Summary: Had a productive week last week, not just for thesis, but for my art career overall. I learned good stuff about: showing art, the artist-curator relationship. I also made observations that will be incorporated into my current career strategy.
So I showed the 24×48 lightbox at an event on Saturday that was described to me as a “rooftop party for finance bros” and that was a pretty accurate descriptor although that characterization of the event misses out how awesome being on a rooftop is and that finance bros are still people, and some are super cool and some are not. Also: I have never seen so many people drink out of giant wine glasses in one place.
Anyways I put the lightbox up in this event in the hopes that maybe someone would want to buy it. I wasn’t sure how precisely that would happen, but my curator got me this gig, she knew the guy who threw the party since apparently, all Hungarians in New York City know each other. So she was there and I was there and there were DJs spinning house (one of which is actually a founder of the Flatiron school). I also met other wealthy people and it was an interesting look into the young financial elite.
The whole thing was super awkward. I felt the art was not respected. The majority of the people could not give two shits about the light art. People put their empty drinks up on the table the lightbox was displayed. At one point, a half eaten nacho on the napkin was in front of it. The barbacks did a good job cleaning it though, so it wasnt so bad. But the whole thing felt awkward. Like I was really reaching for it there. Like this was just one step above setting up a hawker stand near Central Park and selling “I LOVE NY” logos stencilled on an MTA map.
Nonetheless at a certain point, I said fuck it and kicked back and just started to enjoy myself. It was an epic rooftop, the greatest I have ever been on in NYC, and I got three drink tickets for three $20 cocktails, and the party was $50 entrance, so I suppose I got paid in drinks and admittance to the party – which I am decidedly not OK with overall, but – meh – one time, this actually turned into a pretty good time. I meet very interesting people including a male asian pornstar who kind of broke every single stereotype of my own people and gave me hope for humanity.
There were definitely people interested in the art, and I enjoyed explaining it to them… But they weren’t there for the art – my art was there for them. A subtle but important difference… they didn’t come to see me, I came to see them. While it was fun, and I’m glad I did it, I don’t think I’ll do that again. I dont want to come to see them, I want them to come and see me. Or maybe in the beginning you gotta go see them and then they decide to come see you? I dunno — this is an unresolved question for me… I mean, you gotta hustle no matter what, so I dont want this to be an excuse for not hustling.)
I also learned a lot about the curator-artist relationship. Your curator is like an actor’s Hollywood agent. She finds you buyers, promotes you to galleries, gives you advice on presentation (which is honestly the weakest part of my game and has always been). I made the acquaintance with a more established artist recently and what I took away from his advice is that you need to partner with people who believe in you as strongly as you believe in yourself. This is why it’s useless to bang on galleries doors in the hopes of “convincing” them to show your work. If they they’re not into it, no direct action is going to change that. Maybe they’ll change their mind somewhere down the line, but you don’t control that. Their potential future support is not on a timeframe useful to the struggling artist here and now. Viola helps me because my success is her success, and likewise, her success is my success. It’s actually kind of a beautiful thing.
I also find that curators are different animals than artists, just like how hollywood agents are different animals than actors, or how spies are different animals than intelligence analysts. Brains and brawn together. The curator is able to talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk in a way that I think most artists would be embarrassed to. They are able to hard-sell, pull moves, use whatever means necessary to get something done… at least they are able to do it in a very different way than an artist. Beyond that they have a way of thinking and mindset that is highly strategic, observant… but in a way that is embodied in action, not just in abstract thought. In contrast, Artists quietly sit in a corner and make art, and are somewhat afraid of people. I’m generalizing but you know what I’m saying.
At 10pm, I wheeled the thing back to ITP, half drunk and very tired. But it was a nice learning experience and I was happy. At the very minimum it was a lot of information and learning that took place, despite probably not having any financial pay off. A lot of things to chew over in the head. Lot of “inputs”.