This special episode features return-guest-but-more-co-host Deb Klowden Mann to discuss the recent New Yorker profile of mega-dealer Larry Gagosian. Deb starts us off by updating us on her closing of her eponymous gallery due to multiple health issues, which made the work unsustainable. We follow that update with our discussion of the article, including:
Our respective histories with Gagosian and/or his collectors mentioned in the article; how Gagosian’s decision to allow the profile may be because it humanizes him to the audience, but also, as Deb proposes, to make him and the gallery more appealing to younger artists they could possibly take on; Deb sites a book from the early ‘80s, “The Art Dealers: The Powers Behind the Scene Tell How the Art World Really Works,” which illustrates how when it comes to collectors treating art as investments, it’s been happening for nearly 200 years; how the funding that goes to high-priced artworks sometimes comes from the same people who fund grants/grant foundations, Deb suggests, and she advocates for a more transparent, as well as more evenly distributed financial model for the art world(s); Gagosian’s gallery courtship of the English artist Issy Wood, and what that scenario points to as far as his courtship process, the future of the gallery and his legacy plans, and the vulnerability apparent in that dynamic; Deb’s desire for more really well researched and written pieces (like this one by Patrick Radden Keefe) about how everything works in the art world; and finally, Deb brings up the book The Art of Death as a counterpoint to one’s amassing of power and wealth to stave off mortality, because in many cultures up until the 1800’s, one of the main functions of art was in fact to help people understand death as part of life and prepare them for it.
Long Beach-based artist and former produce field worker Narsiso Martinez talks about:
Growing up in a small town in Oaxaca, Mexico (Santa Cruz Papalutla), with several brothers and sisters, and a mom and dad who were often on the road for work; his resistance and questioning of working in the fields, something his family did when he was growing up as a way to have food on hand in tighter times; a very condensed version of his travails in crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S., which took him 4 tries to do; his initial settling in Los Angeles with one of his brothers, who is in the car upholstery business; going to an adult high school to learn English as well as other classes, on his way to going to Cal State Long Beach for an undergraduate, and eventually an MFA degree; how he made his adult high school studies a higher priority than his day jobs, so if a job conflicted with school, he would leave the job; his ups and downs at LA City College, where he got his associate degree and may have gone into biology if it wasn’t for his lack of resident papers; what it was like working in the fields – physically as well as mentally – up in Washington state, where he picked produce including asparagus, cherries and apples, both for one full year, as well as over the summers between Cal State Long Beach school years; his gradual discovery of produce boxes that became the surfaces/objects for his paintings, starting with collecting a few boxes from a Costco; his complex thoughts and feelings about class differences, including thinking of himself as something of a role model for who people can become, as well as the importance of education, and family support, in making his long journey, which he describes as many different lives.
Connecticut- and New York City-based artist Alexis Rockman talks about:
His semi-exodus from Manhattan, where he’s lived his whole life, to a fairly rural part of Connecticut called Warren; leaving his Tribeca studio of 33 years and building a new one on the property of their house in Warren; his early love and interest in animals through his anthropologist mom’s encouragement which led to everything from keeping fish, turtles and iguanas in his childhood room to going scuba diving and spending a lot of time in Australia, where his stepfather was from, encountering wombats, Komodo dragons, and large flightless birds; his appreciation of science fiction movies of the late 60s and early 70s, and how the ideas in those movies were an influence on his apocalyptic paintings; the origins of his painting ‘Manifest Destiny,’ which is in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum; his recent work, which is in conversation with historic painters – Courbet, Clyfford Still, Peder Balke – and the joy of painting in addition to addressing climate change; how he jumped for joy for ‘owning’ natural history, as a painter, when he first established his artistic vision at the start of his career in the mid-1980s; working as a vision artist for films, including Life of Pi and the remake of the Little Mermaid; and how he feels about his relative ‘fame,’ and the ebbs and flows of success.
