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.


Episode 42 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Finding a Context for Yourself

Carey: You talked about this thing post studio environment, such as what happened with Rirkrit and Gabriel. They were all conceptual, though, which makes more sense. There are so many other artists who I would think are post studio, who aren’t conceptual artists who also have a studio practice, but it’s very difficult to have a studio in Manhattan.

Hoptman: Yes, that’s the second. Yes, I completely agree with you and that’s another contribution to the phenomenon of a post studio practice. To making art in your living room as opposed to your loft in SoHo.

I came to New York in 1983 and I say this to people all the time—it’s a long time ago but it doesn’t seem that long ago to me—but when I came in 1983, I worked on Rivington Street but I could never afford to live in the Bowery or Rivington Street. Even in 1983, the rent in those bigger spaces, the loft spaces that artists traditionally would move into, cost real money. It’s important to remember that those kinds of big spaces cost real money up from the late seventies. So you have to be a generation and a half older even than me, and I feel ancient, to have been able to have a shot at the space in Manhattan or downtown or even in the East Village. East Village was cheap but it didn’t have the big spaces that you think in your mind that maybe a sculptor would need, for example. So my generation lived, might have lived in the East Village, but they were already moving to Williamsburg where the big spaces were.

Carey: So now that we’re in the 2000s, what is happening to your visits? Are you going to Brooklyn more? Is it less feasible? Is there a different kind of process?

Hoptman: I think so. I think artists are very intrepid and I’m very admiring of the way that artists manage to figure things out. Of course, after a certain generation you’re not going to have a studio in Manhattan. After a certain generation you’re not going to have studios in the closer areas of Brooklyn either. People push further and further out and manage to find places that they can work in.

I think that as the discourse evolves, so does the kind of work people do. I think when the recession hit everybody was saying, “Oh, the art will change,” and it didn’t change immediately. People who were painters didn’t stop painting because people weren’t buying their work anymore.

I think now that we’re about almost two years out, about a year and a half out from the biggest crash, the biggest economic problem. I think probably that the pressure might be off a little from that sort of unrelenting pressure to make an object and send it to market.

Carey: I think that’s the case. I think I find artists do talk about how the pressure is off, but the way the pressure is on has always been to earn enough money, to continue staying where you are or to pursue your practice as jobs are more scarce. Or even if the jobs aren’t more scarce, there’s an even greater push to earn money and keep a studio close enough to Manhattan or a major museum so that you can be involved in the art world.

Hoptman: I think that’s an interesting thought. It’s something I talk about with my husband all the time. This idea of whether it’s very important to be close to the central marketplace that is New York City, because there are other marketplaces, too, but how important is it now at this moment to be close to the center in terms of economics.

I understand it’s good to be close to a center because it’s great to be meeting with other artists. I mean, to have a community, to not feel like some weirdo or like some Martian in a community that doesn’t understand what you’re doing or need what you’re doing. But economically, how important is it to be near, do you think?

Carey: I graduated school and I lived on Block Island for a little while, which was completely off the path, and I established a gallery and a magazine out there and most of the artists I knew from New York came out there and we had a gallery for the summer.

In my experience, I thought I had really an ideal set up. Icould work a few days a week doing carpentry and spend the rest of the day in a beautiful studio that was something like a giant loft—this one was a giant barn. The problem I was experiencing was that I felt that even though it was a very tolerant community and I knew many people in the community, it made me feel somehow that it was creatively constricting. And I think it had to do with the fact that it was a very small community and everybody knows what you’re doing.

When I came to New York it was a difficult decision becauseI did live this life that was very gratifying and I had a perfect set up. I was only twenty-two but I felt like a retired artist with a big studio in a beautiful island. I could make all the work I wanted, but I didn’t feel an involvement with the community. It was more than that, though. When I came to New York, since it’s such a giant city and I didn’t know many people, it felt you have a sense of anonymity that made me feel anything was possible.

At that point I did open up a storefront in the East Village and began giving out services likes hugs and foot-washings. I could not have done that or even thought that was possible to do in the very small community I had been in.

My theory is that a very small community can be somehow claustrophobic as opposed to a giant community like New York. It’s the opposite because of the sense of anonymity. Does that make sense?

Hoptman: I completely agree with you. It has nothing to do with money is what you’re saying. It has everything to do with—I hate this term—but finding a context for yourself so that you make sense and what you do and who you are makes sense with the community that you live in.

Yes, New York is huge and there are all these different art worlds, micro communities, which are something that we are exhaustively looking at right now. We’re having this sort of contemporary self-examination here about the micro communities in the city, but it’s possible to find an audience, if you will, for what you do and not be alone, I think.

The thing with curators, by the way, is that you can be one anywhere. I grew up in Langley, Virginia, and it’s great to be a curator in Langley, Virginia and it’s important. But it’s easier to be a curator in a community that is looking for contemporary art exhibitions to go to.

Carey: Exactly. I think there’s a certain amount of support. I mean, I don’t want to focus too much on New York, although I guess New York is the focus of the art world or much of it, but it was my feeling also that in New York people are encouraged to do anything. My wife is Spanish, she’s from Madrid. She feels that way as well. It does seem that there are limitless possibilities for all artists.

Whereas in the small community that I was in for a little while, or in Madrid, grandiose ideas are thought of as improbable and not worth pursuing. There isn’t a lot of support there for that. New York somehow seems to support that or has that feeling, I think, of offering support for all those things.

I don’t just think it, it obviously happens. Certainly more unusual projects, from my point of view, happen in New York, whereas they may not happen at all in other cities.

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 41 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Artist in the Marketplace

Laura Hoptman interview continued…

Carey: You talked about doing three hundred studio visits, and I’d like to talk about that a little bit because I’m interested and I think everyone is interested in how you selected those artists. How did you choose three hundred artists?

Hoptman: That’s a very good question but I have a kind of a boring answer. We can talk about it in another way; for that particular job, the Bronx Museum had and still has a program called AIM, which is an acronym for Artist in the Marketplace.

