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The Conversation: an Artist Podcast

A podcast featuring both one-on-one and three-way roundtable conversations with contemporary artists, dealers, curators, and collectors--based in Los Angeles, but reaching nationally and internationally.
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The Conversation: an Artist Podcast
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Apr 20, 2019

Natasha Degen, Chair of the Art Market Studies program at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York, talks about:

Juggling both art market research (including attending art fairs and market-related panels) and teaching/administrative work in her role as chair; the current transition of the market, more towards the most visibly branded and in some cases most powerful galleries, and the greater interest of the public, including globally, in contemporary art; how the brand of Art Basel (Miami) has gained such visibility that people go to Miami for the buzz and the product launches, etc., as much as for the fair itself, which they may not even attend; the goal of increasing diversity in the Art Market program, and the challenge of reconciling class issues that limit the ultimate barriers for entry into the professional art world(s); her prior career as a journalist, in which she got better access but also recognized the extent to which she was swept into the promotional machinery of the art world; the challenges of covering the art market, in getting through/beyond its opacity; the panel about art and money laundering that she participated in; the historically unprecedented rise of China in the art market, whose largest market categories are old masters and decorative art before contemporary art (for now); and the case of one young Chinese artist Natasha visited in New York, who turned down a show at a Lower East Side gallery but had sold out all the work in her studio to a Chinese collector through jpegs only.

Apr 6, 2019

Lakehead University professor and Art after Money, Money After Art author Max Haiven talks about: the ‘Dark Matter’ of the art world (coined by Gregory Sholette); the myth of meritocracy in the art world, as well as in his own academia, and the myth that money follows a logic that it always lands in the right places; how he uses art and the art world as a hieroglyph to understand a broader societal set of trends; how he, both as a critic and activist and a private citizen finds artworks with a political, often radical bent, most compelling (and which inform the curation of the work in the book); how some art as we know it is bleeding into forms of activism or agitation that has potential to resist oligarchical politics and economics that are destroying our world and most people’s lives; how art and money (especially finance) have always been connected; how the corrosive results of ‘finacialization’ includes the sense of competition individuals have towards their fellow citizens, leading to a sense of alienation and loathing the Max things we’re only beginning to understand; the way that critics legitimate works as ‘art,’ for better or worse, and his contention that art has the ability to get under the skin of the economy in ways that almost no other approach does; and how artists can make their most important contributions to social movements and social change not as artists, but as citizens.

Mar 23, 2019

In the 2nd part of the conversation with Glasstire editor Rainey Knudson, she talks about:

The farewell tour leading to her departure from Glasstire in June, which is taking the form of a series of talks, covering social media, its power and expanding reach and influence, as exemplified by someone like Jerry Saltz, and its evils, particularly Facebook, which she’s gotten off of and says her life is so much better because of it; how museums have become experiences of commerce as opposed to venues of self-reflection, including the Broad, the long-lined Yayoi Kusama touring hit, and others; artists who are running away from, or not engaging in, the proper art world – including local Houston heroes Jim Pirtle (of the iconic notsuoH bar), and Rick Low of Project Row Houses; how she doesn’t buy into the traditional metrics for success in the art world; and how she’s surprisingly optimistic about the future, despite all signs to the contrary.

Mar 9, 2019

Rainey Knudson, the editor of Houston-based online art magazine Glasstire, talks about:

The evolution of Glasstire, including when she started making it her full-time job; her piece (a real “cri de coeur,” which I read from in a past podcast outro, “My Fears and Their Assuagements,” particularly the 1st one about becoming a more critical viewer of art over time, and her ever more challenging hunt for great art; Glasstire’s breakdown of their art reviews over a three year period as far as ‘negative,’ ‘positive,’ and ‘neutral,’ and what Rainey’s assessment of those numbers are in relation to the feedback they get from readers after a review; we do all sorts of comparisons between Houston and Los Angeles’s art scenes (shit-talkers vs. backstabbers) including the freedom Rainey believes Houston artists have as compared with the art capitals, and their being supportive as a whole; how overrated Mark Rothko is; and why artists should still make art.

