#Rank Statement

by powhida on September 27, 2010

#rank statement Art is (still) a luxury commodity for the wealthy that limits access to ownership, participation and understanding for the majority of society based on class, education, gender, and geography. The Miami art fairs make literal the hierarchies within the contemporary art world and its detachment from broader society. The Miami fair events sort everyone – visitors, locals, and participants – into a highly stratified caste system based on which fair (if any) we are associated with; which color pass (if any) we are wearing; which parties we plan to attend; which day we arrive in Miami; if we are paying for our own plane ticket and place to stay; which neighborhood or hotel we are staying in; if and where we are showing or buying artwork; if we drive, get driven, or take the shuttle bus; and countless other ranking mechanisms. While we appreciate the bluntness of art fair culture (and especially appreciate the fact that we are sometimes able to sell work there), we can’t help but feel queasy with our complicity in this disgusting scheme, all of which takes place within the city of Miami, whose own class, race, and geographical hierarchies are abundantly obvious and pretty much entirely ignored. So, we aim to explore what is the matter with the art fair and the art market? How might it be improved, tweaked, or overthrown? Along this exploratory path, we have unearthed some paradoxes that bear consideration: We think art should be a gift but we don’t want to work for free. We want art to be accessible to everyone, but when it actually is (can someone say “Work of Art”?) we want to throw up. We want people to pay attention to our work but we don’t like being the center of attention. We want our work to be available to everyone but we can’t afford to sell it for cheap. We want to buy art too, but we can’t afford most of it at the art fairs. Discuss!
  • Man

    1st!

    …Kidding… Kinda.

    This has my gears going.

    In terms of art being a gift, I sometimes think of it as an exchange. Sometimes it’s exchanged for $, sometimes other art, sometimes for reviews, sometimes it’s a cultural exchange, sometimes it’s exchanged just for other ideas (and sometimes of course there’s no exchange at all). I’m more than happy to give my time alone as an unqualified gift, and even sometimes work as a gift (and in general I think giving is critical to a practice), but I also think that whether or not I like it, my work is a “product.” Even if the creation is pure in its intent, I’m still creating something that exists (usually).

    The accessibility question is definitely a challenge. IMO the best work is accessible on different levels for different audiences. Some of the time those levels are fantasy projections (like how Sotheby’s described “Hanging Heart” in that video before its auction). Other times they’re legitimately built-in.

    Ok enough from me for now….

  • If #rank means half as much as #class meant(/means) to participants, it will be the most important thing happening in Miami.

    Disclaimer: I also think the artists (Jen and BIll) are cool people which may or may not influence the above statement.

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  • My initial take on this first post is that, as with all such discussions, it begs the definition of terms (I apologize in advance for covering ground already covered in #Class). The thesis statement and late considerations both concern themselves with “art” whereas the mission statement (” we aim to explore what is the matter with the art fair and the art market? How might it be improved, tweaked, or overthrown?”) asks about the “art market” and “art fairs.”

    I’m not trying to be pedantic, but that distinction is key. “Art” in its most general form can be cheap and easy to access to the viewing public. But there is a cost to the level of access you are willing to have. With $20 you can spend quality time with great, original works in a museum or you can buy a cheap poster of the same and live with it. Or you could take your chances paying an insane transient to make you a cheap original because nobody else wants them. There are options and trade-offs for each.

    Additionally, there are alternative art markets to the “mainstream” system represented by the Miami Art Fairs. Many of these issues make me think of Thomas Kinkade, as weird as that sounds. There’s a lot of ways he relates to this, but for now, I’ll focus on his willingness to pursue (pander to) a different market for art: evangelical Christians. BECAUSE they were disenfranchised from the mainstream art world they were open to his machinations and he made a mint exploiting that.

    Kinkade isn’t the sole example of this either. Almost everybody decorates their walls with SOMETHING. Those who choose to do so in a way that don’t engage with the mainstream art market have values apart from the market. And there are also sub-markets within the mainstream art world.

    So, this helps identify the questions being begged here.

    -What defines the “Art Market” that distinguishes it from these other markets?
    -What distinguishes it from alternative markets that aren’t as diametrically opposed value-wise as Kinkade from the mainstream NY Art World?

    -What benefits does engaging with the Art Market provide? (For instance, if you don’t want to choose between a crappy poster or a very limited amount of time with an original, you end up having to pay a hefty premium to take an original piece of great art home with you)
    -What benefits does engaging with the very elite of the art market provide? The question above could be a strictly aesthetic or taste consideration, but this gets into additional issues:
    -How does art as an investment object warp the system
    -How does the intellectual history of art affect the judgment?
    -Do you need access to this elite world to find art that is engaging with the intellectual history of art in a historical manner itself?
    -To what extent are the gatekeepers of art as an investment vehicle also gatekeepers of historicity. or is that an illusion meant to drive the sale of investment products?