It’s a program for emerging artists where every week they come to the museum, meet one another, and learn practical information on how to survive as an artist in New York. How to do your taxes. At that time, how to make a portfolio or a slide or something to send galleries. The museum arranges meetings with curators, other curators, as well as gallerists, as well as tax people, it’s all kinds of things and at the end of this nine-week program you have an exhibition at the museum.

So when you leave the museum—this was the thinking at least at the time and maybe still now—you leave that museum with kind of a community that you met. Some sort of life skill for artists, and that could be an addition to your résumé with a catalog.

So the time that I did most of my studio visits is the year and a half that I was there. I was making an exhibition that commemorated the twentieth anniversary of this program. I think it’s now thirty years old. So I visited the alumni of the AIM program, plus a group of the emerging artists. It was a kind of matrix. So how do you choose? Well, I have had one tried and true method my entire career and that is that I ask other artists. I’m actually married to an artist. I’ve been married to an artist for fifteen years. I always rely on artists to tell me what other artists to go look at.

Carey: That’s very interesting.

Hoptman: Doesn’t everybody do that?

Carey: Well, everyone has different methods it seems. Some people do say that they do both. They have artists to rely on. Other people will talk about meeting other people when they’re out. It’s an interesting question, because one of the things that I’m finding from talking with different people in the art world, especially the people who’ve been in it quite a long time, is how the world has so radically changed from the seventies, and even the early eighties, and now. We’re talking of so many more artists and a very different landscape. Even without the recession, financially, for artists it’s a very different . . .

Hoptman: But—I’m sorry to break in, but the first thing I would think of was the idea that we’re in a post studio landscape, and particularly in New York because it’s so expensive to establish a studio here. So there are a lot of people who have a post studio practice. During the boom, there were a lot of artists that you would visit and very often there would be no work at their studio. You will be looking at it through reproductions because they had, for better or for worse, brought it to their gallery for sale, so it was rarely there.

I think that over the years what’s changed for me in terms of studio visits, is that at certain moments, it has become a kind of a meeting as opposed to a kind of a discussion over objects.

Carey: Let’s talk a little bit more about how it’s become more a meeting than a discussion over objects.

Hoptman: I remember when I first met Gabriel Orozco—and I met him under other circumstances, I met him in an elevator. We kind of became friends. When he lived in the East Village he used to meet people in one particular place, Café Veselka, that Ukrainian restaurant. That used to be the place where we went to visit Gabriel and others.

The same with Rirkrit Tiravanija, an artist who I have known ever since I was at the Bronx Museum. He was one of my three hundred studio visits that early time. He was the first project that I did at MoMA when I got there. I remember how we talked about it and Thompson Square Park was where we sort of worked. So all three of those guys were sort of post studio and that was my first experience of that. Not going into a basement or a studio, a place where there are things like paintings to see or something.

As the 1990s became the 2000s, and as the art market heated up so much, the studio visits became more and more in a way sort of bizarre, because you really were trying to chase the objects. More often than not you didn’t find the objects in the studio with the artists, you found them in the backroom of their gallery or some other exhibition space, mostly commercial exhibition space.

I mean, even at art schools I remember very, very well up until four years ago going to art schools and having cases of some people not even having very much work. If I wasn’t there for their MSA exhibition they could, some of them could have already dispersed into the commercial ecosystem. It’s weird. I mean even to talk about it is weird.

Carey: Has that changed also since then?

Hoptman: I’m talking about very recent history now. I can’t tell you absolutely whether it has or not, but I can see some changes. I go to a lot of art schools and I really treasure that ability. People ask me to go to places all over the country and also to postgraduate programs like the Core program—I just came back from there, in Houston.

I think, as of this year, I do see a kind of changed atmosphere, a sort of less charged atmosphere in the studios of younger artists or emerging artists, if you will. There’s more stuff there. There’s less of a push to get it out of there. There’s less of an object orientation that shouldn’t be a surprise to people who are looking at contemporary work. There’s less painting. I’m a painting curator, but the ubiquity of painting became almost lugubrious. For someone like me that’s hard to say, because I never thought I could get enough of it.

I noticed in art schools now there’s a little bit of a chilling out, which I think is really positive. You know, that artists whose practice might not have been conducive to painting or making paintings.

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 40 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Talking to Curators & Laura Hoptman

Talking to Curators / Interview with Laura Hoptman

In this chapter I discuss how to present yourself to curators so that they become attracted to your art and your story.

In the academic world where most curators get their directions on how to pursue their careers as independent or institution-based curators, they are taught how to look at art and evaluate it from a cultural standpoint. There are also curators who do not have academic training and are putting together shows as well, but the majority of curators that you will meet are most likely coming from a curatorial studies program at a university. That means, in most cases, they will have had art history classes and learned how to create exhibits as well as how to visit artists’ studios.

When visiting studios, they are told to look at work in a cultural context. That means that as they talk to the artist and come to their own conclusions, they are looking to see how the artists are reflecting contemporary culture today. In fact, we all reflect contemporary culture to some degree, even those who are not artists. A teenager who is watching videos on YouTube and using Snapchat and other forms of social media is engaged in a form of the culture that reflects who we are as a culture and how teens might be responding to and interacting with specific forms of media

Artists do the same thing even if they are not aware of it, and this is part of what a curator is looking for. He or she is looking at your images and their content and thinking about how this might be a reaction to current political or social trends, or even popular trends in entertainment.

Laura Hoptman was the senior curator at the New Museum and is now the curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art. Her focus is contemporary art. In the interview that follows, you will learn more about what she looks for and how she finds artists.

The aspect of talking to curators that I would emphasize most is discussing your ideas—not necessarily your art, but the ideas or impulses behind your art. That will allow a curator to understand and interpret your work in a cultural context, and it will also make for interesting conversation. Here is the interview with Laura Hoptman.