Feb 23, 2019

Los Angeles-based artist Anna Schachte talks about:

Her (and her family’s) decision to leave New York for L.A., including about to have a 2nd child, the love-hate-love relationship with NY and the wildly changed landscape, having lived in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint section of Brooklyn for nearly 17 years; the identity crisis she struggled with after having her first child, when she felt as though she were losing her identity as an artist, especially when combined with her separation from her gallery, which she had worked with right out of grad school; her various day jobs, including “puppet doctor,” scene painter, bartender and bookkeeper, and how she and her husband navigated their earning dynamic when they had kids; how the artist-run gallery that she was part of, Regina Rex, was born, and who was a part of it (mainly grad school colleagues/acquaintances from Chicago); how the gallery moved from Bushwick to the Lower East Side, and how this group of around 13 artists navigated decision making, curating, and business (who of the group was able to sell work, to make it sustainable) as a gallery, and experience she called “a beautiful utopian experience, until capitalism took over and chewed it up and burned it out.”

Feb 2, 2019

Jeff Weiss, artist, former professor of art, and creator of the OLD NEWS email list (aka Weisslink), talks about:

How and why he started OLD NEWS (initially for his students), the size of the list, the rules for how he puts the list together each day/night (7 days/week, 365/year), what kind of feedback he receives from readers/consumers of his list, and how he sees it as art; his takeaways from doing OLD NEWS, including how he chooses articles and why--as Duchamp said, art and money shouldn’t be confused; the long, arduous process of making a physical version of OLD NEWS for its 15th anniversary, a 5475-page book (one page per email over 15 years) that is moved around on a wagon; and he talks briefly about a mysterious project involving a vending machine that he’s looking for a home for.

Jan 19, 2019

Nick Ravich, director of production for Art21 in New York, talks about:

 His approach as both a producer and a director of Art21 artist docs, which are produced in both shorter form as well as longer form on their most well-known platform, Art in the 21st Century, which is broadcast on PBS; the variation in artists’ approaches and responses to being subjects of Art21, and how inevitably they’re often made to be vulnerable, at the least by having a camera on them in their studio for an entire day (if not more); how Art21 survives as an institution, particularly with all of the other video-about-contemporary-art platforms that have sprung up since they launched; the affirmative dynamic Art21 has towards its artists, and how the process of choosing artists works (the artists almost always say yes); a bizarre experience he had with the photographer Kay Grannan when they were on a shoot and staying at a Las Vegas motel off the strip; and Nick launches into an insightful analysis of the differences between podcasts and video in terms of to what extent someone (artists in particular) will open up.

Jan 6, 2019

Simon Leung, Los Angeles-based artist and head of UC Irvine’s MFA program, talks about:

His 25-year relationship with Warren Niesłuchowski and Simon’s film, “War after War,” which is about Warren’s nomadic life; Warren’s background as a child of holocaust refugees, thru his experience of May ’68 in Paris, being part of the experimental theater world, becoming a war deserter, to the realities of his moving from place to place and city to city, relying on the kindness of friends and acquaintances who host him; Simon’s circuitous route to becoming a professor, without getting an MFA; what he himself advocates for undergrads who are thinking about grad school; how he compares his status as a UC professor to being a Roman senator, in the sense of his feeling of security amongst the crowd; and his performance piece “Actions!,” which performed at MoMA and then re-performed with a new script at the Hammer Museum (Actions! Adjuncts!), both forms of worker’s theater borne out of Simon’s identification with the museum workers’ strike, and whose scripts came out of his conversations with them.

Dec 22, 2018

In part 3 of 3 from the Donum Estate winery in Sonoma, Kristen Haring, technology writer, Keith Haring Foundation board member and youngest sister of the late Keith Haring, talks about:

Her work with the Foundation, which was started in 1989, and how Keith came to set it up out of his involvement in charities, including making logos for several organizations; her relationship with Keith (who was 12 years older), which was emphasized by his wanting to be a big influence on her, and later his wanting her to have her own life, separate from his career and Foundation; her experiences going in and out of the art world (as a non-art person), which she often finds bizarre, and describes as feeling like an anthropologist, and which started as early as when she was 11, when the family would go into the city from Pennsylvania for Keith’s openings; Keith’s concerns about economic disparity generally, and specifically in the form of collectors who would own his work to the exclusion of the public, and in turn, his efforts to make his work available to as many people who wanted it as possible, including through his Pop Shop, which, as opposed to criticisms of his being a sell-out, was in fact only profitable 2 of its 19 years;  Keith’s interest in becoming famous, which Kristen found unappealing…in fact, her exposure to celebrity through Keith’s access made her move towards a desire to have a private life; and Keith’s 25-foot-tall steel sculpture, “King and Queen,” installed at Donum Winery.

