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An immodest proposal

Post #1276 • January 14, 2009, 7:17 PM • 22 Comments

As you may guess from yesterday's post, my first order of business is new paintings, great ones to the extent that I can manage it. Next order of business is to use my perpetually advanced-beginner programming skills to develop the mother of all professional backends for an art career.

Basically, I would like to run an experiment to see what happens if you treat the business end of this art thing as if it were any other kind of business. A gallery of one, if you will. A business needs a product, knowledge of the location of its patrons, and a means of communication to connect the two. The only thing that differentiates art here is that the first item can't be automated. (Well, that's not completely true. Printmaking is an automation. But certainly the final product can't lose its humanity in the making, or we're just generating trash.) The other two are highly amenable to automated solutions.

Yesterday, John left the following comment:

The sheer size of the unholy multitude of artists, to which we all belong, makes for a muddy situation. If the cream rises to the top, what difference would that make in the Mississippi's delta area? You can't find it for all the muck, and it is eventually absorbed by the ocean where it completely disappears.

So do we look for different headwaters? I don't think technology can provide them. How can we be our own news organization if no more than a couple of hundred read our news? What difference does a JPEG make anyway? I don't think writing can provide much. Small scale marketing on the part of bit players won't provide a new start. Museums have not been very interested in local artists unless those artists have "made it" in some commonly accredited far off venue. Etcetera.

Et cetera indeed. These are all legitimate concerns, one hard problem after another. For my myriad intellectual and character weaknesses, though, I have nevertheless picked up a good habit of thought. When faced with an intractable problem, I ask myself, What am I ignoring? I presume that the solution lies somewhere in the problem field and I am failing to see it. Pace Einstein, the problem probably can be solved at the level of thinking that created it. (And I've learned that the worst things in life hit you in the back of the head, not the front. What am I ignoring? reduces a modicum of exposure.)

Okay, the museums tend to blow off the locals unless they have succeeded elsewhere. What does that mean, when we say that the museum is not interested in something? It means that the curators aren't regarding it as important. How do we convince them that something that we're working on is important? But wait, do we have to deal with all of them, and all of us? Can I convince one curator to regard my most recent work as important? Hold on again - is one curator aware of the existence of said work? Can I name a single curator? Now we're talking sense. This problem has a portion I can act upon.

So let's say that I've sent him a photo of one of my works and a note. Still no interest. No surprise there. Any salesman worth his salt wouldn't leave it at that and curse the darkness. He'd wait a while and contact them again. And if the cost of doing so stayed low enough, he might repeat that for years. He would regard every curator as potentially interested, some more than others of course, but he would leave the door ever open. I said yesterday that curators, in my experience, are typically ideological creatures. Part of that ideology often includes some kind of responsibility to the public, or they wouldn't have gone into museum work. If you're part of the public, and other portions of the public are in your audience, then something could turn in your favor.

I have considered a lot of options that might make a difference to the kind of art I care about. I considered a kind of publishing/gallery hybrid, but the numbers didn't look so good. I talked with another artist about starting a collective, but you could just end up marginalizing yourself or saddling yourself with a load of unproductive responsibility, and let's face it - in certain circles, association with me would be toxic. But what if the "new start" John mentioned is awaiting someone to start taking banal, non-heroic action of the kind necessary to any business pursuit - networking, marketing, grooming patrons, and cultivating wider visibility?

I'll tell you what - I'll try it for you. For a year. At the end of that year I'll have a very nice Web-based program with a database of contact information of potentially interested parties (problem #2) that provides several interesting ways of communicating with them (problem #3). It will, for instance, upload print-quality photos of work with germane image information, automatically update your website gallery, and transfer the printable image with a text-file caption onto an FTP server upon request. It will transform selected contacts into a CSV list that can then be sent to a print house and turned into a mailing without you having to peel and stick labels. It will let you publish a blog inside your own domain name, without resorting to a address. When you tell the program about a new exhibition, it will update both the germane site page and your CV, the latter of which will be convertable to a PDF at the click of a button. It will track granting opportunities and sort them for you in order of increasingly distant deadlines. The basic idea is that if I've had to do it once, I'm going to make the program do it for me the next time.

