Episode 52 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / Art School

Vicki DaSilva interview continued.

DaSilva: I love art but I had no art education in the home. I think my parents’ idea of a museum was Las Vegas, to be honest. So I wasn’t exposed to it at all. I remember always loving art, but it wasn’t until I got to middle school and my new best friend was an artist and had been going to classes at an independent art school for a long time, since she was probably nine or ten years old, and she was really good at painting. And I thought, wow, it’s like she’s a magician, like superpowers. I couldn’t even imagine how you would learn to do this when you are a kid; you almost have this idea that you’re born with this type of gift to draw.

We all kind of know now that you learn to draw the same way you learn to play sports or you learn to play the piano or an instrument. So I started to get into it in middle school and then the same in high school but I never had any plans to even go to college. And my high school art teacher said to me, “So where are you going to college?” It was about April at that point of my senior year and I said, “I’m not going to college.”

My parents really didn’t encourage it and talk to me. I didn’t visit anything. So I didn’t know much about it, I was kind of clueless. And so he said, “Do you want to go? Because I think you could do really well in art school.” And I said, “Oh really?” And he said, “Yeah, I would absolutely make a phone call for you. You have enough work here from the past few years that we can put a portfolio together.” And he made a phone call, he got me an interview at a State University about twenty minutes from Allentown, and I ended up going to art school there and then I just threw myself into it full force.

Carey: And what does that mean? You were doing photography, painting, or different mediums?

DaSilva: I enrolled as a fine arts student and when I took my first photography class, I started studying the history of photography and I was also fortunate to study with a professor named James Carroll. And he would bring major artists from New York City as visiting artists and they would have residencies for two or three days, as students or even members of the public, and you were invited to sign up for one hour blocks and talk to these people.

So this became an incredible thing, because if you look up the New Arts Program you’ll see the list of artists are significant. So I started to become aware of a lot of the major artists of the eighties, seventies and even sixties. We met every one from Lawrence Weiner, Richard Serra, and Joan Jonas, who I ended up doing my internship with. All of this was so incredibly huge and life changing for me because I grew up in a typical suburban neighborhood. This was all so mind blowing and I was so interested in it and I was determined to try and find something that I could do as an artist that would be as original as possible.

And so upon researching the history of photography, I started to become aware of images that were used in scientific studies from like the late 1800s that had used light as a way to study physiology. Etienne-Jules Marey was probably the first one to do a light photograph although his intention was to study the physiology of a human being by affixing incandescent lamps to the human body. To me it looked like art because it was very abstract and I said, Wow, that’s very cool that you could make a light painting. The history of light painting photography highlights these scientific studies because of the study of motion pictures and all that was happening, and so there was these artists along the way, most famously Man Ray, who had done his—what he called “space writing” with a pen light.

And then Gjon Mili, who had done a lot of light painting photography with a Life magazine photographer, and he had gone because someone asked him if he would draw with his lamp for his series for Life magazine back in—I think it was 1949. It was a very famous series, I’m sure you’ve seen it. So that’s a wow—everybody’s kind of seen that.

So I thought, wow that’s really cool and I want to try that. So I started goofing around with that, it was black and white and in kind of a more performative – type thing. So I was also learning about performance art. So would I set up these kind of stages either inside or outside and fooled around with a lamp and also make props and things like that and one thing led to another. The graffiti movement started going full speed ahead. One of my roommates was best friends with Keith Haring. He had grown up with Keith. Keith was visiting him all the time, Keith didn’t go to school in Kutztown but he grow up in Kutztown.

So there was these all different forces that were, that were flying about the street. The graffiti scene, the minimalism scene, the performance art scene and I was very fortunate to be involved in a little bit of everything whether as an spectator or as an intern or whatever. And so I thought, you know, it’ll be really cool to try and term what I was doing as light graffiti and so I started doing more and more of that until about 1986 when I started thinking about using larger lamps, fluorescent tube lamps so that I could do more installation based type work and cover larger areas and think of it more as sculpture.

In my mind, in the 80’s I thought, I was always worried that somebody was going to do what I was doing. You know as an artist you’re going to steal my idea, blah, blah blah, especially when you’re young. “Oh, I don’t have enough work so I got to keep this all in the down low, in secret.” But at the same time I thought everybody was going to be doing light graffiti, that didn’t happen until the digital revolution. And now everybody is doing light graffiti. Luckily, I got the url back in the beginning (http://lightgraffiti.com/) but I mean it’s extremely global and popular and there’s lots and lots and lots of light graffiti and light paintings photographers out there.