Laura Hoptman

The Interview

Cariey: I’d like to begin by asking a little bit about your beginning in the art world. Where do you first remember becoming interested in either of the arts or in curating?

Hoptman: Well, I’m kind of a special case because I’ve wanted to be a museum curator ever since I was a little kid. I grew up in Washington DC and we spent our weekends at the museums. I can remember when I was about four my mother did an art show in the backyard and I watched it. So it’s just something that was part of my DNA from very, very early on.

Carey: What was the show that your mother did in the backyard?

Hoptman: We had a neighbor who is a painter and I remember her nailing the paintings to the pine trees in the backyard. I mean, we had a very culturally interested, if not sophisticated family, and our thing was art and we went to the museums all the time. That was something that I always wanted to do and I focused all my energies as a young person on art.

Carey: And what was the first curatorial work that you did? Was it something as out of the box as nailing paintings to trees? I love that!

Hoptman: I went to graduate school in New York City, but before I went to graduate school I worked in film and video on the Lower East Side, actually right around the corner from where the New Museum is now, on Rivington Street, in a place called Film Video Arts.

So I started my art life in film, video, and performance. I also worked at a place called Franklin Furnace which was a performance and book archive. Then I needed some money, so I was a waitress at the same time. I went back to graduate school a year after I came to New York. I came to New York City in 1983 and I went back to graduate school for art history in 1984 and started my curatorial career in the midst of graduate school.

My first curatorial job was at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and for those who don’t know that place, it’s a museum of contemporary art that was founded in the late 1970s as part of the largest of the Johnson administration’s Great Society programs. It’s a place for emerging artists and I spent three years there, and I remember in my last year I made three hundred studio visits. Can you imagine? So it really started me, gave me a vocabulary, certainly, of the regional artists in the New York area.

Carey: Was that in the eighties when you were doing the studio visits?

Hoptman: Late 1980s, yes. In between, I also worked for Merce Cunningham, which was really interesting. I spent eighteen months with Merce because he was a dancer who was very involved in media in particular. So I worked at the film and video department there for a while. And I also did some time at the Whitney Museum in the film and video department, which at the time, actually, I really loved.

So I had a little bit of experience, but not in curatorial capacity. My first curatorial job was at the Bronx Museum and from there I went to MoMA, which was a quite strange experience but I was very lucky because I had this huge vocabulary of emerging artists and I went to an institution which at that time didn’t know anything about emerging artists.

At MoMA, I spent six years in the drawing department, and did a lot of exhibitions. And then I did the 2004-2005 Carnegie International,which took three years of my life. And I came home to New York. Then decided to return not to a big institution but to the New Museum, because the New Museum was opening a new building here on the Bowery and creating a whole new staff. It gave us an opportunity to sort of envision a new kind of contemporary art museum for New York. That’s my life in a nutshell.

Carey: But you’ve been between several mediums. You were the drawing curator at MoMA and it sounds like before then, you were focused a lot on video and film.

Hoptman: I focused a lot on performance first, then video and film. Not because I liked it but because that was where I could get a job and it was super interesting for me. I’m just very lucky that I have been active in an era in contemporary art where that kind of division between mediums doesn’t necessarily have to dictate what you do in your life.

I worked in the film and video department at the Whitney but a few years after I worked there they dissolved that department altogether. So that there’s no kind of apartheid now between media in museums like the Whitney Museum. And even the MoMA, which is famous for its divisions. I was a drawing curator and learned about drawing, but I did a lot of exhibitions that were all kinds of different mediums.

I did the retrospective of the artist Yayoi Kusama, who’s a great, great person but a magnificent painter, performer, and filmmaker. I did a show called Drawing Now which included the work of—I think I had something like twenty-four artists. There were eight sections and they were wonderful, they are wonderful artists but most of them are probably not known just as drawing people.

There was, I don’t know, Elizabeth Paton, John Currin, the sort of heavy hitter figurative painters of my generation were in that show. You can think of it more as an exhibition of drawing but really coming from the vocabulary of people who are painters—not exclusively, but most of them.

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 39 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / The Personal

The Personal

An essential theme of this book, and most books on advancing a career, is about the personal contacts and friends that you make. Those contacts are often made through inbox messages on social media or email. In both cases, the writing that you do in those initial stages will make all the difference. I would try to imagine how you would feel if you received the letter you are writing to someone. What if someone sent you an inbox message that said, “My show will be up until May 15, here is the link.” Does that sentence attract you and want to make you click the link or go see it if you have never heard of this person before? I would think probably not. The reason is that it is the opposite of personal. It is a directive masked as an invitation. I get messages like this often. But when I get a message that says something more personal, like, “Hi Brainard, I am really enjoying your book, and have been finishing up my website as you suggest. There was one issue I had with using an email newsletter program and integration—is there an email program for newsletters that you would suggest?”

That is something I would tend to answer because it is a question that does not require me to review a whole site to see what is going on. If you were writing to a curator, you could also say something similar, such as, “Thank you for the great work you do, I just saw the show you curated at X space, and I thought your choice of artists mixed with scientists who approached the same subject matter was innovative and inspiring. Mixing two fields of study in this way add to both, and as an artist myself, I found it inspiring.”

In that note, you are not asking the curator for anything, just making them aware that you are sensitive to who they are and what they do. Since you did not leave a website, it becomes even more sincere. Anyone who reads that will probably respond with a thank you at the least and will most likely look at your Facebook page as well. Even if they don’t, in your next letter you can ask a question, or even, gently, send your website, or preferably talk about your work before sending it and ask if they would like to see work. Essentially, I am emphasizing writing that is personal and meaningful and not a quick note with your website link.

Your Story

Everyone has a story to tell, a story about who they are and why they do what they do. Even if you were not an artist, everyone has a passion of one kind or another that they could talk about. In crafting your story, which could be similar to what has been called an elevator pitch, you need to tap into some kind of passion. Since you are most likely an artist if you are reading this, you will be writing about your art and your life. How you end up telling this story in a brief biography or an artist’s statement is of great importance, because it is how you will be initially perceived and perhaps even remembered.

