Sunday, January 6, 2013

For What it's Worth

Some of you know that I co-run and co-curate GroundSwell Gallery in Denver, CO.  The gallery's focus is to provide contemporary, local artists a place to exhibit without the risk of failing to pay our rent.  This means that we can show the work of artists who have never shown before, artists working in experimental media, artists making site specific installations, artists who don't want exclusive representation, etc. - let's face it, other galleries often deny these kinds of opportunities because they must have certainty around selling work to the audience they have worked hard to attract.  No one's to blame... but it leaves many artists sore about their lack of venue and unrecognized contribution to our city's art "world." 

With about 1 1/2 years of work toward making this gallery a valuable component of Denver's art scene, I find that the most perplexing issue we face is PRICE.  The monetary value of art from the artist's perspective, from the curator's perspective, and from the audience's perspective - these are all different numbers.  Despite not having to "worry" about money as much as other exhibition venues, we do have to deal with this issue because artists want and sometimes need to sell their work and the "audience" (sometimes) wants to be able to buy art.  On top of that, we truly want the public to have access to authentic (not made just to make some money), soul-stirring, beautiful, aesthetically intelligent, skillfully made ART in their lives, in their homes, and for the health of their hearts and minds.  (sound churchy?  yeah, this is my religion)  We may not always succeed at this, but that is what is at the core of our intentions.

Having said all this, I admit, my real intention is simply to do what I (personally) can do to support what I believe (described above) is GOOD ART.  That's all I want.  That's what I want with my own artwork as well - and I have little interest in participating in the art market* myself because, apart from some serendipitous opportunities based out of good relationships with like-minded people, the art market is a confusing, trend based shape-shifter and often aesthetically disinterested.

Even if I don't want to, I do participate in the art market with this gallery.  I want to have a broader view about it, some way to work with it, some willingness to understand some gist of it....
Beginning with Rebels in Paradise, Hunter Drohojowska-Philp's book on the LA art scene in the 1960s, I'm reading to gain depth of understanding around the value of art, how that value is defined and why.  I want to read whatever theories are out there regarding the art market and art trends.  This is not to stand in for some "Art and Business" course, nor is this an attempt at learning sales tactics.  I am simply interested in standing more firmly in understanding (or at least affirming my fear that this art market thing is just a hoax anyway). 

I just read Sunday Dialogue : What is that Art Worth? headed by William Cole's letter to the Editor (New York Times, 1.5.13)
Planning to read The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Don Thompson.  
Any texts, blogs, articles or editorials are welcome - please recommend.

*I realize the term "art market" refers to a monstrously indefinable monster.