Monday, March 14, 2016

Studio Visit

Jewish Museum curator David S. Palmer recently published a piece in ARTnews entitled "Go Pro: The Hyper-Professionalization of the Emerging Artist". Palmer begins by telling the reader how he approached an artist about a studio visit. Not towards a specific exhibition, but to learn more about the artist's practice (something Palmer says he made clear at the outset). Below is the second paragraph (click here for all of it).

When I arrived at the studio, an assistant greeted me, then the artist’s dealer, followed by another representative from the gallery, who said he was a director of museum relations or museum engagement or something along those lines. I quickly realized that, despite my explicitly articulated interest in having the visit be an opportunity for research, the meeting would be a lot more formal than I had expected. When the artist launched into a carefully practiced presentation about the work, it was clear which lines were excerpted from press releases or articles. A chronological recounting of the artist’s short career came next, followed by the story of how he began making the type of work he is best known for, and finally some information about upcoming institutional exhibitions overseas. When I asked about one body of work that had been skipped over, the dealer nearby interjected, “You don’t have to talk about that,” acting something like legal representation. (Coincidently, or more likely not, I later heard that the work in question had been the subject of a lawsuit filed by a collector.) When the presentation was over, I felt like the artist was a brand representative who had just delivered a meticulously rehearsed sales pitch. The lecture-like format made it clear that my feedback wasn’t going to be welcome, but as the visit started to wind down, I was asked a question for the first time that morning: “So, what exhibitions do you have coming up that you might want to put our artist into?” As I explained the research-based purpose of my visit (yet again), and went on to clarify that I didn’t have any shows in mind, I realized (yet again) just how complicit curators often are these days in legitimizing mediocre work being aggressively pushed for the sake of financial gain. The artist in question was still only 20-something.


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