Earlier in the book I reproduced the stories that my wife and I sent about ourselves for the Whitney museum curator when she asked. That was my style and how I approach things. In the interview with Allard van Hoorn, he is telling his story and it revolves around a specific theme that we can all relate to. He talks about wandering and trying to find out what he really wants and who he would like to become. That alone is something we can all relate to and draws us in. Then he describes what eventually became his statement or theme on the basis of his experience with Aboriginal culture and the idea of Songlines, which was a method used by that culture to navigate or map existing structures and paths in the world. It is a concept that in itself is fascinating, steeped in myth, dreams, and a culture that is a mystery to most Western minds. He tells it in a straight-forward manner, no unnecessary theory or mystifying, yet it is interesting and memorable while weaving a line of thinking throughout all his work. It also is something we can all relate to in some form; it is very much about connecting with our environment, the people and buildings around us. It is also sincere. No matter what your story is, that is how easily it could be presented, as a straight-forward account of who you are, and how you became that.

The Form of Writing

That is the form I would suggest when writing about yourself and your artwork. Choose something that is memorable and reach deep into who you are and who we are as human beings. The idea of creating a mystery around yourself does not have to be as obvious as what Joseph Beuys was doing in his statements and texts and work, but that is of course valid, too, if that attracts you. Many artists like to keep it short and sweet and use a piece of writing over and over for statements, but the problem with this is that it can sound too smug, and leaves little room for exploring your ideas. Part of the form your story takes should be about exploring. Like the Van Hoorn example, his idea can be continuously explored in many ways. This is extremely important because it is not about just one idea, it is about how you continue to discover new ways of articulating that idea over and over again.

As I write in the next chapter about talking to curators, the idea of structuring your conversation and approach will rely heavily on how you write about yourself and your interests. A teacher once told me that artists can often be heard saying something like, “I wish people understood me for who I am, not what I appear to be.” His comment on that was that we are in fact only what we say we are. We are not the secret thoughts and ideas we have not yet articulated, we are our words. We are our pictures as well, but to understand art we must understand the artist, and words must be used for that. Thus, your writing should be a clear explanation and exploration of what it is you are discovering and looking for in your work. It should tell the world what you cherish most and what you are seeking to understand. It should tell the world why it is exciting to be doing what you are doing.

It is acceptable to break the rules to some extent here. That is, you can be quirky in your writing, but you must be able to communicate clearly. For example, if you are going to create a poem for your artist’s statement, it should be a poem that is narrative, or something that is understandable and somehow relates to your work. Most of all, the overtone of your writing should be about an idea or ideas that you are interested in. If not ideas, then perhaps topics or cultural reflection of some kind.

When in doubt or stuck, look at the writing of other artists. Look at the brief biographies of artists that have recently won grants or awards. When artists win awards or are given them without asking (like the MacArthur genius award), there is always a brief synopsis of the artists’ work when announcing the grant or award. Those pieces of writing are great examples of how an artist’s work can be summarized in a way that makes sense to the general public and can be easily understood. Usually that is done in less than a paragraph.

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 38 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Weaving Your Own Mystery

Weaving Your Own Mystery

This chapter will not just help with writing, but with understanding how to create a story about yourself that invites others to ask questions.

Writing, for most artists, is one of the more perplexing tasks they face. In this chapter I will discuss approaches to writing anything online. That would include getting media attention as well as critical attention for exploring ideas and issues that may be present in your work.

Writing is not a skill that comes easily to most artists, which is why you so often hear the phrase, “the painting speaks for itself.” However, thinking is something that artists must do. Thinking about the world of ideas, the world of colors and context, or poetry, politics, the environment, and more. These are all ideas that may already be present in your work or ones that you have thought of to some degree. If you can think about these things, then you can write about them, too. Perhaps not as well as you paint, sculpt, make photographs or installations, but nevertheless, you can write about issues that are important to you.

Social Media

Think of how a social media platform like Facebook contains so much writing by people who do not consider themselves writers. I find the most interesting posts on Facebook are about what someone is thinking or struggling with in their mind. It usually doesn’t relate to their work, but to thoughts and ideas we all have. The posts about loved ones dying and about how much they meant to someone is an example that resonates with most of us. But comments and fairly long status updates can include writing about art and how someone feels about a recent show, or a recent political event, or something much more personal—about struggles in the studio, or struggles with health and more. This kind of writing works on Facebook, meaning it gets comments and interactions with other Facebook users. The artists making all these posts mostly do not consider themselves writers, but are indeed writing about art and life in a way that relates to their work. Part of the reason artists seem to write well on Facebook is that they are not thinking that they are “writing,” but are rather communicating to others in a way that is not so self-conscious.

Looking and Writing

Being an artist is about looking at the world in a peculiar way, a curious way, and then reflecting some of that investigation in the work itself. It does not matter if you are an abstract or figurative painter, or a photographer or conceptual artist: the work an artist makes reflects the culture around them and how they perceive it. From the grotesque to the political to the poetic, visual artists offer new ways of looking at how we all perceive the world around us. The more every artist is aware of this process, which is often intuitive, the more there is to write about and explore.

If you are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media, there is often a question of what to write and how to meet people that you want to talk to on these platforms. For most artists, the questions is how to meet collectors, curators, and others who could help them in their career.

Writing for Online Audiences

The method I would suggest for writing on Facebook and most other online platforms is to be at least sincere in what you write (as opposed to sharing jokes and videos), because if you want to meet people and attract them to your art, then show off how thoughtful, kind, and sensitive you are. When I get a comment on one of my images on Instagram, for example, and it is more than “awesome shot,” this catches my attention. Perhaps it is something like, “this is my favorite, it’s beautiful,” or even something longer and less vague, like, “this reminds me of those ice cream trucks when I was little and the music they played.” That last one was not particularly descriptive, but it showed that the person writing had a particular memory and feeling associated with the image I posted. If someone wrote that on one of my images and “liked” a few others, I would notice. I would read their comment, and the next thing I would do is click on their name because I want to know who this sensitive person is. Is it an artist, a curator? I will find out by looking through their images, and in my case, I will begin to look at their images and might even comment to return the gesture. It is really that simple in the broadest sense, but is harder to do than it sounds.

