Thursday, August 9, 2012

An Open Letter To Gallery Owners

Dear Gallery Owners, Curators, and Collectors,

  First of all, I want to thank you for what you do. Even if monetary benefit is your primary motivational thrust, without art the heartbeat of our culture stops cold and our humanity withers on a rotted vine. So, what you do has value. I know this. Do you sense a "but" approaching?

  BUT...you have to know how hard the life of an artist is. For every Mark Ryden, Shepard Fairey, Ron English, and Damien Hirst selling their work for 6 and 7 figures, there's hundreds (if not thousands) of incredibly talented artists toiling away in dingy rented rooms, sweltering storage units, and cramped garages, utterly devoted to their craft...and you're ignoring them. If they are lucky enough to actually get a show at some small gallery, they often end up selling work that they spent months creating for around 800 bucks, then you take half of that?! Do the math, and take a moment to appreciate it's bleakness. Then consider that most of these folks have no other income. They have no health insurance. They have no 401K. No stocks, no bonds, no holdings.

  So, why do they do it? Do they crave fame and fortune? Do they thirst for art world celebrity? Nope. They do it because they can't help themselves. They do it because it's embedded in their genetic makeup. A lot of them are driven by demons they are trying to exorcise. This is a devastatingly brutal world for sensitive souls to dwell in, and they've found that making art is the only way they can cope with it. But don't get me wrong, they are not weak. They are the strongest among us. They are vigilant, steadfast survivalists. In the face of harsh adversity, they persevere. They torture themselves. They work in anonymity, agonizing over details. They often destroy the work and start all over again. Every single day of their lives, they get up and make art. No matter what! They do it out of an innate passion.

 There was a time in our history, when the wealthiest families would provide financial backing, for life, to artists they believed in, and we are ALL the better for it. Sadly, we don't really do that anymore. So, it's fallen on you, the gallery owners, the curators, the collectors to give a public face to the private struggles of deserving artists. I'm urging you to step out of your comfort zone and take a risk on some art warriors who are maybe untested, or just under-appreciated. No, I'm not talking about myself. You can keep ignoring me. It's fine. What I'm saying is, there are giants all around us, if you'd just open your eyes a little wider. I'm asking that, even though you're "booked through next year", "not accepting submissions", or the dpi is the "wrong size", that a couple times a week you just open a couple of them anyway. Take a look at the blood and the sweat and the tears that are offered up to you. Don't be so dismissive. Those envelopes and emails are filled with heartaches and pain. For a lot of these artists, it's all they will ever know. You wield the power to not only write the next chapter in art history, but to elevate our discourse, shake up the hierarchical order, inspire deeper thought, and maybe save a life or two. Don't waste that power by playing it safe!

  Everyday I see exceptional artists selling their work for next to nothing, just to get a bill paid, fill a prescription,or get a tooth pulled. Like mice on a wheel, they all but give their art away so they can get more supplies, just to make more art. Vicious fucking cycle! Artists like Jennifer J. Jelenski, William Wray, Bonni Reid, Matjames Metson, Joe C. Rock, Gustavo Rimada, and Paul Chatem (just to name a few) scan the entire landscape of artistic possibility. They should be household names. There should be lavish Taschen books of their art on our coffee tables. They shouldn't be struggling for our attention. A struggle can be good for an artist. It can motivate. But for artists like these, the struggle should be a little easier. If art is not only transcendent, and clearly wrenched out of pain, but also illuminated by the propulsive waves of the divine, to NOT show that is damn near an act of violence.

  I understand how bad the economy is, and I understand you're not running a charity. I have a suggestion though. Go ahead and have your big Shag show. Have a Mr. Brainwash circus! Do your Rydenfest. Sell the holy fuck out of those shows! Then, every other month, let your gallery give voice to some lesser known names. Open one of those submission envelopes that you usually toss in the bin, and take a bloody chance on someone. Let the success of the marquee artists keep the door open for the next guy. Hell, I'll curate it for you. My rates are very reasonable.

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