In the Artspace building of the past was a somewhat contemporary gallery called Site. It would showcase local talent, particularly U of M art profs. The work was current, generally brave and in tune with contemporary art practices. Then it closed in 2005 due to lack of sales. Who should be faulted for this lack of sales? The work was predominately solid. The pricing seemed reasonable. The truth is the business of art is a tough one. It is not like I discovered Site because of a happening event or the such...I knew someone enrolled at the BFA program at U of M and one of their Profs had a few pieces up. Like a good, ass sucking student, my friend wanted to go to be able to discuss the art with said Prof. I only knew of the Gallery because some art student felt obligated to go and hauled me along. Why had I not known about this gallery? Why was it not shakin’ things up? I was confused. Most commercial galleries start as poster and frame shops. Not surprising when you look at the actual work within...but...Site was a gallery that had current non-cliché art (mostly). The problem is, no one was buying...and the sellers weren’t really trying to sell it. The Public was not being engaged with the Art in a bigger, social way. Elitism inevitably becomes incestuous and self consuming.
This problem with being able to market the art has troubled galleries for some time. Conceptualism confused galleries. Multi-Media installations perplexed their marketing strategies. “How can we make money from this?” was the commonly held thought. Why should or would this dictate to you, what is relevant artistically and what is not? Why should some gallery sales person’s ability to make money on an object dictate what is evaluated as art? The onus of responsibility falls on the Artist and the general Public. Times have changed and not only the actions of the Artist are evolving but also the established power balance. Art is for the People and it becomes the Artisits' responsibility and honour to do what it takes to get the conversation to them...outside of hegemony and corporate coddling. The scam is up and Artists need to think about their creative act as a gravitational force with orbiting satellites. One...maybe a few, of these satellites are business built. When intent, production and marketing are held to the foundation of Creativity, galleries will act as great homes for the works that require that space as opposed to dictating who is and is not "worthy". Galleries have a role as facilitating the artist, not controlling them. There is no positive reason that passion, relevance and profundity should ever be housed by the elite and denied to the rest of humanity. Art can hold many diverse practical business modes and who better to navigate this than the Artists' themselves. The pressure is now on the producer of Art is to adapt, take chances and speak loudly... if whispering is not turning ears. Gain the publics participation through strategic stakeholder meetings and commitment to the power of Creativity and Art to everyone. The gallery is to be used and at the call of the artist, not relied upon as the adjudicator and regulator of what art should be. The gallery is most importantly, a facilitator.
A sculptor I knew in art school said it wisely, as we debated the social implications of post-modern bullshit as it relates to the art making process. When asked what an artist was to do in this challenging time, he simply stated,
“Just Fucking Do it.”