Kazakstan (or Polish, or Russian or Korean or Chinese) my loss.
Never heard of you Rare Art Trade, but that was and excellent comment, or series of perceptions. Is it true about AP being canned? Well, then, it would be great for a Real AP next time, independent and organized with some creativity such as Tony has suggested.
Hey PEDRO VELEZ!
Can you write to me off-BaS? I have a request for you. You can get my “real” email address at my website (www.markstaffbrandl.com/). I had your email address but seem to have lost it when I switched to my new computer with Vista, wwhich imported all sorts of stuff wrong. Thanks!
Interesting essay/review concerning The Artist Project by Bill Dolan
check it out – – –
First of all I donâ€™t really have anything against â€œpay to playâ€ aside from what I mentioned in my post-that it excludes some who may deserve to be included and includes some who do not. Furthermore, it is exactly the snobbery that Rare Art Trade so correctly characterised that forces artists to weigh the cost/benefit of participating in a â€œpay to playâ€ situation, not because the artist necessarily has a ethical or moral problem with it, but because there are those who will judge them unfairly for that choice; thus ultimately making it an aesthetic decision. Perhaps I shouldnâ€™t care so much? I guess I canâ€™t help it. Does that make me a snob? Perhaps. I agree that there are facets of the art community that are worse than a gaggle of middle school cheerleaders snubbing geeks, because they are loathe to associate themselves with the taint of money or ambition. Iâ€™m all for more democracy in the art world. I love the fact that there is such a thing as the Chicago Art Open where participants are included purely on a first-come-first serve basis. There should be more of that kind of thing, for better or for worse. But you know exactly what youâ€™re getting in that situation, whereas the AP was less than transparent, I believe. Whether you like it or not the difference between 50 and 300 is huge. I still think it was too much for all those â€œthousands of highly interested, motivated, and monied potential customers,â€ to be motivated and interested enough to see all of it.
I completely agree with Rare Art Trade that your success or failure as an artist is entirely dependant upon the effort you make. This is all a learning experience and all experiences are good in that regard, so I ultimatey have no regrets- my only real complaint is that it was something other than what it was adverstised as.
As for Chicago, the inimitable Dave Hickey once told me,â€œget the hell out; itâ€™s a black hole.â€ I told him I loved Chicago, had kids in school, a husband who liked his job, etc., he said, â€dump the kids, leave the family; Chicago doesnâ€™t have a big enough gay community to support the arts.â€ (I so thoroughly enjoy what comes out of that manâ€™s mouth.) So until I decide to â€œSELL THE HOUSE, SELL THE CAR, SELL THE KIDS,â€ ……… 😉
We don’t need more of the Chicago Art Open or CAC related stuff. They perpetuate bad art. Also, a person would have only had to do a minor amount of leg work to realize what The Artist Project was all about this year.
which JB cut are playing in the intro/ending of the show?
never said it was good art- just that it’s good that such things exist. btw, I thought the neotericart post was a reasonably accurate account of the AP.
why are things or events that perpetuate bad art a good idea?
I sadly couldn’t make it to Artrop-odop-olus this year, I’ve got a wife who is ready to go in labor any second now. Poor me. Could someone tell me if the Abortion Girl or the Starving Dog were there?
Wow, Steve! Tell us all the news, name and so on soon!
There currently is no name. And we don’t know yet if it’s boy or girl. We are just waiting. I’m open to name suggestions. Although I have a ticket to see Iron Man tonight. So if my movie is interrupted by baby-ness I’m obligated to name it Tony Stark.
Rare Art Trade: all true
They are now packaging The Artist Project with One of A Kind in Dec., which I guess says it all.
I just realized that that muscle-car installation at NEXT was the perfect metaphor for what was happening to the Chicago art market right in front of everybody: a slow-motion car crash. I wonder if Joe at Pierogi thought that when they brought it? If so, I have a whole new level of respect.
I am so verbose, apologies. I started off as a writer and like to air my bloviations in public. But you know, thinking about this much of the whole Artropolis thing, for me it boils down, in my mind, to whether or not the audience– (and though a market, sure, the Mart has entered showbiz now, whether they want to admit it to themselves or not) –whether the audience thinks they earned the massive paycheck they culled for themselves from the art world or not. And, on top of the lackluster sales and discombobulated, overstuffed mess, there was a palpable tone here that they had created a show with an intense sense of property. I don’t just mean real estate, though there’s no greater sense of property than the management taking such personal pride in a building with its own zip code, but in the way in which they moved last year from the “let’s include everybody, this show is about Chicago” approach to the ownership model over everything that they enforced over every aspect of the show this year. This was the year the Mart intended to “come out” as top dogs, with Armory in their pocket, and the Basel insurgent show fighting the fringes for them (i.e., Volta). It’s a brass-down approach, is it not? I mean, the top brass vetoed all the talent, to a lesser degree Paul Morris, and to a greater degree Kavi and all his lapdogs, filling the show, filling the floorplan until every inch of square footage was bursting with cash return. This was the year of the Conquest made complete, with Art Chicago staged in a permanent capacity on the 12th floor, its rickety foundation of street-level artists at the very bottom on whose shoulders precariously teeters the whole enterprise.
Who knows, eventually they’ll maybe ditch the rest and go blue-chip Modern. That seems the most logical solution, and smart. Yeah, but so what? There are living artists to care about, and that’s the crime here, right? Fuck the Mart, that’s what I should have said before. That’s what I meant inside somewhere, but couldn’t hear the sentiment clearly enough to articulate correctly.
But not Chicago. Nope, Chicago has promise. For everybody who says–as I’m sometimes compelled to do–that the future is elsewhere, there’s a history lesson to learn. When America was behind the times, after the fairs circled and came to define the countries of northern Europe, starting in 1967 in Germany where the first-ever art fair took place in Koln and then into Basel two years later, and stretching on for the next nearly ten years, Chicago was the place where the States found its future. It was right here in the city by the lake that the art market that would come to define the last thirty years in the States–starting in the early eighties with the Chicago International Art Expo–that New York was left blinkingly behind. Armory show took almost another fifteen years to happen in 1994 and Miami–well, Miami–only managed a toe-hold (that quickly became a body blow) six years ago. But that was the beginning of the end for Chicago, which was resting too long on its laurels and deserved to have its throat cut. But Chicago brought America into a present tense reality that the United States back then was already behind the Europeans by ten years, and it deserves all the credit for having done that for this country’s art world and, subsequently, its market.
I think we can expect more from this city, and eventually it’ll come, just not from where you’d expect.