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The price of alternatives

Post #1196 • June 18, 2008, 3:11 PM • 69 Comments

This comment was probably too long to leave at Edward Winkleman's, but there it went anyway. Ed said:

I have repeatedly supported the notion that if artists are not happy with the terms of the system they have every right to change those terms. Implied in that opinion, though, is that the work of changing the terms falls to them.

I fully agree with this. But it's a touch galling - just a touch - to hear it coming from someone on the inside of that system. Let's note a couple of aspects of coming up with one's own terms:

1. That it not only involves coming up with some means of fiscal survival that doesn't compromise the integrity of one's work, but that entire structures have to be generated by any number of like-minded people in order to garner critical recognition. The system as it stands involves galleries, museums, critics, and curators, and the news-making portion of that system reserves serious regard for a far narrower slice of working artists' priorities than they will typically admit to. However inadequate the observation that "art is, above all, about personal expression and craftsmanship," I'll take it over the notion that art is, above all, about ideas and issues, and there's no question about what contemporary museums prefer given a selection of mid- and early-career artists. Cutting a new path that doesn't involve this system is going to require extraordinary endurance and business acumen that most artists by nature don't possess. So while it may be true that the artists who don't like the system have the responsiblity to create their own situation, the choice is between being chained to an oar in the slave's galley or throwing oneself into the open ocean. Thus not all of that bitching is misplaced.

2. That the system is going to kick and scream as alternative terms become successful. For instance, criticism (not just art criticism, but all criticism), in the 20th Century form that we've come to know and occasionally love, is dying. It is moving to a shorter, more populist, worse-paying form on the Web. Hardly any critic regards this as a good thing, but something of a mini-industry of snobbery has sprung up to bemoan the allegedly consequent imminent death of critical thought. (See Lee Siegelpuppet, et alia, who are so sad partly because we all know what's going to happen to them.)

If a generation of kids who think of music as something you buy online from the artist grows up to become adults who think of art as something you buy online from the artist, the gallery system is toast, and gallerists everywhere will bitch - and bitch hard - about how nobody takes art seriously anymore. That's probably a long ways off, but I have lived long enough to see one gallery attempt to make insulting claims on sales of my work off of my own website. The zero-middlemen model may be where we're headed, and it's one of the few alternatives to the gallery-museum system that looks viable right now.

I see this even from my own little house on the blogosphere. To put it perhaps too mildly, I have a non-mainstream critical perspective. For this I have endured a steady rain of shit flung by people who are commercially, aesthetically, or philosophically served by the establishment as it stands. I have learned many things producing Artblog.net, chief among them that the person most likely to call you a Nazi (or with equal venom, a conservative) is the one who thinks of himself as open-minded. I expect this rain to wane to a drizzle and finally stop as print reviews become increasingly rare. My question isn't whether, but when.

Comment

1.

opie

June 18, 2008, 3:54 PM

That Winkleman statement is just a bit supercilious, doncha think? Nice to know that we have every right and the duty to do something about it to boot.

It's not 1945 any more, when every other artist worth his salt lived on 8th street and nobody cared about any of it except the artists themselves. The art world is a monster now. Monsters have inertia, and they get vicious when you mess with them.

We have to withdraw with like-minded people, support each other, make the best art we can and hope the monster dies from its own obscene bloat.

2.

1

June 18, 2008, 4:02 PM

as i think i have noted here before, the price disparity from galleries (also include dealers) and auction houses (also include buying directly from the artist) is shrinking. the system is more accessible and open now. thus auction houses are making much better prices and the galleries are getting a bit squeezed. if you want to find the true liquid value of your art or anything other "good", put it up for auction. ebay counts as well too. i have seen numerous original paintings and furniture pieces by "known" artists put up on Ebay and the price they get is usually inline with the old school auction houses. but if you want to wait and try and get "retail" price, you may need to market a little harder and wait a little longer, maybe forever to get your price.