Hungarian billionaire Gabriela and artist and architect Andi Schmied talk about:
Andi’s residencies, across Asia and Europe, as well as the Triangle Arts residency in DUMBO, Brooklyn, where she first connected with her fellow Hungarian, the billionaire Gabriela; some of the developments around the world that led her to the realization that there’s a glut of useless, ultra-wealthy housing that’s not actually being used, particularly a complex of villas about 100 miles outside of Beijing, where the groundskeepers wound up squatting in the empty units; doing a residency in New York in 2016, when she encountered Gabriela for the first time, who would become her key collaborator for what would her project ‘Private Views;’ the world of ultra-high end real estate, including the dynamics of a real estate agent showing a penthouse apartment of a very tall building to a client, and how Gabriela navigated these experiences; the questions the real estate agents showing these penthouses and other very expensive apartments asked, and what that revealed about the world of the ultra-wealthy; the various ways super-tall buildings in Manhattan are impacting everything from income inequality to changing the flora and fauna in Central Park from the long shadows they cast.
Art Advisor Lisa Schiff has been in the news over the last two weeks, because of lawsuits being filed against her by clients who weren't given the artworks they paid for, and Schiff has subsequently filed for bankruptcy.
How did this happen? Was there any indication, from the warm and thoughtful conversation I had with her in late 2014, that anything like this would happen down the road?
We re-visit Episode 99, from early 2015.
In Bonus Episode 344, San Francisco and northern Virginia-based artist Alex Nowik talks about:
The art communities he’s been part of in the Bay Area, which have been fruitful for him as a self-taught artist, and how he feels that there are little ‘bubbling’ art scenes that are continuing to thrive around the Bay, whether in Oakland or San Francisco, with young artists; his complicated family background, including a half-Japanese, half-Polish mother who grew up in California, often passing as white (she sometimes called herself ‘Eurasian’) and his father, who was from Poland and escaped the Holocaust through a harrowing series of hidings and passing as a gentile with fake names until he was able to emigrate to Montreal; his ability to distance himself from his parents’ respective traumas; his various day jobs over the years, which he describes positively, particularly working as a gardener; his car-free lifestyle both in SF and in Virginia, just outside of D.C.; and his thoughts on the Philip Guston exhibition at the National Gallery (which he’s seen twice), and how he thinks about the controversy around Guston’s hooded figures in terms of the Jew in America and assimilation.
To access this Bonus Episode of the show, please consider supporting The Conversation on Patreon here:
Brooklyn-based artist Nancy Blum talks about:
Her relationship with Judaism, both growing up and as an adult, where her exploration of healing and self-soothing from generational trauma, which ultimately connects with her art; her alternative interpretation of the word ‘therapeutic,’ in relation to art-making, how it can be something deeply personal that artists are trying to share; the use of flowers in her work, which was radical when she started using them 20 years ago, and how their use has risen since the pandemic; her experience making it work as an artist in New York City, where she’s settled after many years living and working as a nomad; how artists can now have successful, legitimate careers anywhere in the U.S., and why she’s chosen to live in NY because it meets her needs and she loves it, even if it doesn’t love her; bringing a Buddhist approach to the way she thinks about her work can career, and how important it is for artists to have the tools to deal with discouragement so that they keep going; questioning what defines success for an artist, and how the distorted perceived norms of success and what we should be or have become vehicles of defeat and low self-esteem for artists; how meaningful it’s been for her to make the public art mosaic for the 28th Street Subway station, and how she wants her public works to do the work- healing, bringing joy to people, etc. – for her; her earliest public projects, which got her into making public art; and why university art teaching was unsustainable as part of her career path.
In this in-between (342 and 343) episode, I talk about the new Bonus Episode with Stefanie Kogler-Heimburger (for subscribers only), and recent OLD NEWS including a photo contest winner who used AI to generate his image and subsequently withdrew his win; a successful Union strike at RISD; and art vs. advertising in the form of a muffin mural for a bakery in Conway, New Hampshire.