Dec 8, 2018

Ianna Frisby and Gioia Fonda of Sacramento-based project Art Advice talk about:

How they came to start their collaborative project Art Advice, which is physically the real-life equivalent of the booth Lucy helmed in the cartoon Peanuts, only in this case they specialize in serving artists; the reason they both wound up in Sacramento, and the many pros that outweigh the cons of living in a non-art capital, including its scalable community and navigability; the pros and cons of going to grad school, and a Do-it-Yourself program put together by artists in Oakland that prospective students could consider before paying hefty grad school tuition; how local artists have forged their own paths without grad school; how to handle rejection, via a handout that Gioia wrote, which mainly entails getting back on the horse and applying to more opportunities, and how important it is to pursue relevant and targeted ones; and the gratifying aspects of running the Art Advice booth in its democratizing of the art community, and how it’s an instant gratification alternative to the slowness of institutional bureaucracy.

Nov 24, 2018

Debi Wisch and Jennifer Blei Stockman, two of the three main producers of the documentary The Price of Everything, about art and money, talk about:

The breakdown of the sales system in terms of democratization; auctioneer Simon de Pury’s line: “you should buy with your eyes, not your ears,” and ignore the background noise, as Debi puts it; buying trends among collectors, and the pros and cons of those purchases; the complications of gifting collections to museums; resources available to artists on the film’s website; the producers’ goals in terms of pulling back the curtain on the art world and getting people thinking and asking questions, and how one personal motivation was not being able to collect a lot of contemporary art they’d been interested in because it was too expensive; how artists (including Jeff Koons) don’t make any money from their work when it sells at auction; the draw of contemporary art around the world that’s been made apparent to the filmmakers through the many countries that have shown interest in the film; the possible reasons why a German refugee, just prior to the Holocaust, owns a Maurizio Cattelan sculpture of an adolescent-sized Adolph Hitler on his knees; and the challenges and thrills of navigating the learning curve of filmmaking over a seven-year span for this ambitious documentary.

Nov 10, 2018

On the 7th anniversary of The Conversation, NYC-based art consultant and secondary market seller Daniel Oglander talks about:

His daily routine as an art advisor who works from home; a multi-person, four-month-long deal (involving a Warhol) that went wrong at the last minute, and how; how trust plays such an important factor in the highly unregulated marketplace that he works in, and functions to actually keep it together; the relationships he has with his younger collectors, for whom his objective is to get them to develop their own voice; the pros and cons of working on deals with high-priced art vs. low-priced art; why he’s tired of being asked about George Condo paintings; and speaking of Condo, he shares a harrowing story involving the delivery of a Condo painting to an impatient collector.

Oct 27, 2018

Madrid-based English sculptor Richard Hudson, onsite at Donum Estate winery, talks about:

The history of both the concept and production of his large-scale sculpture “Love Me,” completed and installed at Donum in 2016, which sits at the highest point of the winery, is 8 meters (26 feet) high, 8 meters wide and weighs 16 tons; his transition from property developer to world traveler- he went on a walkabout that lasted 4 ½ years – to deciding to become an artist at 42, and his quick career success; his sons, who are both artists; and his romantic philosophies about life and art-making.

Oct 13, 2018

New York-based artist and outdoor advertising interventionist Jordan Seiler talks about:

Being both an artist and an activist, titles which can be interchangeable, and his initial impulse to address public space taken over by advertising as a citizen of New York City; his origins as a billboard and ad poster interventionist, starting from when a teacher provoked him by saying that he wasn’t capable of doing it; how he realized one of his main objectives was to attempt to change people’s attitude toward advertising in public space, to ask questions including “why?” and “at what cost?,” and how part of that process involved taking over large-scale ad campaign platforms, particularly via illegally posted ads; and how to do your own billboard/outdoor advertising interventions without getting caught, and, if you do get questioned by the police, what to say to them.