3.

opie

June 18, 2008, 4:09 PM

Thare's a practical point of view. Maybe one day there will be such a thing as real market prices. Maybe the market itself will take care of all the bullshit. Screw the critics.

4.

Scott B`

June 18, 2008, 4:18 PM

Opie,....I agree with your statement....I can imagine lyrics and music to this...with Dan Bern singing it.

"We have to withdraw with like-minded people, support each other, make the best art we can and hope the monster dies from its own obscene bloat."

5.

Eric

June 18, 2008, 5:31 PM

"Screw the critics."

Art critics? Artists who write art criticism? Critics of your ideas?

6.

opie

June 18, 2008, 5:42 PM

Sorry Eric. Just venting. Screw the critics I don't like, which is most of them, and usually, I think, for good reason.

7.

Eric

June 18, 2008, 5:53 PM

I haven't been very optimistic about writing art criticism of late. I was not offended by your comment. I just wanted to encourage you to vent.

8.

Franklin

June 18, 2008, 7:27 PM

Eric, I concur with your lack of optimism, but if you look at criticism as a subsidiary pleasure of art, you wonder less whether it's worthwhile. I just say to make sure that you own yourname.com if you don't already, and learn as much about HTML and related technologies as you can stomach. That will end up serving you as well as anything else these days.

9.

Clem

June 18, 2008, 7:31 PM

"The zero-middlemen model may be where we're headed"

Franklin, can you give some examples of what you mean by this. Are you mainly talking about the possibilities offered online?

10.

ahab

June 18, 2008, 8:27 PM

MC has worked up an alternative model of operation - one that's so good a retired professor-painter told me he wished he'd initiated something like it himself many years ago.

It relies at least in part on a small group of individuals who are committed to preserving one another's autonomy, yet who desire each other's criticism in order to make the most of it. Every day in the studio is an exercise in hammering material into form, imbuing form with personal expression, trying on words that describe the impressions, and testing the mettle of our taste.

11.

wwc

June 18, 2008, 8:46 PM

The gallery/museum model has a big social component - meet and greet, showing off, being cool. I'm sure those deeply involved believe they like great work, but their job seems to be more about dealing with people rather than art. Like those weird socialite picture pages in some fancy magazines.

The online world makes different social groups possible - like this one. For cameraderie, exchange of ideas, spreading information, it works well so far. We can find some sort of community.

The problem is that what we seem to argue for here - the primacy of the actual experience of an art object - is terribly difficult to do through a screen. I might have said that about books 10 years ago but I now buy tons of them online, so maybe it can be beaten.

The "long tail" can help us. Selling one $10,000 work or one hundred $100 works isn't equivalent - the more is better. The more work that goes out could mean more people seeing it and wanting something like it.

One trick I think we need to pull off is convincing people to buy cheaper work online. That means getting them to trust their own eyes - a big job of a dealer it seems is convincing collectors its ok to pay for art. We need to get our Moms and neighbors and everyone else to think that buying art is like going to a concert or a nice restaurant. Normal.

Finally (sorry for this long post) I agree Franklin - HTML, Photoshop and basic web design has served me very well since getting my MFA.

12.

wwc

June 18, 2008, 9:06 PM

Sorry, there's more...

The middlemen control two parts - access to an audience and then the salesmanship of getting things sold.

To beat part one we have the web, which isn't great at showing most work in all it's glory. But one can make work, good work, designed for the web - work that can lead viewers to the more "real world" work one does. The Moon Fell On Me.

Access also means attention - Cory Doctorow talks about the problem with being an artist today isn't getting ripped off it's being ignored. Good work helps, but participating in communities can also cut through the static. Artblog.net has led to all of your work.

As for salesmanship, I hear of work being sold online, at least from the few tiny dealers I know. So it can be done, at least with some sort of "real world" space to give one street cred. I would think all we would need is a window space in NYC to be really REALLY cool.

13.

Eric

June 19, 2008, 5:05 AM

Good advice and good ideas. I bought ericgelber.com years ago but did nothing with it and I think my ownership evaporated. I have a few quick questions for those in the know. They prove that I am an Internet numb-nuts.

