Thursday, April 17, 2008

I've Been Drafted

I've been drafted into this argument.
Derek Shumate did it.


I think THIS post is worthy of a Part II.

I think it's more complicated than this dude.
Yes, yes it is.

For example, Art Crawl. [b.s. has been the Artcrawl director for 2 years] Sure, I could run my own show at the same time and not pay an entry fee to help with the organization/printing/etc...
Is it morally sound? Would you be considered a hack?
I would talk shit to other people if you shirked your measly payment to the Artcrawl. Three artists upstairs at Gribble Stamp and Michael Kahlil Taylor across the street undercut us last year. Supposedly altruistic MOCAH not only skipped out on paying, they threw their own "festival" after telling us they would not be participating. I do believe that 35 bucks is too high for an entry fee, but we bus people around. Outside of the marketing and interviews and hustling that we do for y'all at least we have a bus.

Best sales pitch I have for Artcrawl is that is it the best $35 of marketing you can buy.

Answers are probably no but some might consider you a cheat instead. I don't mind paying such an entry fee because I know it's an independently run event and that it does take time/money/effort to pull off. I'm totally down for supporting my local 'scene.' Regardless of my ability to raise the money back off of sales.
Yes. Many times it is about exposure, not sales.

But while we're on the subject, why don't we talk about other related issues such as entry fees to get published in a directory and/or gallery compensation on sales?
Well, both cases come down to: is it worth the money in exposure.
No curator uses an artist directory.
Galleries are paid well to advertise for you, sell your work, and sell your work into the right hands- where it will appreciate.

In specific, everyone's new favorite bookstore, Domy. Aside from many other shady occurrences (such as not letting the Free Press be distributed there) These people have hired artists at little more than min. wage and still jack (from what I hear) 30-40% of their sales. Maybe I'm wrong with the number but WTF?
Domy can do whatever they want. They have clout now, and they can kick the Free Press out the door (they all still read it, you know)
That same clout is what any gallery banks on. Very few galleries make any money, but the ones who do have a stable of collectors who can be counted on to enjoy a gallerist's company and work with them. Just like the artists.

On the high end a collector can donate your work to a museum and increase the value of all of your work. On the low end Domy can be charitable and not take 50% because they sell to kids and gangsters and nerds and artists. They are still putting up with your work and throwing a party for you, but they don't have the connections to work the artworld machine. Hopefully they sell something (which Domy usually does) and that's how you tell a gallery is right for you :)
As far as paying employees vs. representing artists, I have nothing to say.

That's just as bad as Elder St. Art Gallery asking me to be a part of a group show (one-night-only) for $35 even though I fucking live in the complex. Domy (Dan) obviously has money. So why not support the local arts (which in turn brings cafe/book business) instead of exploit it? (Maybe this is why Mixture was a failure?)
Elder Street wants 35 for a show? Just think about if the marketing is worth that much, because you will not sell a piece except to a friend (and you could do that at home).
Dan is supporting the arts, he's being generous even.
Mixture wasn't a failure- the curator went on to NYC and is big business now.

If your RED HOT artist brings in 2k+ people then why the hell would you be worried about taking a cut from the artist? You're obviously making money off of other product. Not to mention the priceless amount of exposure.
The MFAH Red Hot show worked in a very different way. The collector donated half of his collection to the museum, which raised the value of his remaining holdings. Selling the Red Hot books probably lost money, since the museum will print enough books to last them a very long time and get the publication into as many hands (hands that matter) as possible.

I could go on about this space but I'll leave it alone with this last comment. Real Galleries take money from artists as a way to keep the Gallery afloat. Where else would they get funding outside of donors?
Most galleries in Houston are run as navel-gazing enterprises, they do not make money. Rather, they are kept alive as grand hobbies which eat massive amounts of cash. "Real" galleries make money by grooming artists to be collectors' favorites, wheeling and dealing to increase the value of work they have already sold, selling artwork based on market appreciation and partnering with other galleries to piggyback on success.

However, Domy is a Book Store, NOT a Gallery. THey have many products and avenues to make money and stay alive. There is no reasoning behind their choice to operate like a Gallery would. Which is why they receive no business from me.
If you act like a gallery, you are a gallery.

Anyway, The reason I'm writing examples with no ending point to sell you on is because it really is a fine line and comes down to an individuals intellect and morales. Maybe even their pocket book. They should decide for themselves what works for them and work with opportunities like this if it makes sense for their style and audience. Sure, what's posted HERE looks like a horrible idea and reminds me of galleries involved with Yale St. Arts Market. BUT I also think that what's going on with other businesses isn't much better. Just think about what you're doing, people. Don't be used. Make sure both you and the organization are benefiting from an event. Otherwise it's probably not worth pursuing.

One more thing, the reasoning in this article is VERY confusing considering your public stance on the Hunting Prize & Red Bull Art of Can competition. These don't cost money to play and the rewards are huge. So that's wrong and now stuff like this as well? Please explain what's morally sound from your perspective so we know where you're really coming from.
There is nothing moral about the situation. I do not claim any morality.

I believe that the Hunting Prize is an organization that is insulting to artists, but one's name on the long 'short list' is definitely worth it's weight in marketing. The Red Bull Can of Art is bad because it is branded marketing, reducing artists to corporate shills.

Warhol did Absolut ads as a celebrity, but that is different than when Rothko drew greeting cards under a pseudonym. The Red Bull competition is an invitation to craft an object, not create art.

I have applied for three free things in the past few months, a Houston Arts Alliance grant, the Artadia Award and Diverseworks' The Real(Art) World. They were all free and they all seem to be interested in promoting an artist on artistic grounds- not for their own clout to oil executives (Hunting) or for their own brand recognition (Red Bull). Both clout and branding come into play with every decision an artist makes- but don't be blinded by either.

Thank you!


Unknown said...

Greetings Sean,
I just wanted to say hello and tell you that you are a very talented writer. I have read your work before and I recently started reading your Blog, believe me I will continue reading.
I agree with the the comments and answers you issued in part I and II of the article "I've Been Drafted".
The Art Industry is a competitive business. Artists in most if not all branches of the visual and performing arts have to pay for everything. Most people don't know that, not even newbies. Be it spending money on promotion, materials, housing, education, fees, etc. everything comes out of my pocket. The arts industry is very cut-throat, maybe they should do a reality show based on this but this is beside the point. If you want to get into this business you have to know there is always someone going to want a cut from your paycheck, be it a gallery, an arts organization, a frame shop and the government; even a needy friend who wants to bask in your success.
It is just the course of the business.
The truth is 95 percent of emerging artist barely make enough money to make ends meet. It is not fair then to question how an artist runs his own business. Art is a tough business and yes art is corrupt and yes there will always be competition. The sooner beginning artists know this the better.
Anyway I'm just ranting, but I agree with your recent editorial letting the reader know that art is a machine and it is a business and it will keep on running. If one decides to get into art then being an artist is the toughest career you will ever love. I also wanted to pimp my own Blog: Art Magazine at
I hope we are able to talk in person one day soon.
With Best Regards,
Roberto J. Ramirez

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