Monday, May 29, 2017

Museums Need More Than Rich Donors to Survive

Museums Need More Than Rich Donors to Survive

Museums are the coral reefs of the global art ecosystem; their health underpins and signals the well-being of the whole. They elevate discourse, provide entertainment, educate the public, attract tourists, create jobs, and certainly provide evidence of long-term value in the $57 billion art market. Today, from Moscow to Muscat to Montevideo, there are 55,000 active institutions devoted to the arts, according to the directory Museums of the World. Roughly 35,000 are in the U.S., according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
Many of these thousands of museums are fighting tooth and claw for the attention and generosity of only several hundred wealthy families, corporate foundations, and ultra-high-end art dealers. This numerical mismatch means reliance on traditional philanthropy (or the meager crumbs of federal funding) is not a viable plan for long-term stability, let alone success. Now is the time to identify new avenues for growth, and create more nuanced targets to help achieve it.
In the U.S., dependence on traditional giving (private philanthropy), foundation grants, or government support has thus far proved a shaky development or operating strategy, leaving institutions vulnerable to the whims and fortunes of lawmakers or mercurial donors. I propose they look elsewhere for support.
Museums can no longer ignore the abundant capabilities and resources of an emerging cadre of professionals in the arts, creative services, and technology fields. This is a concentration of people willing and able to donate their talents to organizations and institutions they care about. By my estimate, this potential “cultural corps” accounts globally for at least several hundred thousand names. They live in or between major urban centers (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, London, Berlin), nearly always in close proximity to the institutions in need of their aid and expertise.
Who Stands to Lose the Most if the NEA Is Eliminated?
Simply put, this is a clarion call to embrace experimentation—with models, methods, approaches, and programs—with greater ardor. Old strategies, employed in the art world for the better part of 50 years, were, to be fair, successful to varying degrees in their time, and appropriate for their audience. But times have changed. Before us are new audiences, new challenges, and new challengers—an ever-expanding array of rival attractions and distractions for museum-goers’ time and money.

The fight for scarce resources

The chronic challenge for all nonprofits is competition for limited resources. In recent years, capital campaigns have increasingly been entrusted to fundraising Olympians, orders of magnitude stronger and fleeter of foot than their predecessors. But not all truly great arts administrators, curators, or directors are fundraising all-stars. There are also performance-limiting factors at work: aging boards; lagging digital performance (in terms of brand identity, content creation capabilities, or discoverability); rising operational costs from recruiting and retaining top talent to marketing and promotional expenses; and the escalating price of ambitious arts programming.

Cataloguing failures leads to smarter options and outcomes

To plot a more successful course, we have to be courageous enough to identify weakness and failures. To date, attempts to act more nimbly across the institutional art world look familiar: changes in programming or special events for millennials, sponsored international trips, and mobile campaigns of every imaginable kind. But the majority of these efforts have a mixed record of success. Jeffrey Deitch’s conspicuous failures at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles are one well-publicized example. Other attempts to attract new audiences, like Björk’s widely panned show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, provide a cautionary tale. This is not to dismiss or ignore individual cases of success, but a gold standard has so far proven elusive. Few institutions would claim they’ve found a repeatable or scalable solution for generating additional revenue or driving audience.
To identify robust models for success requires holding ourselves accountable for meeting specific metrics within reasonable time frames. That is to say, what we measure is as important as how we measure it: not just revenue, digital engagement, membership growth, charitable giving, or social sharing, but perhaps a new series of key performance indicators that museums haven’t yet embraced: penetration by media vertical, growth in charitable participation, or even net promoter scores, a management tool that can be used to gauge brand visibility or customer loyalty. Learning to make course corrections based on data and performance metrics rather than on hazy beliefs in future outcomes is hard, but it’s an approach more museum administrators should adopt.