What is the best site to use to buy a domain name (ericgelber.com)?

What is the best site to use to set up a website using your own domain name? (Livejournal isn't working for me any more because it is too limited. You can't even use a site counter with it.)

14.

Chris Rywalt

June 19, 2008, 5:19 AM

A lot of people use GoDaddy.com to set things up. They're really, really cheap.

However, I prefer my own ISP. They're more expensive, but the owners -- one of whom I went to school with -- are personally involved in everything they do. When your domain is going to expire, for example, they send out e-mail to warn you it's time to renew.

15.

Eric

June 19, 2008, 5:52 AM

That makes sense Chris but you are a computer guy by profession, or used to be, and I am sure that I need more help doing things then you do. I will look into godaddy.com. Thanks.

16.

Chris Rywalt

June 19, 2008, 5:54 AM

Well, Eric, not for nothing, but if you want help putting a site together, I'm available and very inexpensive. Like, free -- if I like you. But I can help regardless of where you get your site hosted.

17.

Eric

June 19, 2008, 6:17 AM

Well in plain English I don't know shit about setting up a website. I think the first thing I need to do is buy the domain name. This summer when I have off I will try to dedicate some time to putting a website together. Thank you very much for your kind offer. I might take you up on it. My first priority is setting up my studio and working on paintings every day.

18.

Chris Rywalt

June 19, 2008, 6:18 AM

I think in the future we'll all be each other's audience. Kurt Vonnegut wrote, in Slapstick, I think it was, about how Nature provided every village with people with special talents. One person was a good singer, one could tell stories, one could paint, and so on. The problem is, in our modern world, these people, who would be a precious resource in a small village, are daily thrown into competition with the absolute best on the planet. So their talents end up stymied, wasted, and the people themselves end up desperately unhappy.

I've also read that the number of people anyone knows turns out to be about the size of a small village. Even in New York City, any one person only has regular social contact with about 200 people. So we're still living in village-sized communities, only our villages all overlap.

I think all of this is coming together with technology and leisure time to create villages of audiences. We all perform for each other in our villages. I go to see my friend play drums in his band, and he comes to my art openings. I tell Franklin how much I like his latest Web page and he tells me my comments are brilliant. And so on.

What this doesn't do is make anyone any money. Obviously even if we all paid each other for this, we'd still end up in the same place financially. Not helpful. I think in terms of financing we're living in a world of corporate subsidy: Most people have day jobs which finance their hobbies. (Not to mention often provide them with supplies, like printer paper, Web servers (I've never paid for a Website I've put up), binder clips, Post-It notes, pens, and whatever else.)

I happen to believe that we could, as a society, afford to tell most people to stay home and pay them to do so. I think we've reached that stage of affluence here in the West. However, it's clear that our culture is intent on making everyone "work" for a living and won't accept the idea of putting everyone on "welfare," so I don't think our model of corporate subsidy is going to change any time soon. I think it'll have to get a lot worse before it gets better.

So what I foresee for artists is a lot of us struggling to find a way to make art pay for itself, like a heap of animals packed into a railway car fighting each other to sniff at the air holes in the roof. Most of us will never make it. Most of us will suffocate.

19.

Franklin

June 19, 2008, 7:55 AM

Eric, you can wait to set up your website but buy or (re-buy) your domain name immediately. I use GoDaddy.

20.

Franklin

June 19, 2008, 7:58 AM

Winkleman replies. Sorry I can't link directly - Blogger has become an attack vector for comment spam and I've blacklisted deep links at blogspot addresses.

21.

Franklin

June 19, 2008, 8:04 AM

Wwc has left us a lot of good stuff to look at in #11 and #12.

22.

wc

June 19, 2008, 8:56 AM

Thanks Franklin. In #12 I meant to say "Artblog.net has led me to all of your work."

23.

