Thursday, December 2, 2010

Get Drunk. Buy a Hat.

After several drinks, Shigeru Ban bought a Chinese hat, reasoning to himself, as one does while inebriated, that he would incorporate its shape into an architectural design one day. Fast-forward to 2006, and you see how Ban incorporated that shape  into the design of the roof of the Centre Pompidou-Metz.  That was the story as the Director of the Centre Pompidou-Metz, Laurent Le Bon related it to an eager crowd of Charlotteans last night.

Mr. Le Bon was giving a lecture at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.  The humorous Frenchman gave an overview of the Centre Pompidou-Metz's architectural design, inaugural exhibit called "Masterpieces?", and scheduled programs.

So, here we have two newly minted, highly celebrated institutions dedicated to modern art;  a talented young man who is known as a leading authority on modern art;  and a captivated audience made of modern art enthusiasts.  What a contrast this setting was compared to a scene described in a New York Times article just the day before.  According to Michael Kimmelman: Nazis had waged a campaign of destruction against modern works of art.  Several pieces that had mysteriously escaped the Nazis have been found buried in Berlin over the past several months.  These pieces are now on display in an exhibit in the Neues Museum.

For an extra scoop of irony:  The Neuese Museum is just down the street from the Hilter exhibit, which puts on display artifacts of Nazi propaganda.

Add a healthy side of sauted irony:  The Centre Pompidou-Metz sits on a plot of land formerly occupied by a Nazi rail station built during WWII.

Top it off with:  Shigeru Ban was born in post-war Tokyo, which was a close ally of Hitler's Berlin during WWII.

And wash it down with a glass of:  Happy Chanuka.

Shigeru Ban
The Centre Pompidou-Metz
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
NY Times article by Michael Kimmelman

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Your Don't Need a Sugar Mama

I recently heard comments from an artist about having trouble finding time in the studio, that there's always something to do, that he needed a sugar mama.  His perfect scenario was all about having this or having that.

My first response to that mentality is this: your studio is your perfect scenario.  You need nothing else.  In fact, most of us need fewer things in our lives.  Fewer things to buy, maintain, repair, clean, or just plain use.  Imagine if, on some days, you didn't have a perfectly functioning tv or car.  You would most likely not soak up time with useless trips to the mall or watch useless shows about women who are neither real nor housewives.  Right there, you have more time for the studio.  And life throws actual problems your way, TRIAGE, TRIAGE, TRIAGE.

My second response is that you don't need a sugar mama/daddy - Your art does!  Your art will not create itself.  It will not develop or improve itself.  It will not find new direction or new technique on its own.  You have to be there.  You have to cater to it.  Art may be inspiring.  Art may feed your soul.  But if your art - your time in the studio - doesn't make you physically tired, then you're not putting in the energy.  Everyone is creative, but not everyone is an artist.

So, take the kids to school.  Pay your water bill.  Buy the groceries.  But forget the shoe sale.  Have someone else cut your grass.  Leave the TV unplugged.  And when you show up with breathtaking art, all is right with the world.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

More Art, Please!

I was listening to a broadcast of Tom Ashbrook’s radio show “On Point” on August 18, 2010, and noted several takeaways. It’s quite clear that American consumerism is shifting into a new phase known as calculated consumerism. While the times have forced some consumers (an estimated 15-20%) to slam the brakes on spending due to unemployment, others have taken some hits, maybe lost investment, and have become more vigilant where their funds are concerned. Some have even cut back on spending out of sympathy and respect for friends and neighbors who have lost money. It is largely the “well-off” that constituted this latter category. Experts seem to agree the current frugal phase can’t last long for these folks - they will soon be buying new toys again.

The trends also seem to indicate that people are becoming more responsible spenders. They are buying things they can use right now, rather than a bunch of stuff they might use later. The drop in back-to-school purchases demonstrates this. Of course, we must keep buying consumables (such as coffee and toothpaste), but durables (cars or refrigerators) we will hang onto, rather than trading for a new model every two years or so. Families are also becoming more environmentally aware and value seems to be at the forefront of every one's mind. Case in point: Starbucks is now offering instant coffee. It’s cheaper than usual cafĂ© served coffee -- about $9 for ten servings. The national savings rate has gone from negative to 8%.

