Tag Archives: New York


16 Oct

Mr Barlow the vampire, from "Salem's Lot' It just seems appropriate in some way.

The New York-based group W.A.G.E. have for some time been advocating better pay and conditions for artists, and more accountability by the organisations and businesses who profit materially from their labour. Now they’ve launched a certification system for places that meet their guidelines of voluntarily and fairly remunerating artists. I won’t add too much commentary because I suggest you go over there and read it all if you’re an artist or you work with artists, whether you’re based in the USA or not.

Among all the professionals who participate in this economy, artists are often alone among those whose contributions go uncompensated. While many non-profit arts organizations provide fees to artists for some forms of participation, fees are rarely provided for the most basic contributions artists make. Exhibition budgets include compensation for curators, writers, insurers, shippers, designers, printers, preparators, caterers and event organizers, among many others, but rarely for the artists on whom the exhibition itself depends.

Definitions of various types of work, or working relationships, that an artist may have with an arts organisation and for which they should be paid.

Their fee calculator. Note that their minimum levels, although quite low, are still far more than many artists currently get. This is just as true in the UK as it is elsewhere, even though the UK– despite vicious ideological cuts by the Conservatives and their so-called “austerity” measures, not to mention a tiny fraction of GDP funding it all to begin with– has one of the world’s most generous, functional and comprehensive systems of state funding for the arts. It just doesn’t filter through to artists, for the most part. As W.A.G.E. point out, and I have noted many times, none of these publicly funded places would think of telling their caterers or printers that they shouldn’t expect to be paid because “there’s no budget for it.” Their attitude seems to be thanks for the lifeblood, hope you don’t die so we can bleed you some more later.

The W.A.G.E. minimum fee for a solo exhibition is only $1000 (€790 or £630), for example. Bear in mind that most artists are lucky to have one solo exhibition per year. At these rates she or he would need to have one for every month of the year to earn the meagre pre-tax figure of $12,000 PA. For an artist talk or reading, the W.A.G.E. minimum is $150 (€120 or £95). Although these are minimums and obviously the hope is that organisations voluntarily pay more if they can, it should be emphasised that these are not ambitious figures by any reasonable standard and they’re setting the bar very low. Which is not a dig at W.A.G.E. in any manner whatsoever. It’s just indicative of how disgracefully and contemptuously the art world has learned to treat it’s most precious assets, i.e. artists.

The W.A.G.E. wo/manifesto:



6 Jun



An unfortunate side effect of cities like New York and London being internationally important to culture, innovation and the arts is that they also have more world class twats per square mile than anywhere else on Earth. Google Glass users have already become proverbially obnoxious Glassholes (and people are already taking steps to jam their nonsense, albeit only so far in a conceptual, provocative way), but really the specific New York Glasshole in question is just a stepping off point for a splendid and articulate rant by Omer Shapira, titled Nobody Goes to Art School to Make Money, so Fuck Off. Obviously an artist creative technologist person after my own heart.

Although, as it happens, I agree with Shapira on Google Glass and its ilk as well. When you’re interacting with a real human being to their face, your phone or camera or whatever should not be anywhere near your face. Turn that shit off for five minutes. It’s not Luddite or infringing upon your rights when someone finds it objectionable or creepy that you take their picture or record them without permission, especially if they didn’t initially know you’re doing it. Your manners and consideration for the rights of others are deficient, not theirs.

I recommend that you read the whole thing, but here’s a great quote so you have some idea of why you should, especially if you’re one of those people (or worse, one of those artists) who thinks that an artist being able to make a sale should always be the first or only measure of their importance or their right to practice:

“Like with any art school, people spend their NYU tuition, approximately equivalent to a small neighbourhood in Detroit, to be criticised and called out for bullshit for a few years. They spend time researching and prototyping for the sole purpose of presenting good artwork, not products with rounded edges. We put things in a gallery show precisely because those things might never belong in Best Buy. In some utopian (or extremely dystopian) cases, some of that stuff makes it to the wild, but that’s not the point in making design fictions. We try to communicate. We don’t try to idiot-proof, we don’t try to scale.”

(Note: the “fictions” he’s referring to are the projects developed by students on his course, so called because the pragmatic utility of these projects is not necessarily important, and in some cases never likely to be important. They’re expressing an idea, not answering a need.)

Shapira covers what I’m about to say, too, but it bears repeating: contrary to what some people on both sides like to imagine is a gulf between commerce and art, very often the biggest commercial or popular successes are the result of somebody– or a bunch of people– having lots of time, space and/or money to do stuff that everyone else thought was pointless and unpopular at the time. The same can be said for a good proportion of the best scientific research. Creativity can sometimes be monetised, but the best way to kill creativity is to cram it into a commercial workflow pipeline, head first. Creative people could and would carry on without capitalism, but capitalism couldn’t continue without creative people to feed on.

