Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Business Tip #1: A Rant by Emily Lakin

To increase your revenue, you must diversify your audience. The more people you get interested in your product, the better your business will do.

However you look at it, art is a business. The artist producing a painting on commission, the freelancer designing a website, the museum offering special benefits for new members- all are selling something.

But is art always a product? What about the value of the creative process to express emotions, political commentary or the development of skills? Does the intrinsic value of art get lost when it's tied to money and business? Or, does the exposure of people who would not normally visit a gallery or museum expand artistic reach beyond what traditional methods can ever do?

Four years ago I moved to San Francisco and started working at a new kind of art space. 111 Minna Gallery is a bar, event space, and art gallery in over 4,200 square feet. It has 2 full bars, 16 foot walls, and a convenient downtown location. Each month they produce an art show, which stays up day and night, during all events from happy hour to Microcinema . During the 10 years it has been open, the space has developed a reputation for quality, affordable work, leaning towards the "street art" tendencies of the Mission School.

So here I am. The crowd varies from hipsters drooling over Doze Green's work (myself included), to over-powdered (in more ways than one) young professionals leaving their drinks- and ring marks- on Albert Dicruttalo's sculptures. Obviously, sometimes booze appreciation overpowers art appreciation, and vice versa. But I loved it. I still do. I meet all sorts of people and talk to them about their work, their influences, the last great movie they saw...it is a way of making a connection in a world where internet friends become part of your social circle.

But the point here is that art has become cool. You can go somewhere to admire it over a glass of wine, and even purchase it for under $500. And by owning or appropriating it (Can't afford an original? Buy a t-shirt!), you get to have some of that cool too. It's a win-win situation. The artist can make some money- minus the gallery cut, of course- and potentially gain recognition that will lead to more shows, freelance work, a network of peers, maybe even an entree into a museum or other cultural institution. You get the piece, which hopefully looks great on your walls, and the feeling that you have done well by being an arts patron. So you're not a Medici, but still...a friday night out with friends becomes a cultural experience. The product is cultural capital and personally, if you're going to be a "heartless capitalist" I think this is the way to go.

Places like Varnish Fine Art , The Canvas Gallery, BOCA , and Club Six have all got in on the act. The art business is surviving in the face of cuts in institutional funding . But art bars often focus on art and artists that are hip and who will sell- challenging the status quo isn't always a factor. Are those artists being left out?

The underlying question here is: Are places like this undermining art appreciation or diversifying the audience for the arts world?

7 Comments:

Anonymous Fi said...

I enjoy the bar with artwork hanging, but I know as an artist it pisses me off when my stuff gets moved around. I definitely do think it diversifies the audience though. I know plenty of cafes that display work-they just avoid having openings.

June 21, 2006  
Blogger Faust Haus said...

Yeah you gotta come to CA at some point and Em'll take you to Minna- It's less of a cafe and more of a sprawling gallery that happens to have a bar. I agree about having drinks left on work/strangers fondling my stuff...but if they're going to buy it for a few hundred clams, I would be open to it.

June 22, 2006  
Anonymous js said...

"But art bars often focus on art and artists that are hip and who will sell- challenging the status quo isn't always a factor. Are those artists being left out?"

I think the answer is yes--provocative and challening artists are largely ignored by commercial enterprise. Most truly provocative work is done by artists who are unbearable human beings. We avoid these people not so much because they challenge our precious "status quo," but because we can not stand them personally. We hate and fear the way they think, and we will not look at their work, because it is often too elemental--presenting a hostile universe and leaving no room for humanness. These freaks are just copping signals from outter/inner space. They might as well be posessed by devils. The fact of human emotion cannot be removed from art if the art is to matter to us through posterity. Which brings me to my next point: only the topmost artists ever really matter in any given genre and/or medium. The rest do not matter. Art presents us with the harshest and most unyielding hierarchy in life. Our hatred of this hierarchy is exemplified in our commercialization of art--we desperately want to popularize it, in an attempt to control it. Lastly, before I leave you sounding entirely like some kind of half-baked ivory tower asshole, I must say that the top artists are always defiantly popular on their own and by their own standards. They do not need the help of the commercial world--they co-opt the commercial world and make it work for them. When we witness their work, we know they are destined for good things, and we never really know why....but when we compare their work to the work of others we see it for a moment or so...the greatness that keeps them way ahead of the curve.

June 24, 2006  
Anonymous daniela said...

Hurray-welcome- BLOG IT UP! Emily

June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Art is short for Arthur -keith richards

June 27, 2006  
Anonymous Emily said...

JS- first of all, faust clued me in to who is lurking behind those initials. I think we all spent a night boozing in her apartment in H'ford. It's nice to hear from you, and I hope that you're writing in addition to the posts...that isn't to discourage...keep it coming!

I think it's important both of us recognize that there's some generalizations here. Not all the art in art bars are purely aesthetic. I've seen some amazing stuff. And not all artists are unbearable human beings. In fact, I usually find it's those who are in charge of promoting/selling them. I've met some well-known SF artists who were incredibly kind and humble and conversly those that were complete jerks. Let's not say that art is a reason to propogate assholes.

But you certainly have some good points here. Especially in comparison to others, the outstanding work really shines. I just hope there can be a more conscious decision to see what factors are in play when work gets shown...it's not always just the ability to synthesize and produce...it's also about who you know and what you do to get it in the public eye.

June 27, 2006  
Anonymous js said...

"I just hope there can be a more conscious decision to see what factors are in play when work gets shown...it's not always just the ability to synthesize and produce...it's also about who you know and what you do to get it in the public eye."

I would say that "who you knowism" has nothing to do with mimesis. It may have to do with market force, it may have to do with the secret racism that is "multicultural art," and for sure it has to do with making a living--which everyone has to do. I think that 'who you know' just isn't art unless it becomes a representation. Any real creative person could easily do that....but who would be there to compehend the message? Comprehending the message is not what people are doing today. If a tree falls in the forest when no one is around to hear it......well, something does happen. Reality always gets the last laugh, but we just think it gets in the way of our "art appreciation." Most of what is called "art" today comes from our impulse to distort reality. In actuality though art is terrifyingly real. There can also be soothing, nurturing art--but not if it denies the terrible. Most of this is just basic stuff which most art buffs are clueless about. Everyone always wants to find the boogeyman out there somewhere. But all anyone has to do is look in the mirror.

Multiculturalist critics claim that colonized peoples can't understand western art because of Aristotle's plot curve: rising action, crisis-point, falling action. On this basis, they describe most western art as Euro-centric and racist. Other cultures, they say, follow more of a cyclical plot schema, because they celebrate roundness and nature, i.e. the mother (but not the kali-mother, because to acknowledge her would defeat this particualr argument of theirs. Though another day they might get a stiffy for Kali the destoryer.) Mulitculturalists don't believe in universals in art. They can't understand that cycles occur for all people, as does rising tension and conflict. All that shit is just too scary for them. They don't use symbols to represent reality, they use symbols to hide reality. And they have to hide in the shadows of colleges because if their intellectual tripe comes into contact with any more virile ideas it will get all ate up. Culture and networking are always secondary to art. Culture and social interaction always subjugate individual experience to the collective needs of the group. This is normal, even healthy, but it just ain't art. Art is a hard motherfucker. Hard, but fair. But because it is hard, we do not "like" it. Though we sure as hell pretend to.

July 03, 2006  

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