The way forward: Recruit widely to maximize available resources

First, we must expand recruitment targets. Institutions have to reduce their dependence on conventional philanthropy, or the generosity of the world’s wealthiest families. Instead, they must target an estimated 30,000–300,000 influential up-and-comers: available sources of talent, expertise, and future charitable giving. Keeping in mind that the current pool of several hundred “platinum circle” givers enjoy considerable influence over programming at museums, the prospective flood of newcomers by the thousands should be positioned as part of a “superstructure” to enhance long-term institutional strength.
This is about capacity-building, not regime change. It’s unclear to me what the right role is for galleries in this emerging matrix. As it stands, large, powerful outfits like David Zwirner and Gagosian help fund museum shows featuring their artists, or provide other material support such as research or shipping help. Whether that’s a good and healthy thing, or contributes to inequality in the institutional and market landscape, is beyond the scope of this article.
Second, museums must learn to raise contributions “in kind.” This requires a radically different approach than those we’ve witnessed to date, starting with with a shift in mentality from dollars-first or dollars-above-all to a “total available resources” strategy. How to solicit and incorporate is addressed in the second part of this series.
Several early experiments are underway. Consider the New Museum’s NEW INC initiative, a select community of a hundred-plus annual participants from across different practices, housed in an adjoining facility. Through iterative experiments in recruitment, organizational priorities, and programming (demo days for members, and conferences for the general public), NEW INC endeavors to advance ideas and enterprises that do not fit comfortably into other tech accelerators or fine art programs. In full disclosure, I’m a proud member of the board.
In May 2017, New York’s Guggenheim Museum began working with an innovation committee comprised of industry experts from technology, marketing, media, and government, to collaborate with museum stakeholders to radically rethink how the institution might better deliver results over the next decade and beyond. Although the gathering is still in its infancy, its formation is an encouraging sign for an institution of this type, size, and profile. Other museums are rumored to be following suit, and redoubling efforts to clarify their mission and enhance measurable impact.  
To be clear, I am not counseling “experiments in innovation” for their own sake. Accountability is key. Assessment metrics are a must. These two programs are noteworthy not for their existence, but for their willingness to actively and publicly wrestle with new challenges, and be held accountable for success—even along new, unfamiliar, or fundamentally different lines of measurement.
An initial inventory of strategies, including those under consideration or experimentally deployed by these organizations, will be further addressed in the second part of this series.

—Michael Phillips Moskowitz

Michael Phillips Moskowitz is an entrepreneur, art collector, and board member of the New Museum’s NEW INC initiative.

Why Mid-Tier Galleries Are Disappearing


"I'm Surprised I'm Not Richer": Dealer Joel Mesler on Why Mid-Tier Galleries Are Disappearing, And How East Hampton Could Be His Solution

"I'm Surprised I'm Not Richer": Dealer Joel Mesler on Why Mid-Tier Galleries Are Disappearing, And How East Hampton Could Be His Solution
Joel Mesler and his gallery assistant.
The art market has changed drastically since Joel Mesler started dealing 14 years ago, and Mesler has adapted and changed with it. As a dealer, he’s no longer tied to the idea of exclusivity (he thinks representing artists is a thing of the past), he applauds the artists who have left him for bigger galleries (it’s a testament to his success in developing them), and he thinks that the future of the mid-tier gallery is seasonal, project-based, or off the beaten path.
But this wisdom comes at a price. The comically self-deprecating dealer (and now artist, too) laments that he probably should have closed his gallery in the Lower East Side five years ago, and describes his trajectory as a survival story rather than a success story—but if you ask any of the artists he championed along the way, you might get a different story. At Untitled gallery in the Lower East Side, Mesler was a flag-bearer for artists like Henry TaylorMatthew Chambers, and Artie Vierkant. He then joined forces with dealer Zach Feuer (who had been operating in Chelsea) to make Mesler/Feuer and Feuer/Mesler—two exhibition spaces in the Lower East Side that showed artists like Loie Hollowell, Brad TroemelPhoebe Washburn, and Keren Cytter. Now, less than six months after Mesler/Feuer announced their closing in February, Mesler is re-opening Rental, a project space he started during his Los Angeles "stoner-hippie" years. But this time, Rental is in East Hampton, where, as Mesler points out, live the one percent of the one percent of the one percent. 
In anticipation of tonight’s inaugural opening of Rental Gallery (or as he’d reluncantly say, Rental Gallery 2.0), Artspace’s editor-in-chief Loney Abrams racks Mesler’s brain about his Darwanistic view of the art world—and his responses are as insightful and illuminating as they are laugh-out-loud funny.

