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.