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 37 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Life as a Nomad

Allard Van Hoorn interview continued…

Carey: And the process you just described, the sound was coming from a number of sources. You’re going around with the handheld recorder but was it also the marbles you were recording with the other sounds that were coming in, as well as what you hear coming from the balloons?

Van Hoorn: Normally, it’s only the simple tool that we use to generate the sound. So when I say make the building into a marble game, it’s the balloons that represent the marbles. And it’s the big balloons that roll down and bounce off the walls that I record.

So it’s the feet moving of the dancers, their bodies against the architecture, and then the balloons against the architecture, and that’s the only sound input. There’s no other external input. It has to be a one-on-one. Let’s say it’s a homeomorphic description that’s to be a direct translation of that input, that energy, the shape the building has to be. So the idea of translating the exact shape into a new shape that is without loss of that shape. So what I try to do is to keep intact the original situation and by slightly intervening in it and creating something new out of it but not changing it.

Carey: It sounds wonderful. I feel like I hear lately sociologists and other people talk about how our world has become more isolated. Not necessarily because of social media or computers, though I suppose that contributes, but we don’t really function as small communities that are singing together, dancing together, eating together, sharing everything together, right? We’re in our homes, apartments, studios living this kind of solitary life to some extent.

I think of your project, the one that you were just talking about, and how it comes back to an audience and DJs are re-sampling and re-mixing. It strikes me as beyond the project itself. There’s a social element here that could be redeeming. I don’t know what the feeling is of an audience but it sounds to me like it’s almost as though everybody’s singing or making sounds together or feels that way.

Van Hoorn: I think it’s definitely part of it, because the idea of re-thinking public spaces, places where we spend so great a percentage of our times, and these are specifically the places that I want to reinitiate as agoras, as places of gathering, as places of re-thinking our relationships to public space through having these joint experiences. The music that comes out is pretty subversive. So the building is kind of alive and submerges the people into the soundscapes that I produce. That music is, in a sense, to bind the people together and eventually in all the places where I execute these works there is this. There is a sense of community specifically because the collaborations are local.

So it’s the local people getting an opportunity to work with their direct public space, in which they live daily, and create this kind of a new relationship; to re-think their relationship to public space.

Carey: Let’s move back a little bit maybe to the roots of you having this kind of perspective, this nomadic sense. How did you get involved in art as a child? Where did you grow up?

Van Hoorn: I grew up in a fairly regular environment. Isolated, and far from art. I did several things throughout my life. I have studied mining engineering and until the age of thirty-three I did not know a single creative person. Everybody I grew up around me in those times were doctors, lawyers, business people, and academics. Until I was thirty-three years old, I was not in contact with anybody who was a dancer, musician, artist, even a graphic designer or performer, nothing.

So when I finally decided to find my personal relationship to the world, I decided it had to come through investigating my daily environment and doing something with that. So all my work ended up being about how we relate to a public space. And everything I do comes from that kind of new born sense of learning because I had to start from the scratch and learn in every project that I do. So every project is different, every action is different and therefore I decided to travel the world to be able to understand different cultures and see different places, in the end traveling to over fifty countries over the last years and doing projects in many, many countries.

It became my tool of investigation and my tool of learning about these concepts of belonging and becoming as an individual. About finding your place and rooting yourself not necessarily in one place, but in many different places at the same time, through maybe a more rhizomatic network of relationships that you create not only with the people, but through this longer ongoing investigation like the Urban Songlines. Actually creating this interrelated network of spaces that becomes music and then carrying it around in your little backpack kind of all the information that is gathered through all these spaces.

So eventually, I let go of myself. Since nine years ago, all my personal belongings fit into hand luggage, which has enabled me to move around very swiftly and easily. For nine years I’ve been traveling with only hand luggage and I became nomadic. Just going from place to place, making works there and working with wonderful people, beautiful collaborations and great institutions and ways of surviving through just relating to the world in different places.

Carey: And so how do you survive as a nomad? I mean, I’m kind of interested in how you actually get and manage these museum projects. You’re traveling around the world. In the very beginning, in your mid-thirties, how did you begin to have a relationship to the art world and support yourself with that?

Van Hoorn: In the beginning you have to walk up to places and you say, “Hmm, new gallery, or new museum, I’m an artist maybe we should talk,” and you make stuff on your own and eventually these things come together. I’m still a Dutch citizen so I pay my taxes in Holland and there is, as we know, some really good support from the Mondriaan Fund, and eventually museums that commission your work provide networks. There’s a lot of residencies that I’ve done through the years and I’ve been teaching and lecturing in many, many places, from the Architectural Association and the Royal College in London, to the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, and several other institutions as a guest tutor. Eventually you publish, you write and you sell some works, some profits come out of these performances although they are scarce. Keep in mind that I have a very light and easy way of living. I don’t have to maintain and replace a lot of stuff, so I can live financially quite nimble as well.

Carey: In closing, it sounds kind of wonderful and also ideal to be nomadic in this way. I don’t know anyone really that is as nomadic as you’re talking about. There are plenty of artists who are doing a lot of residencies but most of the time is spent in their studio, or who are home-based in whatever country they’re residing in. Upon reflecting on the last nine, ten years, how does it feel to be a nomad? What is that like in terms of just traveling or being in the world? Is there anything you miss?

Van Hoorn: Well, the thing that you would naturally miss most is your books because books are always fantastic sources of inspiration and in a way you become mental collaborators between beautiful artists and thinkers. What I learned to do is to find many online publications and I even buy books on Amazon and then sell them, give them away to friends and ask the author to send me the PDF. So I tell them, “Listen, I bought your real book, I’m giving it away to a friend. Could you please send me the PDF so I can take it with me in my little laptop?” And so I gathered a great many books digitally.