This past January you and your partner closed Mesler/Feuer. Now, six months later, you’re opening Rental Gallery. Did you know you’d be opening Rental Gallery when you closed Mesler/Feuer?
No. I have a son, and when we found out [my wife] Sarah was pregnant with twin girls we thought, this city is no longer for us. New York is wonderful when you're single and hustling and doing drugs and being out until five o’clock in the morning—then it's the greatest place ever. But as soon as you need to make an appointment with five people just to negotiate a time to go to Whole Foods, it's time to move. Especially when you become the guy who's screaming at 10:00 PM "Quiet down!" to your neighbors when they’re just waking up from their disco nap. That’s when you know it’s time to move on.
So, we decided to move out to Sag Harbor and the idea was to commute back to the city four days a week, maybe even stay in the gallery sometimes. I was trying to figure out different strategies because I was planning shows literally up until the summer. But when I found out that Glenn Horowitz’s old space was available [in East Hampton], it was kind of a no-brainer. Once I crunched all the numbers and figured out if it could work, I had to do it.
Was your choice to leave the LES purely because you wanted to get out of the city? Or was there something that wasn’t working with the gallery, and maybe with the Lower East Side gallery model in general?
I think there's an unintentional war onslaught on mid-tier galleries, which I was functioning as for the past ten years. A gallery like mine succeeding in its intentions and reaching its goals is actually the downfall of the gallery. Unless there is continual growth, and unless you're working with a David Zwirner model, you’re going to be a failure if you succeed at your goals: making your artists very successful, getting them museum shows, etc. And unless you're able to grow and expand at the pace of your artists, which most people can't do unless there's some independent financing, you essentially defeat yourself. So, being able to jump out of that paradigm and that model was totally liberating, and I wish I reclaimed my business and my life five years ago—but it's never too late.
Just to clarify: When you say that if you do your job well, you fail, you mean that if you develop your artists so that they are much more successful than when they started showing with you, they will leave your gallery for a bigger gallery, and you’ll no longer be able to profit off of your investment in the career of that artist?
Right. It's not even like it’s a malicious thing. The artists should leave you because they need a different type of infrastructure and if they stay with you, there actually might be a problem down the road with their careers and their markets. So if they are to grow the way that they have the potential to grow, it’s almost a necessity that they leave. 
What can larger galleries offer them that mid-tier galleries can't?
Pretty much just gallery infrastructure—the amount of attention, time, finances, and production support that an artist needs at the height of their success. They need a personal artist liaison full time, and most of the time mid-tier galleries just can't afford to hire an extra staff person just to concentrate on one or two of their more successful artists. And, we're living in a market-driven time, so as everybody tries to auction and sell their works because the market has changed so quickly and so drastically, artists also need a gallery to also support those market demands.
What does this mean for artists and art? If we imagine an art world without mid-tier galleries, how do young, emerging artists grow?
Like every generation always has. Every generation has their support system. The charming, outgoing, social people in your group should be opening spaces. Just to clarify, what we’re talking about here is kind of like the larger economy—it's not that smaller spaces are closing, it’s that the middle class is actually shrinking. So you still have a plethora of emerging and artist-run galleries because if you're in your mid-20s and you're only paying $1500 in rent, you have a very low overhead and your business doesn't need to make as much money. So galleries like that will continue to open and thrive and hopefully have two or three successful years if they do their jobs right, and hopefully two or three artists who were the mix will do well. 47 Canal is a really great example of this model, where two or three artists of that community were able to continue on. And so, I think that there will always be artist-run galleries whether they’re in the L.E.S. or Harlem or Brooklyn, or whether they’re in apartments or hotels or pop-up spaces. As long as there is a community of creative individuals spending time together, things will happen. It's just a collapse of that middle tier. The middle-tier dealer where the artist has some support and is maybe making $100,000 a year—that's going to shrink and shrink I think because the 5-staff galleries are going to disappear, or are disappearing.
That's what I'm worried about. Because the artists I’m showing at my artist-run space don’t have their next shows at Hauser and Wirth. There needs to be a stepping stone between the artist-run space or project space, and the established or blue-chip gallery, right? Or does the disappearance of the middle-tier mean that established galleries in Chelsea will start cherry picking artist from artist-run spaces?
Well looked at what happened with an artist that I was working with, Loie Hollowell. She had a show at 106 Green, which is run by Holly [Coulis] and Ridley [Howard], who showed six of her paintings. Nobody had heard of her. I mean, they had their community but outside of that community not a lot of people knew the gallery. I saw her work via a friend, did one show with her, and now she's with Pace Gallery. So she's having her first show at Pace this Fall and paintings that were like $4,000 when I was involved with her market are now like $45,000—and that happened within a year and a half. And this is Pace, which is in many people's eyes is a very blue chip, high-tiered gallery, and is now working with an artist who essentially had one show with an artist-run space, one show with a mid-tier space, and now she's with one of the top galleries in the world. I mean, I have the upmost respect for Loie; I think she's incredible and I think she deserves to be there. Loie made the right choice to go to Pace, and nobody questions that. Why should another 100 paintings go out in the world being sold by a mid-tier gallery when Pace could be selling them to the one percent of the one percent?
I think, like you said, more situations like that will happen, where you have this quick ascent. Anicka Yi at Metro Pictures all of a sudden is another example. These things happen so much quicker now because we’ve seen what happens when artists become stagnant and stay with their mid-tier gallery too long: not much happens. And if those galleries can't support their practices, there are so many artists to feed into the machine that they'll just pass you by. It's a tough paradigm that we're in but it's the harsh reality of how things work, and it's either you adapt or you die. It's pure Darwinism.
So where does Rental fit into this survival-of-the-fittest world you’re talking about?
In this new situation we all find ourselves in, I think you have to do things like your own operation [Hotel Art Pavilion], or artist-run spaces and seasonal galleries (I know that sounds like a bad word, or it usually has been, but I think it won't be anymore)—places that, again, have their own communities. This summer the entire world—or the one percent of the one percent of the percent—will be seeing these works at Rental, while in October maybe five people will see the shows. That kind of extreme makes sense in this type of location.
I’m not going to represent artists and have a traditional gallery. It's more of an open, neutral ground that Rental has historically always been. Let's say David Salle, who’s a local Hamptons artist, wants to do a show with me because he supports his smaller community (that of the Hamptons): he has many dealers that could perhaps use this gallery as well. So I could work with artists, I could do my programing, and there are many different options on the table with a situation like this. It's not like you're going to see the same six artists every two years here.
So it'll operate like a project space, with rotating shows and no set roster.
Photo credit:Jenny Gorman; Courtesy Rental Gallery