Eric

June 19, 2008, 9:08 AM

Well I bought the domain name. GoDaddy charges like $50 to set up a website for you (if you use one of their templates and it also includes 30 min. of update time per month) and to maintain it. There is no initial set up just the monthly charge. They want like $80-90 per month for a customized website. The fact that I will probably only have two visitors per year makes this monthly expense prohibitive.

24.

opie

June 19, 2008, 9:55 AM

Try Blogspot, Eric. It's real simple and doesnt cost anything.

25.

J.T. Kirkland

June 19, 2008, 10:05 AM

Eric,

I recently switched over to using the service provided by OtherPeoplesPixels. Check their site here: http://otherpeoplespixels.com/. They charge $16/month or $160/year (they offer a free trial period too). Setting up my site was a breeze. You can use your domain name with their site.

Click on my URL above to see how I configured my site.

I assume you want a site for your artwork. You would have to come up with another approach to have an archive of your writing.

26.

Chris Rywalt

June 19, 2008, 10:08 AM

My ISP only charges $20/month. Still might be prohibitive.

What's GoDaddy's price for the site with no help?

27.

Eric

June 19, 2008, 11:20 AM

Thank you Chris and J.T. Obviously it is a lot cheaper if I do all the work. I guess you have to pay for hosting and building the site. If you do it yourself using godaddy it would be about $24 a month for hosting and building the site for 3 years. J.T. your site looks great.

28.

J.T. Kirkland

June 19, 2008, 11:32 AM

Eric,

Thanks!

Godaddy is actually only about $4/month for just hosting the site. I used GoDaddy for the past 2-3 years before making the recent change. It's a bit of a bear to use but it's about as cheap as they come for just hosting.

For me the additional $12/month to use OPP was well worth it for the ease of use when making updates and edits to the site.

I can attest to Chris' skills in Web design as he built a site for a gallery I used to direct. He can certainly come up with something easy to use so that your monthly expense remains close to $4/month (assuming he'll work for free!).

29.

opie

June 19, 2008, 11:33 AM

Do you all disregard Blogspot because teenagers use it? I don't get it. It is free, easy to use and you can do pretty much what you want to with it. But then I am a non-geek, so what do I know.

30.

Clem

June 19, 2008, 11:38 AM

Eric,

You should take a look at:

http://www.indexhibit.org/

You do need to install it, which can be a little tougher for beginners, and some basic html really helps, but I'm pretty in love with its straightforward and stylish content management.

31.

Eric

June 19, 2008, 11:53 AM

opie I currently use livejournal which is free. I would like to change my URL so it is just my name and would like to be able to see how many visitors the site gets. Also the user interface isn't that great on livejournal. Blogspot and livejournal are comparable.

32.

opie

June 19, 2008, 12:05 PM

OK I guess you know what you are doing.

33.

Franklin

June 19, 2008, 12:39 PM

Blogspot has a rough user interface and the preloaded designs are atrocious. You also end up with an address at yourname.blogspot.com instead of yourname.com, which basically tells the world that you don't know what you're doing.

To host a domain name, and nothing else, GoDaddy costs about $9 a year. I set Go See Art up over at Webfaction for $9 a month and I've been happy with them so far, and they did some intensely geeky stuff for me. (For those undeterred by the details, they set up the account with a mod_python instance and .htaccess all ready to go for it.)

34.

Eric

June 19, 2008, 12:47 PM

Yes Franklin. ericgelber.livejournal.com is not as impressive as ericgelber.com. I need to increase my demographic from 2 yearly visitors to four yearly visitors and the only way that is going to happen is if I spend more money!

35.

Franklin

June 19, 2008, 1:01 PM

But on the other hand, it's a good way to spend your money. My website has been indispensable regarding both my writing and my art. You get a lot of mileage out of the investment considering the size.

36.

Eric

June 19, 2008, 1:11 PM

Makes sense Franklin. Thanks. I guess I am so dependent upon others when it comes to this stuff that I feel helpless in the face of it. I will look into using one of godaddy's plans and set something up with them soon.

37.