Otherwise you adapt fairly easily—I find people are super flexible and adapt into any kind of situation. At the beginning it was more tough than now. Sometimes you find yourself being kind of isolated in a place, but by now I have friends in any place and everywhere I go. There’s a huge network of artists as well as interesting people to meet up with, to talk to, and people who are willing to take you in. They understand the idea of sharing. I think the economy in our community is changing a little bit towards that dynamic. I feel very rooted. Any place I go, I can very, very quickly adapt. I have only the same clothes, four of the same shirts and two of the same pants and a pair of flip-flops and all the rest is equipment. As you will see through my performances, I’m wearing the same clothes through the years but I have four of the same shirts. So I tend to wash them in between but otherwise there’s not a lot that I miss. I became fully adapted to this idea of continuously traveling, sometimes flying to another country up to fifty times a year. What happens in the end is you become rooted in all these places and you adopt this strategy.

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 36 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Allard Van Hoorn

Allard Van Hoorn interview

This last interview is with an artist named Allard Van Hoorn, and is a fascinating look into how one artist began in his thirties, found an unusual medium, and has been a nomad ever since. I have interviewed hundreds of artists now from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas, and the most interesting ones have found something that continues to drive them, something like a quest. I think this next interview is one of my favorites because it contains what seems to me to be the quintessential quest of an artist.

The Interview

Carey: I’m talking with Allard van Hoorn. He’s an artist that is nomadic, traveling all over the world for site specific work that he produces. At the moment we’re talking to him from Italy. Allard, thank you so much for being with us today. Let’s talk about where you are now. I know you’re in Italy at a residency. Can you tell me a little bit about the residency and what it is that you’re pursuing there?

Van Hoorn: Yes, this is an open module of the UNIDEE, University of Ideas at the Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto. It’s a huge old textile factory that was set up by Michael Angelo Pistoletto to exchange ideas and to generate agents for social change through arts. We’re doing a workshop here based on architectural principles of the sixties and current movements that work towards changing perspectives on how we relate to our cities and to public space.

Carey: So that’s kind of a fascinating idea for a residency. It is an artist-created institution or residency and it’s obviously a nonprofit. I suppose it’s funded by the government, but perhaps you could say a little bit more about exactly what happens. Is there a workshop? Do you have a studio? Are you working there? If so, on what and for how long?

Van Hoorn: Yes, there are different modules. We are working in a workshop environment with artists, architects, theorists, thinkers. We are generating conversation that leads to possible new directions for structures of education, exchange of ideas, peer groups that allow for our contemporary way of communicating, open travel, and the idea of producing our work with different groups in different places in a more mobile sense than maybe a generation before was able to do.

So here, I’m currently working on the twenty-eighth iteration of my project called Urban Songlines. This is a project that I’ve been doing since 2009. It’s a project in which I translate public spaces and architecture into music by generating sound, site specifically, and then translating that into music. The idea came from the aboriginals that relate to their public space, which is nature, through singing that topography, singing the physical shape of their land, mapping it spiritually, embodying it and managing the relationship with that as well as with the animals that live together in that environment.

My objective for Urban Songlines is to translate public spaces into sound in order to listen to architecture instead of looking at it or inhabiting it. And finally to talk about these ideas of co-ownership and appropriation of public space through collaborating with musicians, dancers, skateboarders, roller derby girls, and technology in the audience in order, in the end, to make our architecture and our public space ours, the cities audible instead of visible.

Carey: So let’s talk about one project that you’ve done. I know that there’s been several with Songlines, but perhaps you could talk about how one was done. Like the factory where you used the fuse box as a method to generate sound. It could be that one or another one. Where you explain a little bit about how the whole event comes together and how the sounds are generated. Perhaps what it even sounds like.

Van Hoorn: When I arrive at a space, when I’m invited to work somewhere, I go into the space trying to find either historical references, future references, or current dynamics that are embedded within this shape and within the idea of the space.

For example, if you look at the Rosenthal Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, this is a space designed by Zaha Hadid. It looks like a gray concrete slab that goes up through a glass square lobby of the museum slowly until that hits the back side, the back wall of the building. And there, it goes up under a ninety degree angle all the way as a spine, as a huge slab of concrete sidewalk, then going all the way up to the roof.

The space is intersected by huge black hanging staircases that were too big to be made within the architectural curriculum. So these were eventually made by a roller coaster company and they hang in that space as a huge X. And what I felt with that space was the idea of playing with verticality versus horizontality. That sidewalk going up straight into the air all the way up to the roof of the building, to me it felt like a game that was playing with ideas of gravity to make it less sober, to talk about what a building could be, I made it into a huge marble game in which I invited local young dance groups to work with eight-foot helium weather balloons that I filled with air. So they were able to run those down the staircases, bounce them off of the wall and used that lobby and the staircases as a huge marble game in order to give it that dynamic.

Then I ran around while they executed choreography of a marble game as a dance piece with eight-foot white weather balloons. I ran around and I recorded the sounds of the physical description of the topography of the building. So literally, the shape of the building being described by the balloons, and with a handheld I recorded myself running around them, trying to keep up with them. Then I sit down in a break, import that into a computer and a laptop and then I create live music of that sound that they generated.

So the speaking voice they generated off of the architecture, off the building, I translate it into music. This becomes the singing voice of the building and after that they re-improvised because I played that music live in front of a live audience and they improvised again to that music completing the dialogue of the dancers with the building. Then the resulting music is eventually pressed to vinyl records that I give it away to DJs for free. The DJs, through the technique of sampling, kind of redistribute that public space, that building in this case to a wider and wider audience.

As I said before, discussing this idea of co-ownership and appropriation of public space by a wider audience that does not necessarily have to be there at the performance. And that’s kind of the complete way, the cycle for Urban Songline to happen. I’ve created twenty-seven so far in places as varied as landing strips, bridges, warehouses, squares, and all around the world. Basically, anywhere or everywhere.