Oct 6, 2018

Introducing Conversation Art Podcast listeners to Michael Shaw's new podcast, How I Get By.

Episode 1 features Julie R.

She works as a substitute teacher and a babysitter in Boulder, Colorado. She’s charming and funny, and doesn’t mince words when talking about how she gets by. The way she talks about her future challenges feel universal.

Sep 29, 2018

London-based sculptor Douglas White talks about: the harvesting of blown-out tires on the side of the road in Belize, which were collected and turned into his rubber palm tree sculpture, “Black Palm;” how the logistics of collecting and shipping flora and objects, and interacting with people along the way, is an intrinsic part of his work; how encountering a dead bat in Australia eventually led to a piece using dried banana peels; and what it’s been like getting to revisit Black Palm at Donum Estate two years after initial installation.

Sep 15, 2018

Brigitte Mulholland, associate director at Anton Kern gallery, talks about:

Her early turning points that led her away from traditional art history (and early marriage) and into contemporary art and working at galleries; what she loves about working in galleries in general and Anton Kern in particular, including getting to work with and be at the service of artists, especially Chris Martin, whom she adores; how she’s know at the gallery for handling the toughest calls from clients, including being the one who gets yelled at; the troubled realities of the way some collectors behave, from flirting all the way to virtually demanding sexual favors for them to make a purchase, and how Brigitte decided not to wear a wedding ring because, as her married colleagues told her, ‘it would only encourage them;’ how #MeToo has thus far only affected curators and publishers in the art world, and her skepticism that it will take down collectors anytime soon; how she’s somehow both extraordinarily sensitive AND has a thick skin at the same time, and she thinks you need a thick skin to work in the gallery world; and how for her, it’s ultimately about the art and the artists first and foremost…the sales tend to fall into place.

Sep 1, 2018

Performance artist, art critic and newly minted UNLV art department chair Marcus Civin talks about:

Why he decided to take the job, moving from a satisfying academic career in Baltimore at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA); how his involvement in the Providence, R.I.-based art collective New Urban Arts launched his career trajectory as an undergrad, providing connections and mindset; the harsh realities of being an adjunct teacher (whom he hires as dept. chair), and how as a prospective adjunct you need to know what you’re in for, and it’s not for everyone; the harsh realities against becoming a salaried faculty member, he (slim) odds for adjuncts getting those slots, and his own theories about the pros and cons of certain types of faculty candidates he’s considering hiring; his performance art, including his ideal venue and his ideal size audience and the roots of his work in the court jester and the absurd; how the students he’s encountering at UNLV are warriors leading a revolution, and are ready for change, and compared being in college in 2018 to being in college in 1968 in terms of the potency of the moment; and his misstep in sharing a seminal Chris Burden performance with a performance class at MICA, and what a wake-up call it was for him.

Aug 18, 2018

In the 2nd half of our long conversation, NYC-based artist Joshua Citarella talks about:

The end of his run making a living from his work – by selling it through galleries and through his and Brad Troemmel’s UV Production House – and his urgency to get a full-time job lined up as soon as possible, only to find that, as a photo re-toucher, the only jobs available were freelance or “permalance;”  our current gilded age of income inequality, which led him to quote Mike Peppe, who coined the term “cloud feudalism”; the precarity of being a freelancer, and how it’s affected his thoughts about artists and their choices, as well as his assertion that the cost and barrier for entry into the art world is so high that it’s almost exclusively restricted to the leisure class, and how the tensions around that divide is particularly apparent on the ground in New York; pieces from his and Brad Troemmel’s UV Production House, which they ran out of Ebay for a while until they were kicked off for the 7th time (for breaching the terms of service); and more about the inequities of the market, especially for those trying to figure out how to make a living, via their artwork and/or otherwise.

