You Scratch My Back

August 3, 2009

Because I have four prospective shows I’ve curatd coming up in the next year, and only 1 opportunity to show work, I’ve been wondering the following: why don’t more artists organize shows for each other?  If I can do it, anyone can.

There are, I think, two answers to this question.

1) Curating/organizing a show is a tremendous pain in the ass.

2) Artists, maybe necessarily, have to be sort of self-serving.  By this I mean: there are only so many “slots” out there for artists to show work, and muddying the water by dabbling in the dark side of showing work doesn’t necessarily get you, yourself, anywhere as an artist.  In fact it can be a drain on your time and energy, and can obscure the fact that you yourself are a working artist.   There’s no concept of mutual help out there because what everyone stands to lose or gain is always to complex of an equation.

That being said, I’m not a saint for putting my friends into shows, ’cause ultimately I see organizing shows as part of my artistic practice.  It’s at one end of a continuum of doing something totally solo that’s organized by someone else and curating a show for other people in which you don’t show your own work at all.

I actually like the gooey middle of that continuum: doing solo shows that are also group shows.  But that confuses people, even in 2009, and there’s not a lot of opportunity to do that kind of solo show unless you’ve established yourself as a locally/regionally/nationally known name in certain art world circles.

But, yet, the mutual backscratching is, I think, both a good thing and a time-tested technique for gaining recognition, so how do you show people that curatorial willingness can end up being a kind of self-promotion?


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