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 35 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Art and Culture

Todd Levin interview continued…

Carey: And who were some of the initial artists that you collected?

Levin: Many of those names one would recognize today, and there are many one might not. Most were part of that eighties East Village scene, either centrally or tangentially. Basquiat, Bender, Bickerton, Condo, Haring, Halley, Holzer, Hujar, Koons, Kwong Chi, Noland, Prince, Steinbach, Taaffe, Thek, Wojnarowicz, and many, many, many more. Some names are all but forgotten, but they still have tremendous meaning to me because of the time and place I associate with those artists or their specific works. Separately, I also began a love affair with Surrealism at that time, particularly Joseph Cornell, and began buying his work which continues today.

Carey: Absolutely. You mentioned David Wojnarowicz . . .

Levin: Yes.

Carey: Amazing artist.

Levin: It was clear when one encountered his art then that there was a tremendous amount of emotional power distilled into those works – but I only knew David in passing. We had met and talked a bit and I always thought that his work was incredibly powerful.

The eighties were a different time. There were many talented people – artists, critics, gallerists, curators, performers, musicians, writers – all crushed into a small geographic area together in the East Village, and interacting on a daily basis with one another. That sort of communal spirit has been lost today in favor of another model. There is a tendency for one to look backwards through halcyon rose-colored glasses as one advances with age. Some things are better now, and many things are worse, but it was certainly a different kind of a model specific to that time.

Carey: Yes, it’s hard to say that there’s a scene like that now. I don’t think the Lower East Side would be the equivalent of what was happening in the eighties, unless you see it differently. The idea of artists opening spaces and having conversations is something that was specific to an eighties East Village art scene that isn’t happening now, is that kind of what you’re saying, that kind of communal support?

Levin: Art and culture thrive best in a bifurcated economy. By that, I mean either a very strong or a very weak economy. Most recently we experienced a period that generated tremendous amounts of wealth for consumers of culture. That means there are lot of people with massive amounts of excess capital, and they have to find a place to put all that capital. They’re not going to put it in the bank at one percent. Those people have decided for the moment that one of the areas they feel is a wise place to put their money is art.

Equally powerful for art is when the economy is extremely weak. In that case, arts and culture are most creative when rents are depressed and gallery space is plentiful. Curators, critics, and artists are able to engage each other in the same place. Those sorts of conditions lead to what economists call low barriers of entry. It basically means that the only requirement to participate in a cultural economy at such a time is to be creative, because in a weak economy there are no cost-prohibitive factors. This meant that huge influxes of talented artists flooded New York starting in the late seventies, and that increased the chances of more creative and interesting things occurring in New York. And this all happened vividly during that East Village period of the eighties that we were discussing. The key point to grasp is that the economic downturn that began in the seventies, interestingly, was significantly positive for creativity in the long term.

And this is the reason that when you ask me if the current scene on the Lower East Side might turn in to an East Village model, my answer is ‘no.’ It can never be the East Village as it was, nor should it be – it’s an entirely different thing. The cultural world in the late seventies and early eighties was shifting from modernism to post-modernism. And that was a thumping, epic cultural sea change which only happens once or twice in a century. The previously strict adherence to art forms, and the definition of culture and cultural products were being completely reconstructed during that post-modern period in the East Village. In essence, it wasn’t the Duchampian modality that ‘anything was art’ anymore – but instead, anything had the potential to be an art form. As I discussed earlier, that meant all modes of production were in the same geographical space at the same time. And there was, for the first time, no longer a proscenium between creator and audience.

What’s interesting about all this is just a few years later, by the late eighties, the market translation of culture into a consumer product began with a vengeance – what we now term the commodification of culture. All this happened within a very short time – that incredibly fertile DNA existed within a very short span and birthed an unusually powerful confluence of ideas.

Carey: Would Detroit be an example? It’s very clear what you’re saying, but do you think Detroit might be having all that potential now?

Levin: Detroit is discussed as having potential for artists is because it’s cheap to live there. It’s great if an artist can buy a house for $5000, but the larger issue is that there is no centralized cultural apparatus in Detroit, and there never has been. I don’t think there ever will be. I should remind you that I am from Detroit, so this is not me talking badly about my city. I would say the same thing about any other American city if applicable. New York is unique. It is a place where certain kinds of things happen that wouldn’t happen in any other American city.

Carey: Also, as you were saying, there was a sea change from modernism to postmodernism that took place at this particular time in New York and was manifested in a certain way. Whereas, in Detroit or other cities you may have inexpensive rents but there’s also not this kind of sea change. I don’t know exactly how to put it, but perception of culture or artistic practice was happening as well, correct?

Levin: I think your observation is the crux of the issue. Furthermore, creativity is fundamentally about generating new ideas and new forms. And it’s that cycle that I discussed earlier of a very depressed and then a very thriving economy that makes New York a consistent entry point for the new, where people go to produce the new, and the marketplace where the new can be bought and sold. The art world is simply the apparatus through which the artist is threaded into general society.

Carey: Todd, it is exciting talking to you about all these aspects of the art world that you’ve experienced. And also about you as a collector, as someone who values and understands artists and looks into how this whole system is to some extent created and continues to grow. There are artists listening to this who are from a lot of different groups, most are students, mid-careers, older artists and they are from all over the world.

One of the questions artists have, of course, which a lot of people feel differently about, is how to enter into the market. And that doesn’t necessarily mean how to enter into major collections, although it could be that, but artists are in their studios wanting to sell more work, wanting not to think about selling more work, knowing that as you say that there are all these people out there that have income that they need to spend somewhere. Without going too much into the marketing, and you can really take this anywhere you want, but if there’s something you want to say to those artists about how they are managing their careers and thinking about sales, which they’ll understand is kind of a double-edged sword: not to think to0 much about money on the one hand, but it’s hard to ignore, especially in this economy—the market and its vastness as you’re talking about.