Chris

June 19, 2008, 2:13 PM

Eric- consider sites.google.com- your domain name can be used, there are templates, you will have plenty of space for awhile- making webpages is no more difficult in that environment than posting to a blog or composing an email with push button html. It's free, but it won't say google all over it. If you want to move in the future to something more customized you can do so. In the meantime you can be up and running very quickly with minimal skill.

38.

Chris Rywalt

June 19, 2008, 2:54 PM

That wasn't me, by the way, in case you weren't sure.

39.

Chris Rywalt

June 19, 2008, 3:09 PM

OP, regarding Blogspot, also: It's not great for a gallery site. If what you want is a blog, it's good. It's what I use. But for a gallery, not so much.

This is a site I did for free using my own gallery software, which I probably wouldn't use today. My own site uses the same software, but it has its problems. I'd do it differently today.

40.

opie

June 19, 2008, 3:34 PM

I was thinking of using it when I was having trouble with Flickr. I really only weanted something ultra-simple. I made a page but never did anything with it.

41.

Eric

June 19, 2008, 5:46 PM

Chris I really like what you did with Cory Marc's site. I like the 70's lettering and colors and the way you archived the images of his sculptures. His stuff is really good. The fortune cookie vagina thingy is smart and unsettling.

The other Chris: thanks for the tip.

42.

ahab

June 19, 2008, 9:44 PM

There's less being said about this topic here than I think it probably deserves, especially since the museum/gallery middleman paradigm that artists are currently saddled with *wants* nothing to do with the Newmodernist project.

So, besides aligning locally with like-minded people and making good work in the studio, both of which most of us're already committed to, what are we gonna do? wwc suggests plugging for more online sales, but although that provides a decent opportunity for artists making works on paper, it is not a viable solution for every artist (sculptors, e.g.).

I suppose we could use some gallerists on our side, a New York shopfront or two. Well, no, I'm not sure I actually think so. The NESW has its own studio gallery (with a front window) and we're making a habit of showing good work there. Maybe more of that is all we need to be planning for. Maybe being our own gallerists is enough.

43.

wwc

June 19, 2008, 9:47 PM

Step 1 - Make awesome work.

Step 2 - ????

Step 3 - Be rich and famous.

You're right on about the limits of what we can do online. The small self-gallerist model seems to be a way to go...

44.

John

June 19, 2008, 10:07 PM

Curtis Rhodes, another new-mo:

HILL-ENCLAVE

HILL-ENDSTAMPER

NOONDAGOONDA

45.

Eric

June 20, 2008, 4:53 AM

Chris R. - Thank you for your advice. I would never ask you do anything for me for free. But your kind offer is appreciated.

Other Chris - The problem with site.google is that I can't use ericgelber.com as a URL. I don't want a company name stuck in the middle of my URL.

I promise not to solicit advice about these sorts of things again here at artblog.net.

I think the best route for me to take is to work really hard at making the best paintings and drawings I possibly can and then try to approach galleries in places like Hudson, NY, and see what happens. Most likely nothing will happen but at least my home and studio will be filled with work that I like.

46.

Chris Rywalt

June 20, 2008, 6:48 AM

Here I thought I'd have to apologize for Cory's artwork. I find it amusing sometimes, unsettling other times, and some parts of it I think are pretty brilliant. But then I'm not a sculptor, so possibly it's easier than I realize. Mostly I like his stuff but it's not my favorite and I'm not sure I'd like it much if I didn't know Cory.

Funny thing about the Nookie Cookie: Jerry Saltz curated a show out here in New Jersey and chose that as one of the pieces. At the opening Cory handed out life-sized versions he'd made. Well, fortune-cookie-sized. The original sculpture is bigger than a fortune cookie but the vulva is probably about life-size.

The colors were chosen by Cory; actually, his studio walls are painted those colors. I had to match them by eye, with a little help from online copies of 1970s decorating brochures. Avocado green and burnt orange, baby! When I was a kid our kitchen was done in those colors.

If you wanted the same site design, but with color and font changes, it wouldn't even be that difficult.