To access the newest Bonus Episode 342 plus all other past Subscriber-only episodes, become a Patreon donor for as little as $1 a month by subscribing here:
Berlin-based artist and co-curator of the exhibition ‘Class Issues: Art Production in and out of Precarity,’ Norbert Witzgall talks about:
The term/phenomenon of “Hope Labor,” which drives the economy of fine art and is based on the presumption that your hard work will pay off when you ‘make it;’ how Berlin has become prohibitively expensive for artists, which among other things has led to artists creating platforms such as the Ministry for Empathy to help artists in need; mental health in connection with artists’ labor conditions; the challenge for migrants in getting German grants, largely because of accessibility and knowledge; the intersectionality of exclusion, which is essentially how access includes less frequently acknowledged statuses such as class background and housing in addition to race and gender; art’s struggle to represent the society at large, using the example that there are no Germans of Turkish descent who are recognized in the art world; homeless artists, in particular a German collective, ‘Anonymous,’ included in ‘Class Issues;’ the poverty of some artists in old age; the transparency they used in ‘Class Issues,’ including production costs for the artworks, the family background of the artist, and what an artist’s pension is/will be; his at one time 11 simultaneous freelance jobs, which meant a big ‘class journey,’ or class switching, between gigs; his decision to re-train as a fine arts school teacher, which he started but then left at 19, coming back this time because he has the life experience to bring with him; and the hope that we can decrease the amount of ‘hope labor’ being put out by many, many artists.
In this Conversation MIDWAY - between epis. 340 and 341 - I talk about the bonus episode for Patreons, featuring Blum-Weinberg-Keinholz-Rottweiler, as well as talk about the art services industry via the Worst Job Posting Ever Created, the Nan Goldin documentary, and Tom Sachs, among other related topics.
If you would like to access Episode 340A, which features four great stories from Art Can Kill, you can support The Conversation on Patreon here:
Episode 340- Veteran art handler and preparator Bryan Cooke talks about:
Cooke’s Crating, the business he started back in 1975, and how it’s essentially a service business, one that has grown with the art market, particularly in the last 10 years; why they don’t use the word ‘art’ in the company title, and how they discreetly move art around, especially high-priced works; how and why he self-published his book, Art Can Kill; some of his near-death experiences in art handling, including two involving elevators (one of my least favorite places); why he put himself in the line of risk, shielding his employees from danger; and he tells a condensed version of an epic story from the book in which a client for all intents and purposes kidnaps Bryan and his colleague during a moving job, on a large estate outside Chicago.
In this Teaser for Episode 339A, which is only available to Patreon supporters of the show, we talk about becoming a supporter of the show, read from a bit of the intro to the book Art Can Kill, and talk about the comments from an article on the collector Adam Lindeman's upcoming March 9th auction at Christie's.
If you would like to access Episode 339A, which features three great stories from Art Can Kill, by Bryan Cooke (an upcoming guest on the podcast), you can support The Conversation on Patreon here:
Arts writer and former professional surfer Jamie Brisick talks about: w hat it was like being on the pro surfing tour back in his late teens and early 20s, and how he developed his Plan B career initially as a surfing writer before moving into arts & culture writing; how he comes to art/the art world with a relatively fresh perspective, and has experienced some unsavoriness in the upper spheres in its being too much like high school in terms of popularity, etc.; what it means when, to quote the artist Paul Chan in this case, ‘Success is its own form of failure;’ the varied and fascinating work of Francis Alÿs, whom Brisick tried to get an interview with but was essentially blown off, but whom he still highly respects and reveres as an artist; the artworks, storytelling, and other idiosyncrasies of quintessential surfing-art artist, Raymond Pettibon, whom Brisick has profiled extensively and become friends with; the surf-skate pioneer Craig Stecyk (also a mentor of Brisick’s) and his crazy performance art stunts; and his relationship with the journalist and writer William Finnegan, whose struggle with his memoir may be a source of inspiration for listeners.