At that point, if the result pleases me, I will let you use it. Maybe. If you're serious about your work, serious about your career, not serious about yourself, and sympathetic to the new modernist attitude. You have to feel okay about one additional feature of the program - opportunities you install on your personal project list, if appropriate, will be promoted to the general opportunities list, visible to other users whose identities you will not know. (The same will be true of their additions, of course.) There will be a membership fee in the lower three digits, mostly to cover bandwidth and to express your sincere intentions. Membership will allow you to hire me as a copyeditor at an absurdly cheap rate, and as a ghostwriter for an eminently reasonable one. It will be like a arts collective, but without the hell that is other people.

Let me know if you're interested.




January 14, 2009, 7:36 PM

Hey F;
Don't get me wrong but If you will only spend more time developing on your personal artwork, and less of the blah, blah, blah...on thi site, which really should be called, your work as an artist will take a different level and will improve (which you need - specially in the figure, and your proportions-you probably are not aware) dramatically

*Blog less, paint more. (specially in drawing)
I always wanted to say this...a long time ago




January 14, 2009, 7:38 PM

That's coming in spades. You have my word.



January 14, 2009, 8:02 PM

You are thinking like an intelligent, rational person. Problem is, the art world is utterly irrational. Sales go from connections, circumstances, who you know, whether those curators think you are a "trend" and all that sort of thing.

The people who sell and get big reps are hustlers, the Schnabels and Hirsts of the world. There's no point bemoaning it; it's just the way it is. Very few people know wht good art is. if you are lucky they will buy it for the wrong reasons. Otherwise it is just an eternal struggle.



January 14, 2009, 8:14 PM

While I tend to agree with OP, go ahead and try it, Franklin. If you don't, you'll always wonder "what if." Just don't let your hopes and expectations get too high.



January 14, 2009, 8:50 PM


Don't listen to the naysayers. It's a great plan. A well Organization is always a good idea. You already know about the irrationality of the art world, you know the "who you know" side of it. Your organized plan of attack will allow you to confront whatever is out there - the parts you know already and the possibilities you don't yet know about - in the most efficient way.



January 14, 2009, 10:26 PM

Otherwise it is just an eternal struggle.

The part that one actually has control over basically consists of talking to people and sending out images. Neither is agony.

Just don't let your hopes and expectations get too high.

My current target number is my mortgage, times two, per month. That seems like a reasonable goal.

Thanks David.



January 14, 2009, 11:15 PM

Don't get me wring. I'm not saying don't do it. Something might come of it.

I will be only too happy to eat my words.


that guy

January 14, 2009, 11:41 PM

I like it. But why don't you just build the framework and sell it to google for a few million. They of course will bastardize your baby and plaster it with ads but you should be able to live off of that for at least a few years.


Pretty Lady

January 14, 2009, 11:54 PM

I think it's a very good idea, and I will watch your progress with interest. I may also be one of your customers, except that I will not be very productive for the next several months. When I am, however, this will be an excellent kick in the pants.



January 15, 2009, 7:50 AM

sorry but you should pay more attention to comment #1. You sound like one of my students who talks, talks, and talks about all the things he is going to create - all the important works that he will make in the studio. Day after day, month after month, it is all the same: blah blah blah. You want curators to look at your work? - maybe you should start by making work. You can have the best talent in the world but without discipline it is worthless.
Also, read the first sentence you wrote on this post: '... my first order of business is new paintings, great ones to the extent that I can manage it.' Great ones? What happens if you can only produce Bad ones? Do you give up? As an artist, I would be embarrassed to even suggest that - and you should to. Go to work and stop talking.



January 15, 2009, 8:33 AM

Guy, while I certainly won't complain if they come knocking, I don't aspire to it. Getting their attention would necessitate making the program available to anyone who wants it, which would force me to generalize it past the point of usefulness.

PL, your interest is additional incentive to make it work. Keep painting!

Velvet, you, in turn, sound like one of those trolls whose knowledge of the author extends back to a week of blog posts. You may not know, for instance, that I had a solo show of my work only five months ago and the local paper wrote a complimentary piece on it. I'll tell you what, though - keep reading, and if in a few months I've made no progress, call me on it.



January 15, 2009, 9:23 AM

Your idea might be criticized from several different angles and attitudes and points of view but troll criticisms are always the same, aren't they? Snarky and personal. The consistency is remarkable.



January 15, 2009, 10:54 AM

No doubt. It makes you start to think it's all one strange, sad guy who posts them all over the internet, but actually, it's just one strange, sad mentality shared by a whole bunch of dumb, random people.