Now, using it as an art form is another calling, being able to think of our history and how you’re going to fit into that and if those are you’re kind of goals it becomes more than an ad campaign. So I try to think of it in those terms and push it in those terms as best I can as an artist. Sure, I like to make abstract images that are beautiful and allow me to be out in a landscape especially working with my husband who I’ve been collaborating with since I met him in 1996 in Paris. He’s an electrician, we work together.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 51 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / Stand with Me

Vicki DaSilva interview continued from episode 50

Vicki: …And a documentary film crew from Still Motion came in and was documenting her and we were talking—and before I actually went down there I had the idea to go to a lemon grove to find some lemon trees and do a slogan that Vivienne likes to call out, which is, “be one person.” How can we be one person and help change the world in whatever way we can, with whatever we do? And so I did a light piece in front of lemonade, a lemon girl, where the owner allowed me to shoot in front of his lemon trees and I did a “be one person” photograph and that prompted the film crew to ask me to do a piece when I was up in Nova Scotia last summer—a piece called Stand with Me, with the hashtag #standwithme to help promote the eponymous movie. It’s premiering February 1 in San Francisco, and I believe my work is going to be used in the webisode. It’s a live filming of me making this hashtag, with me on the beach in Nova Scotia.

So that’s really exciting because that’s kind of then the biggest jump start for me. I also made a piece called I am Malala in February of 2013. I just wrote “I am Malala” over and over and over and I’ve been trying to contact the powers that be to donate this image as a digital download that people would get for free in order to make a contribution to the organization.

So that for me is the most inspiring and interesting thing as an artist and also as a parent. If there’s a way that my images could somehow help raise money for these organizations, especially organizations that help to free children who are slaves, which is probably in my mind the most important cause of today and it’s incredibly sad and the numbers are very staggering. If my work can somehow, in a small way, help, if I can give work away—not so much as prints but as digital downloads, because then I also lower the carbon footprint—people could share these images, and that would be great. That’s the way I’m going in but I’m also very interested in exposing more things and I’m going to try to do another shoot in front of the White House but this time I probably won’t be saying what I’m going to actually be writing, even though now I’m telling the world through a radio interview. Bring it on!

Carey: That’s a very powerful story about the girl. Holy cow, I can’t think of anything more important for the world to be focusing on. But it’s also such a counterpoint, the idea of child slavery and also this post Snowden world we’re talking about—I suppose it’s similar in terms of the lack of justice or immorality, but it couldn’t be further apart. The children carrying those stones on their back and being slaves and then the government using incredibly deceptive forms of technology of all kinds.

Recently I was reading about leaky apps. The government is tapping into what they call “leaky apps,” which means probably every time you have played games on your phone, when they have access to your Facebook friends and profile, which you click through pretty quickly without thinking about it.

Let’s talk a little bit about the beginnings of your work. So you now you are in this place, which I relate to in a number of ways—as a parent, and as an artist that’s also maturing in terms of your vision and what you’re doing—how did you get started in art? What were your first beginnings as a child or a student?

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 50 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / The Lemonade Stand

Vicki DaSilva interview continued from episode 49

Carey: Unlike painting or even a straight photograph, you have to actually do the action and then I imagine check it digitally, is that what happens?

DaSilva: Yes, I’ve been shooting film up until 2008 but since 2008, I’ve been shooting primarily digital. And so that has helped a lot in the ease of filling images instantaneously and being able to really refine the goal of readability and what-not and composition and all that. So yes, writing a phrase kind of like a headline or something like that and the end result looks almost like neon and it’s all done in a single exposure.

Carey: You’re approaching these spaces because you want to work with architecture, and it sounds very straight forward and simple. With the Armory, do you go directly to whoever is running it or in charge of the space and ask for permission—is that how it works?

DaSilva: Yes, that’s exactly how it works. I go to the powers that be, and I ask for permission. I’ve done that in front of the Whitehouse; back in 2008, I was inspired to write, “Obama in the house” in June of 2008 for the Obama campaign—not specifically for them, but in support of the Obama Whitehouse before anything, before he got elected.

