The Business End of Things

March 10, 2012

I’ve been inviting a lot of people to see my work at the Armory show and asking for a portfolio review, and I have a few reviews lined up already, but after contacting only one gallery I started to think maybe galleries just aren’t the way for me to go, both with this work and in my art “career.”  The main reason why is that I don’t think I really make work that’s sellable and/or I’m not easily sellable as an artist/brand but also because I’m just not sure showing in galleries is right for me, either.  Of course I would like to profit from my work, and I would like the legitimacy that a gallery would provide, but putting together a brief show every other year that I can’t afford to produce just feels wrong.

But that begs the question of what your career is as an artist if you don’t show in galleries.  Even the most ascetic conceptual artists still showed in galleries in the ’60s and ’70s but it seems like the gallery itself has moved over the last fifty years from being a culture where artists circulate and collectors can find work to a landscape where galleries mostly function to provide what amounts to cultural/taste legitimacy to collectors as well as offer what seems like has become in a lot of cases a kind of decoration.  I don’t mean decoration in a bad way, either, only that collectors now are maybe buying for different reasons now than they did fifty years ago and that, again, my hyperprolific and stylistically schizoid output doesn’t lend itself to giving collectors (and hence galleries) what they really want.  Not that there’s anything wrong with my work, just that it’s not ascetic but it is pretty dry, loose and cerebral so visual pleasure, especially at a grand scale, gets lost in the making and in what I think about when I make art.

I do have a gallery show in May here in Milwaukee and we’ll see what comes of it but the work (including the stuff in the prior post) is very, very different from what Milwaukee art looks like (it’s very sincere and more focused on presentation than on ideas, which is fine) so I’m not sure what will happen.  And of course at the end of the day I’d like to make money, but I feel an even stronger pull to simply do the work I want without giving any thought to how it might be marketed, which is a bad negative-feedback loop I’m having in my writing now where I’m trying anticipate what readers would want vs. simply continuing to work and letting my agent and publishers handles the business end.

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