What a world...



January 15, 2009, 11:59 AM

Cool - Eric Gelber has already developed a prototype.



January 15, 2009, 1:47 PM

Thank you for posting the link. It took me years to develop that model.



January 15, 2009, 4:51 PM

I really wish the Internet would change the game in a major way, but so far it has not done that. Obviously it has brought about a changes in various areas of the art world, but it would be hard to quantify its impact. If it could make more good art available to the public and help more artists earn a living from their art that would be great. I will watch the progress of your prject closely and look closely at any jpegs of your work that you post.



January 15, 2009, 4:57 PM

Sounds great Franklin, but can you finish up making a powerpoint template first! My presentations at work need a true artists touch! Thanks!


Chris Rywalt

January 16, 2009, 8:36 AM

I can't tell if Nat is trying to be funny or trying to be a jerk. Right now I'm going with jerk.



January 18, 2009, 7:03 PM

Hi Franklin,

bravo, you raise the right issues ! We, in the Caucasus have very similar problems, options, possibilities, as others have elsewhere, with different solutions and results.

I read some of the first comments, all very true. I would not waste another year, to reinvent tools, that are long here and maybe better, than you can develop.

In fact it is the -site that brings the real visual adventures to us, nothing more boring than the industrial standardized CV's and Bla-Bla-Shows, nothing could impress me and a potential buyer less.

These days I saw a terrible show of Contemporary Art by Contemp. Super Stars in Dresden, like the Chinese Artists, also Baselitz,Bacon,Twombly, called Madonna meets Mao. These curators you name often doing the wrong things, showing the wrong works, giving bad advises to what to buy to rich People. Any average artist like we are, sees in such a show, that we can do it better, and thats a shame is, how much Public money was wasted on this stuff to bring it to Germany.

As Opie mentioned, "success" can not be planned or organized, people indeed often buy it for the wrong reasons.

But still I have two easy step solutions to offer to reach your goals:


1. Do some good works
2. Set up a blog
3. Do a scandal (locally, or countrywide, or globally), gain attention and sales

(No curator needed)

Example: David Cerny, an unknown Czech Artist who did a big project with the European Union by inventing a fake Art Group, more here:

(I am sure he will be on the next biennial/documenta/whatever)


1. Provide yourself with the best circumstances to do good work (a huge nice studio, mountain view but close to the next big city, nice intelligent art friends, girl-friend or family, stable money to be independent)

2. Make good works, publish online globally, network with like-minded

3. Establish yourself as a good artist. Try to make sales, to supporters, to your local car dealer, small sales and sometimes bigger sales (I know you do so, Franklin)
Use media, TV, Radio, give interviews. Let your local airline customers read about the !!successfull!! artists Franklin
Claim yourself always as a very successful artist towards others. People believe in you only if you do so.

4. Live with Art and try your best, without the highest expectations, and wait for your success (5 to 70 years ;-))

Btw Franklin, I think you are already quite famous world wide, you do it good as you do, improve here and there and try smth different from time to time.

Another front fighting are the guys from HenriMag, very interesting reading there:

The Art World is changing these days, the mud is much bigger and better seen, but the pearls are easier discovered. Embrace the NEW ART WORLD !

Thank you for your interesting topic and blog !

Best regards, Hans



January 18, 2009, 7:09 PM

Eric Gelbers prototype is much better, here was mine from 2006


Oriane Stender

January 19, 2009, 10:33 AM

Hi Franklin,

I'm surfing a bit, dropped in to see what's happening here. Congrats on all your news - house, plans for the future, etc. I don't want to get all embroiled in another gender-polarizing debate, but I practically spit my coffee all over my keyboard when I read this part of Hans' plan for success in the art world.

"girl-friend or family"

Wow, Hans. Thanks for allowing women a role in your plan for the making of an artist. What an honor that we are to be included as a necessary accessory, much like a large studio or proximity to a large city. What century are you living in? Wake up and smell the coffee that wifey is happily brewing for you while you toil in your lovely studio with mountain view.



January 19, 2009, 12:30 PM

Gah! Totally, I mean, the nerve! To wish for a house, a studio, AND friends and family! How unenlightened! How misogynistic! I practically burst a blood vessel all over my mousepad!



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