So that was a process of about three months of getting secret service clearance, getting permission from the film department of the city of DC and getting the permits, because you’re not allowed to even setup a tripod on Pennsylvania Avenue. So when I got there I had my permit and the secret service met me there. I didn’t even have a real meeting time. I just showed up and they were on me with their mountain bikes as soon as they saw somebody getting out a camera and a tripod, and then I had my permit and they were like, “Oh great, we’ll be right here with you the whole time.”

The art of right now that interests me the most is from artists that are working to kind of call out the government through their work. And I find that extremely interesting—and the Edward Snowden days—and I think it’s a great calling for artists.

Carey: And so what is next for you?

DaSilva: I’m not quite sure. There is this festival called the Transmediale in Berlin, it’s happening right now and they have art, they have technology. It’s kind of like this group that comes together and what is now known as the post digital world and how everything was so exciting and utopian in a way when the internet came around and we were going to solve all these problems, but in fact the internet and the digital world that we live in has created the most dire circumstances for the poorest in the world.

So that kind of thing of kind of waking up in this post digital reality and being an artist who is interested in using digital things but at the same time knowing that my computer and my phone, and even the artwork that I’m making and mounting—where’s that going to go to and when I’m going to need a new one, who are the little kids that are slaves right now that are making this happen?

All that stuff really kind of came to a head for me when I went to Snap! Orlando which I was invited to participate in last May. And I met with the director who explained to me that there is a girl who is nine years old from California named Vivienne Harr and she had seen a photograph by Lisa Kristine, who has for thirty years been documenting the world’s indigenous peoples. And she saw a photograph of two Nepali children who had these big slabs of rock on their back. And this nine-year-old girl, Vivienne Harr, looked at her parents and said, “What is that? What’s going on?” And they explained to her that, “Yeah, this is child slavery.” And she decided at that moment, she told her parents I want to start a lemonade stand to try to help them.

It went on to be a big giant project that her parents jumped into with both feet. Her father, I believe, used to work for Care so he had experience. And they put together this enormous lemonade making process where almost like a Paul Newman type format where all the proceeds would go towards helping to free children. And she’s raised enough money to free over five hundred children at this point. There’s been a documentary that was down there in Orlando because she had been given the city Key during this photo festival because her main inspiration had been this photograph by Lisa Kristine that jump-started the whole idea.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 49 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva Interview

The Interview

Carey: Vicki DaSilva is a light graffiti and light painting pioneer. She’s been making single frame time exposure photographs at night since 1980. Vicki, thanks for talking with me today. I introduced you as a light painting pioneer and making single frame time exposures and probably some people don’t know what that means. Can you explain a little bit what it means to be a light painting pioneer or just the term light painting?

DaSilva: Sure, light painting is a photographic term. It’s a time exposure photograph. The camera’s set on a tripod and the images are created at night outside or in a dark interior space and the lens is open and the light, everything in the photograph is an addition of light, whether it’s ambient light or added light. And traditionally what I do is draw with lamps and draw with light to create such specific types of images.

Carey: So, I’ve seen a lot of different work of yours, of course, but tell me a little about what you’re working on right now. What are your projects? What are you doing in your studio?

DaSilva: Well, my studio is pretty much the outside world. So right now I am working on creating a new project inside the 69th Regiment Armory in New York for that art fair which I’ll be doing during Armory week, March 7–9. And I did a piece inside there last year because it was the 100th anniversary of the Armory show and since that art fair is held at the iconic 69th Regiment, I decided to do a piece that was referencing Duchamp and made it in a basement bar of the Armory.

So, typically what I do is contact an organization, in this case the Armory, which also works with the National Guard, and I went to their people and asked permission to come in and have access to the space and they were generous enough to allow me to do that and to allow me to come in again this year to do a different project. Because it’s such an interesting structure and architectural icon, I like to make something inside the space that I can show at the show.

Carey: And when you will be showing at the fair? Is there a particular gallery that’s representing you there, or—?

DaSilva: No, I’m just going to have my own booth. Yeah, I’m representing myself.

Carey: Which fair is that?

DaSilva: That’s the Fountain Art Fair.

Carey: The Fountain Art Fair. And this project you did was that image, if I remember correctly, called, Dude Descending Stairs?

DaSilva: Yes, Dude Descending the Staircase was another Duchampian inspired photograph that I made. That photograph was made in a historic bank in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The piece that I made inside the Armory was a text piece that I made. It was from Duchamp’s speech about art brut, about the artist making images and whether good or bad, it’s still art. So I took a phrase from his speech and did a text piece in the bar there.