n the 14th installment of the podcast’s Virtual Café, we take as our prompt a Dec. review by NYTimes art critic Holland Cotter about politics in art:
About 10 artists in the Virtual Café (including past guests Ianna Frisby of Art Advice and William Powhida) talk about art and politics, including successful examples of political art; the nimbleness of capitalism to absorb all things protest; the challenges and failures of artists to organize, particularly artist unions; the question of whether artwork being in a gallery is neutered, in terms of its political/social power; virtue signaling in art, particularly political art; Theaster Gates as a strong example of an artist changing a community, and of socially engaged art; the importance of the rhetoric around so-called political art (including the good side of the word ‘didactic'); the lack of transparency in galleries reporting where their donations to (political) causes are allocated; and how to take political art to the people, as opposed to through the gallery system.
His motivations in writing the book, largely motivated by dispelling the myth that this (our current internet/social media era) was the greatest time ever to be an artist, as well as trying to understand how artists (not just visual, artists across all fields- writing, music, film & television) were adapting to making art and surviving in an this world; why he strongly believes that not everyone can be an artist; how and why the monopoly on taste has been broken through a more middle-brow level of connoisseurship; how we can’t dispense with the gatekeeper, whether it’s the curator of artists or our listening playlists; artists’ relative comfort (or discomfort) with using social media, which isn’t as tied to age as you would think; the wide variety of day jobs that artists do (including a list of 50 jobs/gigs that Deresiewicz compiled), and the degrees of poverty artists live with; the delicate and complex dynamic of artists walking away from being artists (which is of course very hard to document); the artist Paul Rucker (perhaps the only artist profiled in the book whom I should have heard of) who’s had a wide-ranging and remarkable career; the challenge of finding and working with the ‘typical’ working artist- artists whose careers were coming up but not yet well known; and what a solid work-lifestyle balance looks like for one of the artists in the book, as well as for Deresiewicz himself.
For this latest roundup of OLD NEWS stories, we’re joined by a very special guest, to talk about:
The MASS MoCA union; the new monument to the Central Park 5; the debate about bringing attention to the climate crisis by throwing food and attaching body parts to famous artworks in museum, as analyzed by Jerry Saltz in his piece ‘MASHED POTATOES MEET MONET,’ as well as through our own lenses on the phenomenon; how a stolen painting was turned into a popular throw pillow (which you can purchase online for $18.40 plus shipping); the struggles of Pace Gallery’s Superblue, and the history of Pace through the Glimcher family, including a botched diversity hiring of Marc Glimcher’s daughter; Guy Richards Smit’s cartoon, “WHAT DO YOU SAY TO SOMEONE AFTER A VERY BAD STUDIO VISIT?”; a consideration of big tech’s plundering of art and illustration for its generative AI projects, as poetically analyzed through Molly Crabapple’s LA Times Op-Ed, “BEWARE A WORLD WHERE ARTISTS ARE REPLACED BY ROBOTS;” why the director of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery is demanding employees follow strict guidelines for email etiquette; and what our respective OLD NEWS favorites for the week were.
Oakland-based curator and arts administrator Zoë Taleporos talks about:
Her straddling independent curating and government-supported public art curating/administrating in her role working for the City of Berkeley; how her curating is more about bringing artists in, as artist outreach, but not cultural gatekeeping; why public art looks the way it does, and why the language of public art has remained unchanged for so long, as well as the problems professionals are faced with in trying to change the face of public art; how one sculpture in San Francisco, while avoiding the problem of becoming a target for skateboarding, but instead became an ad-hoc BMX bike ramp; the alternative and more interesting version of public art: temporary public art, which allows a lot more flexibility and freedom; how panelists judge all public art candidates (Zoë has presented) by a list of criteria, and how she’s always in the room, but never voting as a panelist; the tension in the room when panelists with a wide range of experience with contemporary art weigh in on the candidates who are submitted; the strong mural history and presence in the Bay Area, which are not necessarily a deterrent to graffiti; and how it’s exciting for her to take a given artist’s work and translate it into public art.