Nobody Goes to Art School to Make Money, so Fuck Off


12 May



Supposedly to tie in with the opening of the Frieze and Gap Art Fair in New York– but really apropos of nothing except “ooh, rich people”– somebody called Jason used their own drool (he also contributes to human-shaped joke Tyler Brulé’s Monocle. QED.) to write out a super-duper tip-top list of “the most powerful people in the art world” for The Guardian.

It’s the usual soul-crushing litany of scumbags, twats, con artists, plutocrats and fuckwits but the real enjoyment is to be found in the torrent of vituperation and scorn in the comments. Read them all because there’s some good stuff about the chasm between this tiny, elite art world and what most real artists do or want to do, and what the public wants from artists. Here’s a few of the best comments, complete with the typos from their authors (rightly) being so angry they couldn’t quite control their fingers:

“It’s literally about handjobs, 110% about who you know twixt how well you speak bullshit. For instance if you can write a side of A4 to place next to a sock on the floor, explaining it’s existential significance then you are ready for the big time.”

“And what all this has to do with art? Art is a form of expression, it has nothing to do with power. A true artist is a fee person who is looking for personal satisfaction before anything else. This people are businessmen, money-makers, looking for power and prestige.”

“This something of an art world. It is not the art world. It’s the kind of art world that many who don’t like or understand the practices of contemporary art wish into existence. Farago even seems to identify goodies and baddies. (He is only a journalist) There are many art worlds.”

“Recent academic research reveals a developing gap between the comic-book art world outlined above, and practitioners and audiences, ranging from disenchantment to alienation. A recent publication (Art Production Beyond the Art Market edited by Karen van den Berg & Ursula Pasero) outlines something of the fundamental changes in art production, artists’ strategies and in the interconnection of different fields of cultural practice. Much of it makes the group above look as relevant in 2014 as Stubbs or Kahnweiler or Peggy Guggenheim. The only thing that connects them is wealth…”

“Why does the Guardian grovel and dribble at the mouth over these people? Where’s the critique? Where are the big analytical articles highlighting the shameless collusion of our “top” artists and galleries with the whims and tastes of a detached, decadent global super-rich elite – people who have primarily made their fortunes in a brutally unequal economic system that condemns millions to misery? As a newspaper you have pursued politicians, corporations, policemen and exposed corruption and criminality, but when it comes to the art world you go all starry-eyed and are content to make fawning, adulatory lists. You should be ripping into these people, every single one of them.”

“We need another term for this. It has nothing to do with art, really, so why refer to it as the art world? It’s just a subset of the larger commodity investment field, not so very different than trading in pork belly futures or real estate. Let’s please leave the word art out of it.”

“Depressing that half the collectors on this list stole their money from their own people – or go out with someone that did.”

“A useful list, should the revolution ever actually happen.”



13 Aug


Following her recent ouroboros of star-fuckery with Jay-Z at his minstrel show for New York city’s art royalty, insufferable has-been and exploiter/abuser of low paid performers at LA MOCA Marina Abramović (brilliantly and succinctly demolished by Hrag Vartanian in this article as “the art world’s version of late Elvis”) has recently engaged in another act of “Abramović Method” mirror-in-mirror narcissism with the prolifically untalented Lady Gaga. The original video is absolutely bloody ghastly and evokes every bad undergraduate performance art piece ever made, but luckily somebody jazzed it up a bit with a Yakety Sax soundtrack. Much better.


4 Jul


Some more quotes from the book Collecting Contemporary Art, published by Taschen. All by Marcus Glimcher, at the time of the book’s publication an art dealer at PaceWildenstein, New York (now the Pace Gallery). It’s all interesting stuff, but there’s something about his explication and grammar that makes me think of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, patiently lecturing the back of a guest’s head as a preface to suddenly embedding a fire axe in it.

“The art market is not really a market; it’s too small to qualify as one. Furthermore, if it is a market, it’s a market of uniques. Therefore, there is no true comparability between prices. Finally, it’s a market of Geffen goods which is what gives it such strange characteristics. Geffen was a nineteenth century economist who said that there are certain goods that will disobey the basic laws of supply and demand that when the price drops to a certain level, instead of demand rising, demand will suddenly begin to drop. As the price drops, demand will drop further, so there is a cliff in the supply and demand curve at some critical price level.”

“When is the art market going to crash? When the stock market crashes, when the real estate market crashes.”

(Note: This was in 2006, before the stock and property markets crashed. He was mostly wrong about the art market, though. Apparently even an art dealer who deals with blue chip clients couldn’t imagine that the rich would keep on getting richer during an apparently endless recession as they have done since 2008.)

“Art is an object with no utility, as the economists would say. The utility of a painting is zero… If we can come to some agreement that these things have a certain value, then that object deserves to be of higher value than anything because it has escaped the bonds of the physical world.” Continue reading

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