Carey: And by a text piece you mean you’re drawing with light in the air so that it’s almost as though you’re writing. You are writing in light, you are writing in the air so to speak so through that photographic light painting process we can read those words, is that what you mean?

DaSilva: Yes, it looks very similar to neon but it’s actually happening live and as I’m doing it, of course, I can’t see the results. And it’s a process that I continually practice over and over to get it exactly the way I want. Sometimes it’s a shorter process than others but typically it’s something that doesn’t happen on the first take.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 48 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Pop-up Art Fair Satellite

Pop-up Art Fair Satellite

The third option is to make your own darn art fair! That’s right. At the same time that the other big fairs are going on, you could potentially rent a space with friends in an unused retail/commercial location and yes, start your own version of an art fair. You would benefit from the traffic that all the other fairs generate, and it could also be fun. However, unless you are creating this temporary event for publicity only, there will also have to be a salesperson there to actually close deals if you want that to happen.

You will see versions of this idea around art fairs, from open studios, to artists taking over a storefront or garage space. Some artists with their own pop-up spaces, like the dealers at the fairs, make many sales in that one week, sometimes enough sales to last until the next fair.

Vicki Da Silva

Vicki Da Silva is an artist you might relate to. She is a photographer and is determined to make a living off of her art. She rented her own booth at the Fountain Art Fair and sold enough herself to make it pay. She also breaks the traditional rules and walks up to dealers at art fairs and talks to them and shows her work to them. In the interview that follows, she explains exactly how she does that, but there are more tips in what she says. She explains how she does projects or installations at places like the Armory in New York by going directly to the person in charge and asking permission. She explains how she dealt with raising children at the same time, and how she sells to corporations and hospitals. Her attitude is upbeat and enthusiastic, but she has had her share of rejection like anyone. I think her story is very inspiring because when you read her backstory, you will see she didn’t come from wealth or any particular situation that made things happen for her, she simply worked hard at it, and was determined to make a living from it. After reading her story, you might feel emboldened to talk to dealers at fairs, and to make proposals as well. She also tells the story of how she won a competition and received $10,000 in cash.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 47 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Art Fairs

Art Fairs

The Art Fair network has grown tremendously in size in the last decade. The Armory is one of the most well-known. In 1994 it started as the Gramercy International Art Fair, and was held in the rooms of the Gramercy Hotel in New York City by four art dealers: Colin De Land, Pat Hearn, Matthew Marks, and Paul Morris. As the fair grew, it needed more space and in 1999 the show was renamed the Armory Show when it was first held at the 69th Regiment Armory, which was also the site of the Armory Show of 1913.

Now the Armory show is a huge event, and other fairs have popped up all around it for the week it is open. In 2014 the event attracted crowds of up to 90,000 and more and sales of up to 85 million. So to begin with, what does an artist do at or with an artfair?

In general, art fairs like the Armory Show are meant for dealers to work directly with clients and also to see their peers in the business. It was initially not a place to shop for the public, only for serious collectors. Now you have many options as an artist in 2016 and beyond.

You can work with a gallery that takes work to an art fair and sells the work for you. Some galleries go to art fairs and others do not, so just ask. Since the “booths” or spaces at an art fair are usually very expensive to rent, unless a gallery is confident they will sell, it is often a big expense for a small gallery.

Your other option is to work directly with some of the other satellite fairs that exist all around the Armory and Art Basel which are now worldwide in their scheduling. So every time there is a big art fair going on, there are ten or more small ones happening at the same time to cash in on the audience that is coming in for the big fair. Your other option is to find visibility during the art fair week without traditional methods.

One idea would be to rent a booth yourself at new fairs like Fountain, or propose a curated booth with a few friends at one of the other fairs like Pulse or the Affordable Art Fair. A space can cost three thousand and up, so it helps if you are splitting one with friends.

The main consideration if you are renting a booth yourself or sharing one and paying, is this: someone needs to be a salesperson and actually sell the work. In other words, the work won’t sell itself, literally. Someone (either you or a friend) has to be outgoing and make new connections with potential buyers. Someone must talk people into buying something. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is a required skill. At all the big fairs, the dealers are at their booths and they are doing essentially that—they are selling to new and old collectors and talking about art. The ones who are best at talking have the biggest galleries. Showing your work yourself at a fair is like that—be prepared to sell yourself by talking to people as much as possible.