Can you tell me about the history of Rental, because I know this is the second iteration?
It's funny; it's actually the third. So, in Los Angeles in 2003, Daniel [Hug] (who is now the director of Art Cologne) and I opened a gallery. We got a space very inexpensively and didn't know what to do with it. He was running his gallery and I was running a printing press at the time, so we were making our money elsewhere. But there was so much attention on Los Angeles coming from the international gallery world, so we decided to host galleries in this space, and we called it Rental Gallery. The name was kind of tongue-and-cheek but in a way, it was totally transparent as to what it was. Christian Nagel from Cologne literally rented our space and paid our staff to mount an exhibition in the gallery and sell to their Los Angeles clients. So that kind of worked, but we did it very LA-style, like “hippie-stoner.” It was so inexpensive; not much money moved around. And then when I moved to New York to open Rental here, I tried to make a real business out of it and tried to get more legit. That ran until 2010 when I opened Untitled and that was an attempt to just represent artists and let go of the other model.  
Now you're returning to this older model. Do you think that this way of operating can be more lucrative than representing artists since you don't have that extra responsibility/overhead?
That's the thing… if you look at the numbers, representing artists is always financially better. But it does require more of an overhead. So again, you have to ask where you are in the food chain of things. For me, right now in this type of gallery, it's much smarter to do projects and work for certain artists, be involved with their practices, but not represent them. That idea of exclusivity is no more. Any time you try to hold too tight in today's world, things seem to fall away.
Can you tell me a little bit about your first show at Rental?
It's pretty amazing. All of the artists in the show are artists I have worked with in some capacity or shown at Rental before. It’s a pretty crazy list. I was looking through all the previous shows and I had done a group show with Sherrie Levine, so I was like, “You know what? I'm totally going to ask Sherrie Levine.” I mean, we're friendly, but it's not like we're brother-sister. So, I sent her an email and she was the first one to respond. She said, "Oh my god, Joel, I'd love to show with you. What do you want?" I thought, "Are you kidding? Is this really Sherrie Levine?" I told her I would love a skull, so she CC’ed David Zwirner and all of a sudden it was like I was in the matrix of Zwirner’s Sherry Levine inventory! So I literally got to pick an opal skull and a purple mirror—and they're incredible. She’s an art hero of mine so the fact that she was so warm and open to helping me, supporting me, and being part of this was really great. Pretty much across the board, everybody that I asked participated.
Photo credit:Jenny Gorman; Courtesy Rental Gallery

