Thursday, January 29, 2009

Art Sense

The NY Times is currently featuring a story about the economy forcing art galleries to close. This is resulting in fine art showing up in fashion boutiques or other retail shops. This is a practice that I’ve scorned as the norm here in Cincinnati.

Now before the Queen City tries to claim to be ahead of the game by pointing to a number of coffee shops, book stores, and the like, I think we should recognize this business model smells of economic desperation not art savviness. Art dealers can pardon themselves until their blue with “as long as (fill in the blank), why not?” the bottom admittedly line is money, not the promotion of art.

Also, the Cincinnati art scene needs to recognize cities like Chicago and NY celebrate institutions that honestly promote art so may be able to culturally afford moving art galleries into other retail spaces. While these cities seem to be adopting our art business sense, Cincinnati needs to adopt their cultural sense.

7 comments:

VisuaLingual said...

Okay, I do basically agree with your over all point, but I have to defend the practice of art showing up in less expected venues as well. On principle, I have to support the inclusion of art in places where people who aren't trying to experience art have that opportunity. [Hence my obsession with street art, public art, etc.] I do think this is savvy, even if it also smacks of desperation.

Anne said...

The trouble w/Cincinnati is that we're always trying to compare it to other cities -- Chicago, NY, Cleveland, etc. It's not other cities. It's much smaller, the cost of living is far lower, it's not as diverse. Maybe random walls in coffee shops are not the best idea in the world, but could it be that that's all the market can support?

Kathy said...

Anne,
I would argue that Cincinnati is in fact very diverse. It is those who try to maintain control of the city's culture who are homogeneous.

Also, it has as much or even more to offer culturally than many other cities you mention. I think our "market" cannot afford to continuing ignoring this by focusing on the sale of art.

VL, I do enjoy walking into the number of places that offer gallery space for local artists. And I do think there is tremendous value to this. I just think we can and should be more creative in presenting many of the interesting artistic discussions that are occurring inside and outside of the city. It is not fair to rely on the coffee shop to provide such a discussion....it doesn't happen.

Anne said...

This is starting to remind me of a list I saw once, "How to Kill an Idea." Things like: we're too big, we're too small, not enough funding, not enough people, too many people, nobody's ever done it before, etc. I was always adding to it!

p.s. Great new look of the blog!

Jason Franz said...

Art is like open source software. But artists and arts people have not yet realized it, or I should say many have not.

By this I mean that the point A to point B production and sale of art as if it were any of the gazillions of other commercial products pounding our senses every day is often a huge mistake. Yet so many think of the commercialistic qualities as somehow validating their stuff (the price tag IS the content!).

Artists (and art) can make a living, just like open source hackers/programmers, in a non-linear system of production, sharing (for free) and promoting a culture of growth and appreciation wherein a 'living' can be made as a fringe benefit. It's like a chess game - you play it several moves out, not point A to point B.

It is the commercialization (the emulation of real products and market processes) that smacks of desperation, not the alternative approaches to presentation. It just so happens that these two often come together in one (non-recyclable) package.

VisuaLingual said...

I just came across this art leasing idea by a local artist who's responding to offers to have his work exhibited in restaurants. Maybe another example of art imitating commerce, but also an inventive solution that could benefit all sides. Of course, this is essentially the same thing as ArtWorks' Artist Bank.

Demetrius Romanos said...

I'm sort of torn on this whole concept specifically because of my experience with the Cincinnati art scene. I've shown in Cincinnati and New York and what I found the most disturbing is that it's truly easier to break into the New York art scene than it is in little ole Cincinnati!

Art scenes definitely have a huge element of "popularity contest", but Cincinnati seems to have it extra bad. If you are actually from Cincinnati you can almost forget about showing here unless you're painting riverboats, horses or the polar opposite, graffiti or character inspired art. If you're just a good, thought provoking artist, you likely wont get shown at any local galleries. Hence the popularity of relatively open venues such as the Pendleton and Essex. Gallery feel, with easy barrier for entry.

I think that is the positive side of exhibiting and selling artwork at local stores or coffee shops. The benefits to the artist are three-fold: 1. Getting your work in front of a broad audience. 2. A more achievable barrier to entry. 3. The ability to actually sell some work.

Bottom line, every artist would rather be included in gallery exhibits because ultimately gallery credibility is what makes your prices increase. But in a market like this one where consumer expectation on art prices is so fickle, artists feel forced to commoditize their work just to get it into more homes and actually make a buck.

To respond to VL, I'm definitely not the first to consider leasing as an option to increase artist awareness and accessibility. I am unfortunately though not having the success with this model I was envisioning.