47.

ahab

June 20, 2008, 7:19 AM

Hill-endclave looks like a gooder. Upon scrolling around Noondagoonda at full size I think it may have a number of even better paintings cropped out of it.

48.

John

June 20, 2008, 7:50 AM

Noondagoonda is a big one - 12 feet across.

49.

John

June 20, 2008, 7:52 AM

I closed the italics and they showed up that way in the preview. Might be something "stuck" somewhere.

50.

John

June 20, 2008, 7:55 AM

I checked the source and there is an unclosed italic in #47, that should have been closed after "Hill-endclave", but wasn't.

51.

opie

June 20, 2008, 8:24 AM

He's good, lots of potential, but he has to clear out a lot of the clutter and let the weird shapes and color take over. I agree with Ahab about the big one.

Is he from your area?

52.

John

June 20, 2008, 8:46 AM

Yes, he lives in Marcellus Michigan.

53.

John

June 20, 2008, 8:48 AM

This is an attempt to close the italics - did it work?

54.

John

June 20, 2008, 8:49 AM

Yes it did!

55.

opie

June 20, 2008, 8:57 AM

There are hints of Fonseca in the forms. He could learn to simplify from Fonseca but stop whort of becoming quite so dry and pat as Fonseca, who does not take nearly enough advantage of his interesting method.

56.

MC

June 20, 2008, 9:02 AM

Don't forget, we also need some NewMo critics to write about the NewMo art in the NewMo galleries... There's Jed Perl... He seems pretty fed up with the current product line...

57.

opie

June 20, 2008, 9:45 AM

Perl does a nice job with this piece, giving us a sense of the vacuousness of the trophy art that dominates the market today.

Perl writes clearly and is at his best when he goes after the shoddy and the phony - his piece on the Richter show at the Modern a few years ago was a real type specimen.

The only problem with Perl- and Hughes, and Kramer and many others who write well and are on target when they call the garbage to account - is that they have no eye. They are great when they criticize, but they don't know what to like.

58.

The Other Chris

June 20, 2008, 9:58 AM

Eric said, "The problem with site.google is that I can't use ericgelber.com as a URL. I don't want a company name stuck in the middle of my URL."

Yes, you can use your own URL. The URL would be www.ericgelber.com, same as with any other web host.

59.

Eric

June 20, 2008, 11:42 AM

I agree with opie's comments about Kramer, Perl, and Hughes, with one exception. I think Kramer had an eye way back when, when he was the art critic for The Nation.

60.

Eric

June 20, 2008, 11:59 AM

Chris:

Can you tell me specifically how you would change the site URL from http://sites.google.com/site/ericgelbercom/ to
ericgelber.com?

Feel free to email me at ericgelber@artcritical.com. I don't want to take up any more space here.

61.

ahab

June 20, 2008, 1:27 PM

The Perl article is a head-nodding read.

(My apologies for the improper use of tags above. Every time I preview there's nothing to correct, I swear.)

62.

Hovig

June 20, 2008, 2:29 PM

Perl articles had a big influence on the website Chris Rywalt built for his friend above.

63.

Chris Rywalt

June 20, 2008, 3:44 PM

Er, uh, they did? Really?

64.

Hovig

June 20, 2008, 7:07 PM

I was trying to hand you a punchline.

65.

Franklin

June 20, 2008, 7:12 PM

Ouch!

66.

opie

June 20, 2008, 7:39 PM

That's pretty deep geekery, Hovig. I only know about because my son reads this telephone book full of hieroglyphics with the word PERL on the front.

67.

Chris Rywalt

June 21, 2008, 8:36 AM

Oh good Christ I totally didn't get the joke. Two entirely different brain parts or something. Or I'm just dense.

Now I get it. Ha ha! Ha. Uh.

Of course you know that puns are the lowest order of humor.

68.

wwc

June 23, 2008, 6:43 PM

(in a mocking tone) "Puns are the lowest order of humor!"

69.

ahab

June 24, 2008, 6:57 AM

I just thought it meant he knitted the site together.

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