Levin: That is a very broad question. On one hand, one hears artists, critics, and cultural observers talk about art and money, and suggest that they should be completely separate things. This view espouses that the artist should be divorced from transactional methodologies of any kind. I don’t think artists need to be divorced from art market financial machinations. I think the actual problem is that it is impossible to interact with art in any meaningful way, aesthetically or monetarily, if the only discussions taking place are about its price. The meaning of art collapses under the brute weight of pure quantification of data without the requisite education and real world experience to qualify that data meaningfully. And if the meaning (one could also use the word ‘value’) of art collapses, so will its price, sooner or later. Art has offered me a way to better understand myself. If we only discuss art as a mythical asset class, and divorce it from why it was created in the first place, then art and money exchange roles. Money becomes divine by being translated into art, and art becomes commonplace by being translated into money.

Artists who have an interest in trying to enter the art market must be realistic. There are exceptions to every rule, but the reality artists have to understand is if they want to participate in a locally- or regionally-based art market, they can do that anywhere. They can do that in Detroit. They can do that in San Antonio, and they can do that in Portland. But if an artist wants to participate in the international contemporary art market as it exists on the level of important galleries, international art fairs, and major auctions – and it’s not for me to tell an artist that this is a worthwhile thing, that’s for the artist to decide for themselves – then they’re going to have to be willing to put themselves geographically in a place where they can participate directly. New York, Berlin, London, Los Angeles, etc. Those artists will also have to be willing to engage the financial realities of the art market – but again, that’s a decision for every artist to make for themselves.

It’s a real miscalculation, however, if an artist feels they can participate in a meaningful way in the international art market, yet simultaneously remain fully outside that system. Precious few artists are able to do that, and those that man age that rare balance usually have accomplished it by actively participating first when they were younger, and as they gain stature and independence are eventually able to set their own boundaries – artists such as Cornell, Johns, Martin, and Nauman come to mind in this regard.

Carey: Thank you Todd.

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 34 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Todd Levin

Todd Levin Interview Continued…

Carey: Are you only working with, or looking for, major blue-chip artists who have had a very extensive exhibition history?

Levin: In my career I’ve worked with a very broad range of historical periods and price points. When one starts out, one is usually on the lower rungs of the ladder in terms of access and the financial amounts involved. If one gains experience and expertise through time, and is recognized as increasingly capable of curatorial responsibility, one moves up the ladder in terms access and financial strata.

I began with art of my own generation. I think it’s natural to begin with one’s peer group, and in my case that was artists of the eighties. Gradually my career broadened and deepened, and became much more multivalent. Today I would agree that the majority of my time is tied up with what you identify as ‘blue-chip’ art, for lack of a better term.

Carey: I’d like to move back a little bit in time to your beginnings in art, maybe the eighties or earlier. What was it—and this could be very early in life if you want—what was it that first attracted you to art, as a child, as a young adult? Do you remember your first experience with art?

Levin: There is no distinct origin point for me. I grew up in Detroit with a single mother – a very well respected and sought after interior designer who was also an art collector. I was exposed to the visual language of art and design from my earliest memories. As my mother was single, I traveled everywhere with her, which meant artist’s studios, museums, galleries, and alternative spaces. It was a regular part of my life since I was a child.

Carey: That’s fascinating. What was she collecting? That seems an extraordinary experience to me as a child. That’s quite a vision to have as a single mother, I would think that with all the other things a parent has to go through, that building a collection is quite visionary, really.

Levin: I think collecting was a natural outgrowth of my mother’s interest in visual language via her interior design practice. And much of the art that she collected has a distinct graphic aspect. Not unlike, perhaps, design renderings or architectural blueprints. It was something that was around the house. It’s something I was accustomed to.

Carey: And you’re also watching and listening which is kind of unusual to see for anyone to be going into artists’ studios as a child, because it sounds like she’s buying directly from artists and you’re hearing the questions she was asking, and how artist are presenting themselves, correct?

Levin: One must remember we’re talking about the early/mid sixties. A very different time and place. There was no art market of the type that we all accept now as the norm. Going to artists’ studios was a much more common and low-key experience than it is now. There was very little money on the table for a gallerist to worry about if a collector went to a studio to “buy direct.” That would now be seen as a financial arbitrage depending on the artist and gallery involved. Things have changed greatly in the last forty or fifty years in the art market.

Carey: So what happened next for you? What happened in college? Were you taking courses in art then, or learning more about the art world so to speak?

Levin: In university I had a dual interest. I had an interest in visual art because I began collecting art in high school. I also had an interest in music, and attended university for doctoral studies in music composition as well. During my university years I developed very strong relationships with artists who I found interesting in my peer group. I was coming to New York regularly at that time because flights were very cheap and I would crash on (artist) friend’s floors or couches. I was exposed to art and artists in the East Village from the late seventies forward. At that time, it seemed that every person I saw on First Avenue was someone in the art world that I either knew personally or recognized. That was my formative first person experience which I drew upon later as an advisor.

Carey: And the artists that you were initially interested in were, I imagine, the seventies and eighties artists. Do you mind saying who those artists were that initially drew your interest? Who of your generation did you begin buying, trading, etc.?

Levin: Well, my mother was collecting artists of her generation– Calder, Johns, Kelly, Lichtenstein, Nauman, Warhol, etc. I saw that she enjoyed the experience of going to studios to meet and talk with these artists, as well as their gallerists. She enjoyed having discussions with lively, intelligent people. It was important to her. In addition, my mother also felt it important to be a good community member in the Arts. She participated on a number of committees and boards at The Detroit Institute of Arts.

It was natural for me to emulate this model of behavior. By the time I was in high school, I was already interested in art and collecting, but mostly on a regional level. Then, during my time in university, I became interested in artists of my own generation. And that was the reason why I began to travel back and forth to New York on a regular basis, to be directly involved in the creation of culture that interested me, in the same way I had seen my mother participate in art of her time.

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.