Amsterdam-based artist Tjebbe Beekman talks about:
His show in New York at GRIMM gallery (which just opened when we spoke); his 9-year stint living in Berlin, before moving back to Amsterdam at the time his son was beginning school, and how he misses the big-city benefits of Berlin; the big turning point in his work and in his life, when in a span of less than a couple of years his mother died followed by his father’s tragic death in a boating accident, early on in a journey attempting to travel the world; how his father’s death was complicated by the slow to non-existent communication about what happened, and then the time it took to get his remains back, all of which led him to stop painting for half a year; how he re-engaged his artmaking by visiting friends at the Luceberthuis residency in the Netherlands, where he also found himself listening to a lot of John Coltrane, and between the music and getting in the heads of well-known painters, he got his mojo back; the influence the legendary painter Luc Tuymans had on him while doing a residency at the Rijksakademie; and how he’s thankful to make a living from his work, because even though the Netherlands offers lots of funding to artists, most artists who rely on it need to have 2nd jobs.
Her residency at MoMA, where she has been looking into expanding their programming to include art that is more international/not from the U.S., but from the ‘global majority;’ her career trajectory, from art history in undergrad to law school and then corporate lawyer for long enough to pay off her $100+K in debt, a calculation she was able to make partially due to her poker-playing experience); the obstacles she faced getting into a PhD art history program with her focus on modern and contemporary Korean art, and how she strongly believes that tuition for BA and MA programs are completely out of control (for out-of-state students at U. or Michigan, where she teaches, it’s currently 70K/year); her interest and expertise with emojis, including her repeated attempts to get a kimchi emoji approved by Unicode, the world text and emoji consortium (she also taught emojis in a graduate seminar); artists working in emojis, including Rachel Maclean, Laura Owens, John Baldessari and Antoine Catala, the latter whose work she calls the best emoji work she’s ever seen; the benefits and challenges of living in Detroit, and why she chose to live there instead of Ann Arbor, where she teaches; how she’s the first full professor of color in her department; how her book, “Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method,” was turned down nine times before it was accepted by U. of Minnesota Press, and subsequently led to a show she curated at Blum & Poe in L.A.; and the state of the art scene in Seoul, including the challenges for younger/smaller galleries’ survival amidst a pricey real estate market that’s regularly gentrifying.
ICA San Diego director Andrew Utt talks about:
Moving back to San Diego, where he grew up, after years away in the Bay Area and South America, and why he did; why San Diego’s art community/culture isn’t known as an art destination, and how he tries to address that deficiency; his route to becoming a curator, starting with his undergrad years at California College of the Arts, when he went to grad students’ studios and had the conversations that would inform his prolific studio visits over the years; the importance of bringing in outside artists, sometimes to be shown alongside local artists, but at the same time, the ‘brain drain’ of artists emerging from SD-based art schools and leaving for L.A. (or elsewhere) for more opportunities, the exodus of which becomes a generational loss over time; teaching artists, and the challenge of their retention; the ICA’s 5-foot and 10-foot rules for interacting with new visitors outside the museum; and where art engagement is headed, in terms of infiltrating cities, and through the growth of VR, AI and other interactive platforms.
His painting process, which involves exposing his paintings to the elements, including in extreme form, starting with his (and his team’s) 22-day-long journey from Japan to the West Coast on a container vessel, exposing his paintings to the wind and even skating them over the surface of the ocean; what went into planning this expedition, the various friends he brought on in professional capacities, and the challenges of making the journey, the successes along the way, and its future life as a documentary; his epic Free Republic of California, a conceptual art project that uses California as a canvas to imagine and explore what’s possible for us as a society and as a civilization; how he writes letters to people in power, giving himself a title appropriate to each recipient, whether ‘conceptual artist’ or ‘chief conceptualist;’ the value he places in the Free Republic of California’s Constitution, which is the item he would own if he were to collect his own work; his relative openness to actually becoming a politician, while also realizing that the political sphere is not only too dangerous but ultimately simply not a productive route to making change; his first exhibition, in a bar during law school; his transition from having a day job as a lawyer to that of an artist, and how he actually never made as much income from law as from making art, surprisingly; and his rescue-animal-based farm in Santa Ynez, where he and his family settled during the pandemic.
