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conflict of interest

Post #69 • July 28, 2003, 6:10 PM

Alfredo Triff’s piece in the New Times this week is entitled “Art at Any Price?: The business of art can get as complicated as the image.”

The artist finishes her piece and the gallerist sells it, collecting a 30 to 55 percent profit. Now comes the skilled collector. He will try to have the artist exhibited in other collectives in museums through his connections with curators and the museum board, of which he’s likely a member. The museum in turn will receive a higher donation and important connections through the social network.

Lending his piece for collective and solo exhibits and having the piece reviewed in newspapers and magazines, the collector adds prestige to his initial investment. Within a decade, the artwork will appreciate … at least 20 to 30 times its original value. All the actors—museum directors, curators, critics, gallerists, and collectors—play a part because they belong in the same play. So that’s the nature of the market in a capitalist society, without doubt. Let’s move on to a different, but related matter. Business dealings bring up ethical issues, and I’m not referring to illegal transactions, but to more pervasive habits that remain undesirable. Not everything that’s legal is ethical, though we may wish it to be the case.

The accompanying illustration is from a show called “Made in Miami: Alumni of the New World School of the Arts” at Frederic Snitzer Gallery, also reviewed. Snitzer teaches part-time at New World. He’s having an exhibition of NWSA alumni. He represents all three founders (Westen Charles, Cooper, Elizabeth Withstandley) of Locust Projects, one of which is in “Made in Miami” (Cooper). Another artist in “Made in Miami” (Jacin Giordano) recently showed at Locust Projects and Snitzer. Of the 22 artists in the show, I have seen eight of them on the walls of either the Miami Art Museum, MoCA, or 800 Lincoln Road Gallery in the last two years. He represents six of them.

I was thinking, “Alfredo is going to bite someone’s pant leg and shake it.” But he didn’t. He went to “Made in Miami” and had a very nice time. So was this a warning shot over Snitzer’s bow? Or Locust’s? Or New World’s? Or was the appearance of this conflict of interest bit just a big coincidence? I suppose I could ask him. Okay, I guess I just did.

UPDATE: More strands in the web – Locust’s Board of Directors, according to their website, includes Jeremy Chestler of MoCA. Its Advisory Board includes Lorie Mertes, curator at MAM. If only I could rope a critic into this…

...Ah. Gene Moreno, whose writing has appeared in Art Papers, seems to be filling a directorial role at Locust these days.




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