If that does not appeal to you, then you need to find a gallery that will take your work to a fair in the hopes of selling. The only other option is to do some kind of event or performance or pop-up space during an art fair week.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 46 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Presenting Papers

Presenting Papers

To present a paper means presenting a lecture on a topic of your choice from your perspective. At international biennial and art conferences around the world, papers are always being presented by artists, curators, and others in the art world. The best way to really understand this is to go to lectures, panel discussions, and presentations at museums and nonprofits near you, as well as universities. You will also meet other curators, directors, and artists.

Your topic could be anything, but as an artist, you are talking about something that will make people think, “Oh, she’s interesting, what is her work like?” Not because you presented any of your own art or even mentioned your own art in your presentation, but because you yourself were simply interesting. An example of “interesting” can be summed up in a title sometimes, which is what draws people to a lecture in the first place. I once saw a title for a presentation at a biennial called, “If You’re so Smart Then Why Aren’t You Rich?” I liked that title very much. I would think many papers could be presented on that subject from all different angles on art and the artist.

You don’t have to be an academic to do this, but college will help unless you are just a good writer or can get your ideas across easily. One artist, Ken Lum, who represented Canada in the Venice Biennial one year, presented a paper that was also based on a question. It was a question his grandmother asked him when she arrived at an opening for for a group show where he had some work. As he tells it, there was a crowd at an opening in a small East Village gallery and he had a piece in this group show. He said his grandmother walked in and shouted out his name in Cantonese. He went to her and was surprised she came to the opening. She asked him, “Who are these people and what do they want?”

He told me he didn’t know how to answer that question and wrote a paper on it. That is, a paper or presentation (lecture, panel discussion) on the question, “Who are these people and what do they want?” as it relates to the art world. Because the presentation is to the very people that the presentation is about, it is of course of interest. It also has a sense of humor and a self-reflective quality which is admirable as well.

Presenting papers is also a great way to meet more people. For now, just go to more presentations at museums, nonprofits, and galleries and you will most likely make interesting friends. You will also see other people presenting papers, or lectures on different topics, and use those as a model for your own if you are drawn to that.

Engagement

Whether you are networking by talking to someone sincerely and potentially building a friendship, or presenting a lecture to a group, the goal is to engage your audience and have then take an interest in how you are thinking and acting. That is why papers and presentations based on questions work out so well, because the entire point of the lecture is to engage by asking questions. That in itself, perhaps a Socratic form, is a simple rule of thumb as you make more friends on all levels of the art world: keep asking questions. Of course listen and respond as well, but questions as opposed to “here is my information” statements are more interesting because the audience must complete the question, even if it is to themselves.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 45 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Promotion & Networking

Promotion & Networking

This chapter is about how to present papers, give lectures, and engage the community of artists around you, as well as art administrators, with thoughtful presentations.

Promotion is a dirty word for some artists and a calling card for others. In this chapter we will discuss how to promote your work in a way that fits your situation. There is no need to be pushy or awkward about it. It must be done with grace and style, and the elements of that will be discussed here with specific advice to advance your career.

Another word for this is the rather cold sounding—networking, a term that has meaning now as a social media tactic as well as an interpersonal strategy. How you approach this concept will greatly determine your future. The idea that an artist shouldn’t promote their work, or that too much promotion hurts work, is one of those ideas that prevents good work from getting out into the world. Without promotion, which really means sharing, how will anyone ever see it? The less promotion, or sharing or networking that you do, the smaller your audience will be.

Networking

This concept of how to share, how to network, and how to engage your audience is the most important in this book, because without it, nothing else will work. Essentially, it boils down to this—make more friends. That is both the easiest thing in the world and for some, one of the hardest. Yes, it is “who you know,” but that is not a bad thing, because you need to know more people and have more friends so that your system of support can grow. It is true that we live in a world that can be more isolating, that we spend more time at home, more time with a computer, and less time singing, dancing, and being part of a community that makes us feel good and part of something larger.