It’s a great concept for an inaugural show because if functions almost like a “where are they now?” type scenario. It’s a testament to your eye and intuition because a lot of the artists you worked with long ago have become big names and are doing really well.
It's a really nice to see it all contained visually like that. There’s a Jordan Wolfson print we did together when he was trying to hawk his prints at the park in Park Slope for $5,000. Jordan is so excited to be in it, and is really involved down to the detail about the framing and whether to cut the edge of the paper, asking, "Who am I hanging next to?" Welcome back, neurotic Jordan. It’s great.
You made a promotional video for Rental and artnet News wrote about it, saying it was a hilarious comedy. I thought it was light-hearted, but it didn’t read to me like a satire or a joke. Was it meant to be?
It was really confusing! It kind of changed as it was happening and we were figure it as we went along. When they first came out to film it was in the winter and I just moved out here. I had a long beard, my hair was a mess, I smelled bad, I was just kind of a wreck, and Sara was gone for the day so I was taking care of all three kids. So, here’s this poor, schlubby guy with three kids and he can't even tie his own shoes let alone take care of three kids, not to mention he’s trying to restart a mom-and-pop business out in the Hamptons. It occurred to us that the story itself is pretty humorous, and if you take it too seriously you'll just start crying. The film crew was like, “Alright, say ‘Rental Gallery 2.0’” and I was like, “Isn't that terrible?” So it wasn't intentionally trying to be funny but I think we all realized that if we really tried to make a serious, commercial-type thing it would come off as ridiculous. There’s always hopefully a little humor in everything.
For my last question I want to ask you some advice. We talked about artist-run galleries and project paces as a places for emerging artists to show new work, and we talked about some of the ‘donts’ of running a gallery-business. But for people who are trying to start an artist-run space or an emerging gallery and are trying to enter the market and make money, what advice do you have?
I wrote an article called the “Art of Art Dealing” for the Observer and it’s kind of like a self-help guide to how to be a successful art dealer. It was done as a parody but if you actually follow those steps and you had the right personality, you could totally pull it off. Some of the headings are things like “Understand Why People Buy Art” or “Learn the ABCs: Always Be Closing.” I list questions dealers should be asking their buyers, like “Do you love it?" Do you want it? Could you live with it? Could you live without it? Are you living with it and you just don't have it? Are these works guaranteed to outlive you and your storage unit?” The joke is this: I’m surprised I’m not richer.
[Laughs.] Well it’s like you say in your video, you’re a survivor story, not a success story.
Totally. When I moved to New York people kept giving me the same advice: if you just stick around, you'll be fine. And it’s this funny thing that everybody across the board accepts. Even Gagosian is fighting to make his overhead—it's just that he has a much higher overhead than everybody else. But there's still fear and anxiety on every level so it's sort of like, “Just stick around!” Everyone has the same insecurities and fears and id dialogue. Like, “Can I downsize or can I not downsize? Will it look bad?” The question is, are you still around? And if you're still around and you're at that dinner and you're looking around thinking, “you're still around, you're still around, you're still around”—that's success at a certain point. Pay your bills, pay your artists, and just show up.

A Study of Art Galleries Reveals Their Aesthetic of Transcendental Experience


A Study of Art Galleries Reveals Their Aesthetic of Transcendental Experience

David Carrier’s The Contemporary Art Gallery is a small but well-stocked treasury of first-hand observations by someone who’s spent a lot of time in art galleries, but who has retained enough critical distance to see them with a certain objectivity.