BONUS EXTRA: in an extension of our conversation, Cole talks about his epic t-shirt collection, which is currently at about 1000. To listen to this EXTRA, please consider becoming an ongoing or one-time donor to the podcast via: theconversationpod.com/support
In part 2 with ArtNet News critic Ben Davis, we talk about: environmentalism and our approach to the climate, as well his emphasis on finding a good middle ground between overly dire and overly sugar-coated perspectives on the conversation; Christian Marclay’s video works “Telephone” – which Apple co-opted, making their own version when Marclay wouldn’t sell it to them – and “The Clock,” which Ben considers to be Marclay’s response to Apple and its iPhone, and images’ ‘place-lessness’ (which “The Clock” returns to us); how he frames the immersive art trend as a question of ‘what’s at stake here?,’ and how there are many trends that he feels needs to be seen from both sides; Alfredo Jaar’s immersive video in the most recent Whitney Biennial, prompted by the very short time window artists now have to gain viewers’ attention; the case of the lovably ordinary @world_record_egg, an Instagram feed that both parodied and addressed concerns about the effects of social media on our individual psyches as an artistic provocation; and Ben’s own tricky relationship with social media (IG).
Cultural Appropriation in its many forms, including in the context of Dana Schutz’s controversial “Open Casket” painting; Conspiracy Theory culture, including how videos connecting Marina Abramovic with satanic cults are far, far more viewed than videos about Marina Abramovic herself or her work; the culture that Conspiracy narratives come from, how they persist (often through individuals’ alienation), and why they become so popular; the luxury of people who get to say ‘neener-neener-neener’ in judgement of those who buy into them (the socially superior judging the inferior); Rubem Robierb’s ice sculpture at a fancy club during Miami Basel, which spelled out Greta Thunberg’s “How Dare You” addressed to politicians, and what that said/says about Art and Ecotopia, i.e. art and climate change; his experiences with the groups ‘Extinction Rebellion’ and its splinter group, ‘Extinction Resilience,” and his continuing involvement with Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), among other causes.
Val Zavala, former anchor/reporter for the long-running KCET (L.A. PBS station) series SoCal Connected and Life & Times talks about:
The ‘Extinction Circle’ group that she was part of for a couple years, meeting once a month to discuss likely human extinction (before the pandemic led the group to slowly disband; meantime she continues to be an active member of her local ‘Death Café’); how approaching humanity’s future is akin to Elisabeth Kubler Ross’ five stages of grief; the oil industry’s campaign of disinformation and its effect on the climate crisis; a profoundly thoughtful Buddhist take on our (humankind’s) fate; relating extinction to former guest Fernando Dominguez Rubio’s study of the preservation of artworks in the museum, and what Val thinks of the lengths museums go to maintain artworks’ longevity; the concept of EA, or Effective Altruism, in relation to human longevity; “Seeding” the future, which is to say leaving a better foundation for future civilizations; and her “New 10 Commandments for Future Generations.”
New York-based art appraiser David Shapiro talks about:
What he does as an appraiser, whether in-person inspections or putting together reports using photographs at the computer; his involvement with the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection appraisal, which was connected to the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the country; how appraisers value a work of art, from auction records to gallery sales (to the extent that can be verified) to the market as a whole, including trends; turning down offers to appraise works that have no apparent market value; his own career as an artist prior to becoming an appraiser, which included having success selling his work before he was even out of high school; how, when he returned to making art after grad school in art history he had less success, learning about “the fickleness and vicissitudes of the art world,” as he put it; and how he appraises emerging art, including within a market with a lot of movement in values, both up and down.