It is also true that we are most comfortable in a mutually supportive environment, and that we must create that environment for ourselves. Let’s get down to what that means in terms of how you will create your community of supportive curators, artists, and gallery owners. It is not about getting introductions to all of them, because even if you did get introductions, then what do you do? For the museum shows I have gotten, and my patrons and sponsors, too, I never had any introductions: I contacted them directly. I often asked a foundation or museum for their email, contact information, or office information, and found I was able to get to just about everyone. Why shouldn’t you be able to do that? At the highest levels, everyone has a secretary, an office assistant who will pass on your letter if it’s good enough. So at the very least, work on writing letters to people you want to reach.

I interviewed Ida Applebroog, an artist now represented by Hauser and Wirth, a very high end gallery. Her work is also consistently disturbing, that is, the content is often faces that look as though they are distorted or upset, and other work is often challenging on social and political themes. She would never say she promoted her work, because I asked her and she said she did not, but she also had a different definition of that meant. Before she had exhibits or was known, it was the seventies in New York and she was trying to get her work noticed, but as a woman—and in the seventies—it was difficult. She began making small, inexpensive, xeroxed (copied) booklets in black and white. (That process is simply folding four pieces of 8 . x 11 bond paper in half and nesting them all together and putting a staple or string through the binding.) She copied black and white reproductions of her paintings and words. The words often didn’t even connect, so the reader would be puzzled, trying to figure it out.

She sent these inexpensive productions to whomever she wanted to reach, even if she did not know them. That meant gallerists, friends, critics, curators, writers, and anyone she wanted to share work with. She said that sometimes people would write back and tell her to “stop sending these dark images,” and that it ruined their day! Ida said she took that as a compliment.

Was she promoting herself? Of course. We must find away to share and get work out no matter where you are. You don’t have to use Facebook, but of course you can. What Ida did is something you could probably do today. Make small books regularly and send them out. Make the books hard to decipher and memorable perhaps, or whatever you like. In this age of emails and text messages, paper mail is even more special. Receiving a small handmade book in the mail is something special that will be remembered, and if your name is associated with it, why wouldn’t you also be remembered?

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 44 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / The Curators Point of View

Carey: And where do you meet new artists? You said mostly through recommendations from other artists—is there another way?

Hoptman: I still do that. But of course I go to art schools. I go to programs like the LMCC, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. I make an appearance at the AIM program. I didn’t do it last year but pretty much every year from past twenty years I go up there.

The Bronx Museum has the show every summer. For me it’s a kind of organic process and a big challenge because you’re most comfortable in your generation and those artists who are closest to your generation. It’s a challenge but I was very lucky, for example I participated in this triennial that we did here at the New Museum called Younger Than Jesus. So that was the millennial generation of artists. We looked at five hundred artists’ portfolios, it was fantastic, from all over the world.

So if you’re lucky enough, as a curator, to be involved in a project like that you immediately have a vocabulary. I spent three years traveling all over the world for the Carnegie International and they’re not exactly emerging artists, they’re fairly well-known artists who are part of that kind of pioneer circuit but I certainly learned a lot, I traveled a lot.

It’s important to do that, to get out of your seat. Get away from the galleries. I mean the galleries are a fountain of information, absolutely. I mean they often know way before we know interesting artists. But I have to say, and this is something that I have been wagging my finger at some of our very beloved art critics for– the assumption that curators find their material in the art galleries drives me bananas. Because more often than not we find our material before the gallerists do. And they find that they find their artists through us which is fine.

I think it’s all great, it’s all great but the criticism, I don’t buy the criticism that says that many curators or all curators just follow what the gallerists do because in a lot of cases the gallerists are following what the curators do. Sometimes there is simultaneous thing where you see an artwork, and you see an artist’s work in a museum and a gallery at the same time.

I think almost every other contemporary curator will tell you this, I don’t need the stamp of the famous gallery for me to be interested in somebody’s work, that’s for sure.

Carey: That’s refreshing to hear for a lot of people.

Hoptman: But everybody would say that I think. I don’t think I’m alone.

Carey: I don’t think you’re alone as a curator perhaps, but I think many artists do believe that’s exactly what they need on their résumé.

Hoptman: I know, and I think for a broader population and certainly for the collector class, it certainly doesn’t hurt. Although there’s a whole area of collecting that’s been pumped up over the past ten or fifteen years that concentrates on lesser known artists, unknown artists. Collectors really pride themselves in finding new talent before anybody else. It’s a big deal for a lot of contemporary collectors to do that, the hunt.