Aug 11, 2018

In the part 1 of 2 episodes, NYC artist Joshua Citarella talks about:

Why he grew disillusioned with the art world vis-à-vis the art market, including his having early success but also being part of the ‘pump-and-dump’ market rise and fall between 2012 and 2015; his collaborations with artist Brad Troemmel - who was profiled in a New Yorker article by Adrien Chen, and in which Citarella was also featured – particularly their online marketplace project UV Production House; his thoughts on social media, particularly his wisdom about Instagram, and how artists should aim to be tastemakers rather than following trends that the algorithms like; his hope in using social media (via Meme culture and more) to take down established structures of the art world, and the subsequent hard dose of reality that followed; untangling the concept, or the presumption even, that an artist is a progressive; and navigating the roles of artist and activist, and where an artist can be most productive.

Jul 28, 2018

New York-based artist/sculptor Hein Koh talks about:

Her multiple living spots throughout New York, from Astoria to Bedford Stuyvesant (where she heard gunshots on her block more than once) to the Upper East Side and back to Brooklyn, initially guided by the need to have a basement for band practice, and later by proximity to her husband’s work and their friends in Brooklyn; her 2015 Instagram post (also shared on FB) -- of her double breast-feeding her newborn twins while simultaneously working on her laptop, couple with a very thoughtful and provocative caption about her experience as a mom and artist who’s transformed for the better – which went viral, and what her experience as a viral celebrity was like, both pros and cons; the change in her artwork after having kids, which went from much darker to more colorful, including starting to use metallic spandex in her sculptures right after her kids were born.

Jul 14, 2018

Social media influencer and consultant Robin Cembalest (with 45K IG followers) talks about:

How she went from art magazine writing and editing to working more and more prominently in social media, first with Tumblr and then Twitter and Instagram; her strategies for using Twitter, including using Twitter ‘lists,’ as well as the same for Instagram, including: whom you might follow, the three-second rule for whom to follow, how WHO you follow and follows you is ultimately more important than your Like and Follower numbers, and the importance of your message - what are you trying to tell people - above all else, even ‘felicitous’ images; how Instagram is a form of ‘micro-networking’ that can be used for connecting to people in real life; and how people are talking with each other these days through images, and how in her consulting business she teaches clients how to communicate the points you want people to know about you.

Jun 30, 2018

Lucas Spivey of the roving projects Mobile Incubator and Culture Hustlers talks about:

His origin story of getting into art education, including wanting to fix an inadequate system; how over a year and a half he drove over 20,000 miles and met with over 2000 artists in 42 states, hearing people’s stories and eventually conducting podcasts and call-in shows; the Santa Fe-based art collective Meow Wolf; the importance of cultivating 1000 true fans (as written by Kevin Kelly), and how he sees the listeners of his podcast as side hustlers, not the artist who’s already made it; his advice about what an artist should do in certain situations, including whether to make work that’s experimental vs. marketable, and what their plan should be if they’re working multiple part-time jobs but really just want to paint.

Jun 16, 2018

Brooklyn, and occasionally London-based art writer Margaret Carrigan talks about:

The challenges of being a freelance art journalist, including connecting with new editors and making sure not to be juggling too many, or too few, articles at a time; her provocative article, Jerry Saltz has a Pulitzer and I have Questions, for the New York Observer, and all of the many pros and cons related to Saltz’s writing, and the state of art criticism generally, including how much there may be a trend towards anti-intellectualism; to cover, or not to cover art fairs as an art writer; and her big takeaways from working at Modern Painters magazine, her last full-time job, including the deviousness of capitalism in the form of Blouin Media.

Jun 1, 2018

Berlin-based artist Lee Wagstaff talks about:   Leaving London several years in advance of the 2012 Olympics, when he saw the writing on the wall in terms of development and subsequently, rent; how his career took off initially via his thesis show at the Royal College of Art, which featured his prominent body art, composed of geometric patterns he designed himself (and we subsequently talk extensively about his history with tattoos- one symbol in particular); his French ‘agent,’ whom he still calls a good friend, who facilitated the first few years of his career by doing everything from buying Lee’s work to buying his materials to setting up shows; how David Bowie, who collected Lee’s work, has supported him mentally, even though they never met; how he turned the gallery that he ran while also his studio, back into his studio that can become a gallery when he wants (and needs) to show and sell his work; and we talk frankly about his struggles as an artist to take advantage of the opportunities he’s had, mostly because he doesn’t fulfill the mold of the artist who’s good at networking and schmoozing.

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