    Related to the issues of the intellectual history of art for the artist (as opposed to the “public” or the art consumer):
    -To what extent is it necessary to have proximity to the elite art world in order to be aware of the most up to date state of the intellectual discussion at the “forefront of art?”
    -Does one have to sell to be a part of this discussion?
    -Are we sure that the consensus view of the elite artworld at any moment can actually identify the most salient issues at that moment?
    -At this point in time is there even a linear path to be followed anymore?

    I feel that answering some of these questions can help define the values of the “market”, the artists and the consumers. At which point, perhaps we can identify the tensions that inform the final considerations (Such as: Work of Art: we want the public to want the kind of access that we want them to have. We want them to be interested on the intellectual level we are, yet that level of discourse has rarely been carried out on a level of mass appeal. That’s the tension. Do you solve it by simplifying the art issues or educating the public? What’s reasonable, etc.).

    Most importantly, what I want to hear are ideas for alternatives, if not outright solutions yet. What would be the symptoms of a solution, if not the mechanism? What potential mechanisms do exist (i.e. public funding, non-profits, alternative means of distribution, independent venues) and what are each of their downsides.

    What WOULD be the ideal state of the artworld be- 1- for the artist, 2- for the consumer and 3- for the markets, the sellers, etc. and 4- easy to overlook, what is the ideal state for society as a whole? In terms of the economy and general quality of life?

    What can be compromised between these competing interests and what will always be at odds with each other?

    I feel that all these questions are absolutely fundamental, not just to this discussion but to art as a whole, and are, in my mind, largely unanswered or even impossible to be answered on my own. I look forward to this project and hope the conversation can move some of these issues forward, if only by clarifying what they are. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss them.

  • J.D Hastings

    My initial take on this first post is that, as with all such discussions, it begs the definition of terms (I apologize in advance for covering ground already covered in #Class). The thesis statement and late considerations both concern themselves with “art” whereas the mission statement (” we aim to explore what is the matter with the art fair and the art market? How might it be improved, tweaked, or overthrown?”) asks about the “art market” and “art fairs.”

    I’m not trying to be pedantic, but that distinction is key. “Art” in its most general form can be cheap and easy to access to the viewing public. But there is a cost to the level of access you are willing to have. With $20 you can spend quality time with great, original works in a museum or you can buy a cheap poster of the same and live with it. Or you could take your chances paying an insane transient to make you a cheap original because nobody else wants them. There are options and trade-offs for each.

    Additionally, there are alternative art markets to the “mainstream” system represented by the Miami Art Fairs. Many of these issues make me think of Thomas Kinkade, as weird as that sounds. There’s a lot of ways he relates to this, but for now, I’ll focus on his willingness to pursue (pander to) a different market for art: evangelical Christians. BECAUSE they were disenfranchised from the mainstream art world they were open to his machinations and he made a mint exploiting that.

    Kinkade isn’t the sole example of this either. Almost everybody decorates their walls with SOMETHING. Those who choose to do so in a way that don’t engage with the mainstream art market have values apart from the market. And there are also sub-markets within the mainstream art world.

    So, this helps identify the questions being begged here.

    -What defines the “Art Market” that distinguishes it from these other markets?
    -What distinguishes it from alternative markets that aren’t as diametrically opposed value-wise as Kinkade from the mainstream NY Art World?

    -What benefits does engaging with the Art Market provide? (For instance, if you don’t want to choose between a crappy poster or a very limited amount of time with an original, you end up having to pay a hefty premium to take an original piece of great art home with you)
    -What benefits does engaging with the very elite of the art market provide? The question above could be a strictly aesthetic or taste consideration, but this gets into additional issues:
    -How does art as an investment object warp the system
    -How does the intellectual history of art affect the judgment?
    -Do you need access to this elite world to find art that is engaging with the intellectual history of art in a historical manner itself?
    -To what extent are the gatekeepers of art as an investment vehicle also gatekeepers of historicity. or is that an illusion meant to drive the sale of investment products?

    Related to the issues of the intellectual history of art for the artist (as opposed to the “public” or the art consumer):
    -To what extent is it necessary to have proximity to the elite art world in order to be aware of the most up to date state of the intellectual discussion at the “forefront of art?”
    -Does one have to sell to be a part of this discussion?
    -Are we sure that the consensus view of the elite artworld at any moment can actually identify the most salient issues at that moment?
    -At this point in time is there even a linear path to be followed anymore?