Tony Smith had his revelation on the then-still-unfinished New Jersey Turnpike. I had mine on Springs Fireplace Road in East Hampton — a prominent address, as it’s where Jackson Pollock lived, and where he died in a car crash in 1956. One day, more than fifty years later, I was driving north on that road at about 40 mph when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed on the other side of the road, the southbound side, a nondescript building with a sign on its façade reading the fireplace project. I said to myself, in utter surprise, “Hey, there’s a serious gallery over there!” It was surprising because I’d spent a lot of time in East Hampton before, and while there had always been galleries in town (though not in this lower-rent part of town, the Springs) they were never “our sort” of galleries; they were galleries that could be written off as commercial, ones that, yes, sometimes showed things of quality, but more often, sold work that was ingratiating, too colorful, even kitschy. But as I continued driving north, I started to wonder: how was it that I had instantly registered the nature of what I had glimpsed for a only split second? How did I even know it was a gallery — the word itself had been nowhere to be seen — and, unable to see through the small windows, why did I think I knew that inside there would be something I’d accept as art?
Driving on, I mulled over these questions without resolving them, but when I’d finished with the errand that had taken me up to the northern reaches of Springs, I decided that on the way back I’d stop at that Fireplace Project to verify my intuition. It was on the money. What I saw was a credible exhibition by a promising young artist who’d already shown with a good New York gallery. Suddenly I had an explicit awareness of something that I’d already dimly known without ever having quite articulated it to myself: the art world has a very specific aesthetic, whose presence or absence is immediately perceptible to its denizens, and that this is totally independent of the aesthetic of the art presented there.
Like me, David Carrier is a habitué of the art world. But his way into art has been unusual. A philosopher by training, he followed his teacher Arthur Danto in taking an interest in philosophical aesthetics. This academic interest led to his moonlighting as an art critic, and that eventually led in turn to his transformation into an art historian and theorist. Perhaps his most valuable work has taken the form of philosophically serious investigations of some important but often theoretically underexamined branches of the institution of art, namely criticism (in Artwriting, 1987), art history (Principles of Art History Writing, 1991) and museums (Museum Skepticism, 2006). His most recent book, The Contemporary Art Gallery, might appear to be something similar, a systematic examination of the role of galleries — in their very appearance as much as their operations — in contemporary art. Actually, though, it’s a somewhat different kind of book: less scholarly, more conversational than Carrier’s earlier efforts, it’s a small but well-stocked treasury of first-hand observations by someone who’s spent a lot of time in art galleries, but who has retained enough critical distance to see them with a certain objectivity. This allows him to make explicit what usually goes without saying. Reading it, if you’re an assiduous gallery goer, you might get the feeling of being told things you already knew — but, aside from their having been ne’er so well expressed, Carrier’s observations really amount to first notes toward the treatment of a vast subject that’s never been systematically studied, though there are precedents in Brian O’Doherty’s famous little book on the white cube, which Carrier duly notes, and Lawrence Alloway’s essays on art as a system, which Carrier strangely overlooks.
While Carrier’s insights can’t completely account for the art world aesthetics so impressed me that afternoon on Springs Fireplace Road — that would take a vast empirical research project on the scale of Franco Moretti’s studies of the novel — his intuitive observations make a beginning:
Once industrial production made abundance possible, the ultimate luxury was restrained sparseness. The grander the restaurant, the less food is on your plate; the more posh the store, the fewer garments on display; the better the hotel, the less decorative art. It’s as if the ability to restrict one’s comfort […] becomes a transcendental experience raising the wealthy or cultured above the crass overindulgences of the rest of us. The art gallery going experience is part of that structure.
This is obviously true, and not exactly unthought-of, but focusing on the gallery space itself as a locus for this aesthetic explains something that might otherwise have been mysterious: How to account, within this aesthetic of restraint, for the aesthetic of excess of a Koons or a Murakami? I’d say that it’s because the gallery itself provides the atmosphere of asceticism that affords permission and containment for the visual prodigality of the art — the gallery puts the art in quotes, as it were, and it’s those quotation marks that assure the art’s aesthetic propriety despite all appearances.
The Contemporary Art Gallery is a very personal book, dependent on its author’s own experiences and perceptions over many years as a critic. For that reason, it’s somewhat surprising that, although narrated in the first person singular, it’s signed by the author together with a collaborator. No problem there, but as a kind of appendix though not so called, the authors, now in the plural, in order “to give context for our commentary on art writing […] offer samples of our published reviews.” These include one by Carrier’s collaborator Darren Jones that should never have been published, let alone reprinted. It’s one thing to complain that in a situation of restricted opportunity for art critics, the entrenchment of a few established voices such as those of Roberta Smith and Peter Schjeldahl means less space for younger aspirants; but — especially when Jones can’t point to any decline in the quality of the elder writers’ work — it’s foolish of him to call on them to commit career suicide to make way for the up-and-comers. A better use of his time would have been to think of ways to develop new spaces for emerging critics (of which Hyperallergic has been notably one).
Speaking of new spaces, Carrier ends by examining some of the competition to which galleries are now subject from fairs, auction houses, and the internet. But he doesn’t seem to take seriously enough the sense of crisis that now seems widespread among gallerists — at least those whose establishments have not attained the global status of the Zwirners, Gagosians, et al. The owl of wisdom takes wing at twilight, as Hegel said, and this examination of the gallery as we came to know it in the 20th century — it did not exist before then — may be more retrospective in character than we imagine. Some new way of presenting art will come to the fore soon enough, I imagine. In 20 years, a new edition of this book might well have to be titled, What Was an Art Gallery? The good thing is that, reading it, someone could get a pretty concrete idea of how it really was.
David Carrier with Darren Jones, The Contemporary Art Gallery: Display, Power and Privilege (2016) is published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing and is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.