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Art Letter (9/19/08)

As I beat a path on my rounds to preview gallery openings, I think about what I'm seeing and try to place it in a larger context.

There are several trends that are gaining traction--all of which result from the advent of the Internet. The art landscape has changed because the Internet has affected the relationship between artists and galleries--and artists and collectors too.

Evidence of this is clear when
we see Damien Hirst selling $200 million of his art directly at auction, through Sotheby's, without first having it grace a gallery's walls.

Further evidence is the proliferation of social networking websites which allow artists to more readily keep track of one another and inform their fanbase of their growth and exhibitions.

And perhaps most importantly artists and collectors can communicate directly with one another without having to rely on a gallery's meddling mindset.

The Internet facilitates globalization. Artists can explore affinities with artists all over the planet instead of just down the hall. And now, when artists get dissatisfied with their exhibition possibilities, they can stage their own gatherings, without the expense of postage.

The practical, colloquial definition of an artist has changed. Instead of being "I am a good artist because I have a gallery," it has become "I am a good artist because I take responsibility for my art and my career and I do lots of things to enhance my success," whether or not they have a gallery.

Anni Holm is a perfect example. Loosely speaking, her art is about performance in public places. But at some point, she must have said to herself "Why stop there?" Opening this weekend is the second incarnation of artXposium. This show is a blast. It is out of town. You get a nice drive. There are 80 artists who have taken over a former, now vacant, hardware store that's going to get torn down someday and filled it with their own vision. No middleman. Just artists--and their artwork--cooperating. Some of it is truly outstanding. You'll meet people and see things that are memorable. You are also likely to experience some drek. This is a different kind of art event with it's own special energy--artists doing it for themselves. I just hope CamoSanta and MattressBunny play nice!

Liz Nielsen is another example of the multifacited, multidirectional artist. Besides making her own art, she works for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has just opened a gallery with Joshua Kozuh. Named Swimming Pool Project Space, the gallery does rather feel like a swimming pool, with its blue floor.  Opening there tomorrow (Saturday, September 20th) is an all video exhibition curated by Alicia Eler who is an arts writer and curator, and Peregrine Honig who is an artist, curator and has her own gallery in Kansas City. This is what has to be done by the competent artist to create sufficient dialog and exposure possibilities; collaborate with friends, show art you like, grow your audience and get people working ensemble to raise the level in the pool together. I've watched all the videos by Rob Carter, Rochelle Feinstein, James Gulliver Hancock, Abhishek Hazra, Julie Lequin, Mioon, Julie Orser (my favorite), Luana Perilli and Taras Polataiko. I like the breadth of content and styles. And I like the juxtapositions. These artists come from all over: Korea, Italy, Ukraine, French Canada, Australia and the U.S.

Tony Fitzpatrick is the archetypal role model of the accomplished artist taking responsibility for his career. And he is generous. He is sharing his successes with younger artists, mentoring them in his storefront studio and on occasion exhibiting their art (and taking no commission when it sells). This evening is one of those occasions featuring the art of Steve Griff, who died recently and suddenly, but was fortunate enough (I guess) to have two pieces of his acquired posthumously by DePaul for their ever growing collection of Chicago art. Also on exhibit are Julie Murphy and Dmitry Samarov. Tony's doing a damned good thing here, besides his wonderful New Orleans project. He's sharing a lot of knowledge, insight and connections with a bunch of young artists who he has no reason to help, except that he cares. Impressive.

Do you see what is going on here? Artists are taking more and better responsibility for themselves. They are not adhering to business as usual. They are out there breaking the mold. And they are succeeding. The old model is not defunct, but it does feel dated. 

There's a wonderful energy to the artist that takes more control over his or her success - and a comparable energy in the events they participate in. Tonight, and this weekend, are prime opportunities to get out there, to see it and to feel it.

Thank you,
Paul Klein