    I feel that answering some of these questions can help define the values of the “market”, the artists and the consumers. At which point, perhaps we can identify the tensions that inform the final considerations (Such as: Work of Art: we want the public to want the kind of access that we want them to have. We want them to be interested on the intellectual level we are, yet that level of discourse has rarely been carried out on a level of mass appeal. That’s the tension. Do you solve it by simplifying the art issues or educating the public? What’s reasonable, etc.).

    Most importantly, what I want to hear are ideas for alternatives, if not outright solutions yet. What would be the symptoms of a solution, if not the mechanism? What potential mechanisms do exist (i.e. public funding, non-profits, alternative means of distribution, independent venues) and what are each of their downsides.

    What WOULD be the ideal state of the artworld be- 1- for the artist, 2- for the consumer and 3- for the markets, the sellers, etc. and 4- easy to overlook, what is the ideal state for society as a whole? In terms of the economy and general quality of life?

    What can be compromised between these competing interests and what will always be at odds with each other?

    I feel that all these questions are absolutely fundamental, not just to this discussion but to art as a whole, and are, in my mind, largely unanswered or even impossible to be answered on my own. I look forward to this project and hope the conversation can move some of these issues forward, if only by clarifying what they are. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss them.

  • Museum Nerd

    If #rank means half as much as #class meant(/means) to participants, it will be the most important thing happening in Miami.

    Disclaimer: I also think the artists (Jen and BIll) are cool people which may or may not influence the above statement.

  • Artist Ida

    Unique!

  • Nice comments and question JD.

  • #Rank [personally] is about momentum and participating/discussing current politics with contemporaries who may or may not share similar interests and concerns about the current state of the arts. Most important here is my involvement, with the potential to learn more and to be able to pass on more.

    In regard to the #Rank statement, these questions came to mind…

    The decentralization of the art world (via the internet) has opened up a window of accessibility.

    To what extent are primary market galleries searching the internet for potential additions to their roster?

    And similarly,

    Do curators and directors look beyond reputable art departments/institutions when scouting for exceptional work to be included in shows?

    (Slight variation to J.D’s question above) Being under-stimulated by the latest trends may generate original ideas more efficiently. Yet it seems that when the primary market scouts for unique talent there is still a bias towards artists living in proximity to big art cities.

    Is there an immediate stigma attached because one lives in a demographic where there is limited access to mainstream culture?

    Finally…

    Is it better to invest in younger artists who are seemingly better connected to the latest trend, yet are still naïve/immature in their craft?

    Or, is there intrinsic value in mid-career artists who have gained a more experienced understanding of their process/ideas?

    If the former precedes the ladder, when [historically] did this exchange take place?

  • “The Miami art fairs make literal the hierarchies within the contemporary art world and its detachment from broader society. The Miami fair events sort everyone – visitors, locals, and participants – into a highly stratified caste system based on which fair (if any) we are associated with; which color pass (if any) we are wearing; which parties we plan to attend; which day we arrive in Miami; if we are paying for our own plane ticket and place to stay; which neighborhood or hotel we are staying in; if and where we are showing or buying artwork; if we drive, get driven, or take the shuttle bus; and countless other ranking mechanisms.”

    Can the public obtain a generalized version of these records? Sounds like a POW camp… I’d like to see a multi-axis chart and power-point compiling all of this information.

  • @JD

    Is Twitter not a perfect example of the decreased need to be in proximity to “elite” art cities.

    Personally, I’d rather be somewhere in between (like Greenland), which is probably why I’m on Twitter daily. Events like #class & #rank blur the lines of proximity.

    I like to make things, and I’d like as many people as possible to see these things. Yet at this time, I have no immediate plans to live in NYC, LA, or CHI (could and most likely will eventually). In the meantime I can participate/keep track in/of what’s going on in those art hubs to a certain degree, thanks to the “Internets.”

    I’ve heard from so many people that they “don’t understand” Twitter. It would be interesting to learn why some people can’t grasp the concept(s) of Twitter, yet Facebook consumes them for hours at a time.

    Why is Twitter so hard for some people to get?

  • Thousands are pocketed by vanity/juried shows and publications insisting their inks have some kind of memorable response from viewers.

    Are a majority of these venues/publications promising opportunities, or just robbing artists blind?

    How many of these massive venues/publications, in return, offer/provide residencies, grants, fellowships, etc…?

  • Despite limited time, family and work commitments, I am really looking forward to #rank and wondering what I can do to make a difference from a humbled (number-wise etc) perspective.

    I can say it was The. Most. Dynamic online interaction. … on the art web this past year, BUT … for the love of God… this time around … use microphones and cut out the hiss!! PS If was in NYC I would do the soundboard for you.

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  • Dorian

    this reminds me faintly of old Hollywood making movies about Hollywood.

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