The world’s all turned upside down now, really. We didn’t even get into that but, you know, I have one job. I’m very lucky, I get to interact with artists, I’ve done it my entire career. That’s what I wanted to do and I get to do it. I get to travel and I get to look at beautiful things and try to understand them. I’m very, very lucky but my job, the thing that I dedicate myself to, is trying to create a context and interpret these beautiful and interesting things for a wider public, that’s what I do.

The Curators Point of View

I think this interview sheds some light on the process from a curator’s point of view. She is looking, but she is meeting people and talking. Meeting curators must go beyond emails as soon as possible to build any kind of interest or relationship.

I interviewed another curator which I will not reproduce here, but it was Simone Battisti, director of the Barbara Gladstone gallery in New York in 2015. That is a major gallery that is one of the key players in the art world market and manages the careers of highly influential artists.

When I asked him what he looks for in artists when he meets them or goes to their studios, he had one word—sincerity. That struck me as odd in a world as aloof as his, and in one of the most important galleries. But he explained more about sincerity. He said that in all relationships he values sincerity, but with artists making work, he want to see work that is not compromised in any way. If it looks like work that is made to be sold, he has no interest. He wants to know what the artist is sincere about. What is their vision, so to speak, of what they want to see and why? I liked the way he said that, and it sums up the most important aspect of this business. Be sincere and straight-forward. Your work can be mystifying in any number of ways, but your manner and approach should be sincere.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

Episode 43 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Where do they begin?

Hoptman: I agree with you.

Carey: I’d like to talk to you about all the artists that are graduating now. There are artists emerging into this world, thousands every year and many of them are attracted to New York or as near to it as they can get, and we can see this kind of expansion outside of New York as well. Just meeting a curator or applying for shows or becoming part of the art world is very much a mystery to a lot of artists—where do they begin? Where do you think an artist should begin in terms of moving, etc.?

Hoptman: It’s a good probing question because it comes around to the beginning of the conversation, and I have the same answer. I think artists begin making a world for themselves among other artists. And any way that you can become a part of that, if you can commune with other artists, that’s where I think you’re going to find your ideological or your artistic home.

There are lots of ways to do that. You can become involved in a post graduate program like the Core program or Skowhegan, or even a less ambitious one like the one I mentioned that the Bronx Museum still runs—the AIM program, which is one that’s not necessarily a residency so you don’t have to go live somewhere.

I think that you can go to graduate school. I know that that’s been de rigueur now for at least twenty years for professional artists. Most professional artists that I see have master’s degrees, although it probably started in my generation. Because artists that are a little bit older than me don’t have those master’s degrees. They didn’t feel it necessary.

It’s very similar with curators, there are curatorial programs all over the place. When I started working I knew I wanted to get an art history degree. I never knew that I needed a curatorial degree. So I’m kind of an old school curator in that way. I’m a historian, not a curatorial studies person, but yes you find your community that way.

I think that the communities are much more permeable now. The museum community, the commercial art world in New York City, the non-commercial art world in New York City, the kind of commercial art world if you want a hybrid, too, and that kind of judgment I don’t think is so much a part of people’s lives anymore. I’m very happy about that because that was just awful, I think, personally. What an awful way to look at art and make this snap judgments and it was an awful way for artists to have to submit.

I think now art dealers, for example, at least over the past ten years, have been on the hunt for artists. So I think the burden of finding artists are more on these people who realized that there was a very lively market for emerging artists.

What’s going to happen now? I don’t know if my art dealer colleagues are running around looking for the next big thing, but I certainly know that curators are very focused on emerging artists, what to look for in new talent, and are very interested in finding and gathering information. So I don’t know, I mean, I have to ask some young artists, but I think that I wouldn’t say it’s easier. It’s just some of the burdens that were there before aren’t there anymore.

Carey: Right, and you mentioned smaller communities as well as going back to school for graduate programs. I’m thinking also of many artists who are graduating from their MFA programs and are still wondering how to act with a curator and reach those types of programs.

Hoptman: Yes, I mean, there’s the Core program down in Houston and others like it, things like that, residencies. I know lots of artists do that. I think the art schools are thriving now because so many people are interested in teaching.

It used to be, on the East Coast, it used to be problematic, at least in my time, but now I think almost every artist that I know would probably kill for a teaching a job in New York. It’s a wonderful way to be in touch with all the sort of new ideas that are coming up and also have academic stimulation, if you will.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.