The question now is, will Americans actually spend for art?  I think so. I actually foresee increased spending on creative goods.  With people saving more, they will have more to spend on items with value.

Art has great value and many more people are beginning to appreciate that value, especially for their children.  And the folks who have money to spend, the ones who haven’t really been hurt by the economic times, will spend money on art. I predict that people will begin to regard art less as a luxury, more as a necessity. Having cut back on their expenses, especially frivolous ones, they will notice the extra cash on hand.  Combined with the concept of value on the front burner, they will realize they have too little art in their lives and will begin to seek it out. They will start attending more art shows, actor’s theaters, etc. They will expose their children to a plethora of art venues and increasingly involve them with opportunities for artistic creation. And they will invest in more pieces of creative art. We will see the rise among the artwork with lower price points.

Although purchases of higher-priced art may have fallen recently, these should increase as well. One reason for the fall may be the sympathetic frugality that the more well-off consumers have lately been demonstrating.  Another explanation might be a fear of income-loss.  However, as the economy move along, the purchasing of the more expensive art should resume.

Where the most expensive art is concerned, the recession should cause negligible change.  If you have oceans for pockets, a low tide on one continent is probably offset by a high tide on another continent.

I have a general positive outlook for the arts market, that artists face renewed appreciation for their creativity.  In the next post, I’ll take a look at evidence for/against the claim that people buy more art after a recession.  As of the last Google search, all signs are positive.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Getting to Know the Customer . . .

In sales, you do nothing if you don't get to know your customer. My business is to sell art and creativity. That is why Mike Collins' interview of Lawrence Toppman was intriguing to me.

Toppman - the long-time film critic for the Charlotte Observer - gave a critique of the audience, so to speak. His message was that the average patron of the arts in Charlotte was risk-averse and complacent. His evidence was that the performing arts venues had to stick to the tried and true, "the hits," as Collins called them, to make any money. Toppman could not recall any performance programs where all the music pieces were unknown. He cited anecdotal evidence that Charlotteans were happy "listening to the same 20 symphonies" their whole lives.

On the other hand, the supply side of the arts market in the Queen City seemed to be in Toppman's good graces. Toppman justified the arts venues' choices for cycling through "the familiar" year after year and gave praise for the diversity that Charlotte has in its creative side. My own personal experience tells me there is an entire continent of undiscovered art to many eyes and ears in Ballantyne, Myers Park, Dilworth - whose residents may "slum it" by driving through NoDa without daring to even get out of their cars.

What is the solution here for artists in Charlotte? It depends on what kind of artists we're talking about. On the one hand, you have institutional artists - for example, the Charlotte Symphony. On the other hand, there's the individual artists - the painter, the photographer, the jewelry artist. The two have different advantages and disadvantages. In the following entries, I will write about each group in turn, addressing the question: In a town that's raised on steak and potatoes, how do you sell dolma?

I welcome your comments. Has your experience been different from Toppman's account of the Charlotte crowd?

Charlotte Talks


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tour of Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

I just completed a tour of Charlotte's new Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.  

Thank you to the Arts and Science Council for this treat!  And as an arts agent, I also have to give recognition to the Bechtler family for their enthusiastic patronage of artists.

The collection, which includes about 1,400 pieces, includes many of the big names in Modern Art.  Only a small part of that large collection is on display at any given time on a 9-month rotation basis.  An intimate detail about each piece of art that draws you in even closer and helps to dissipate a foreboding sense formality about the art is where in their living room the Bechtlers displayed the artwork for their own enjoyment.  In fact, the set of furniture that the Bechtlers actually owned and used in their home is also on display.  It's very easy to imagine the family eating dinner in a pseudo-museum that was their home and the Bechtler Cherubs climbing on top of a large statue of one kind or another.

To see the care an attention that this collection of art receives should be comforting and reassuring to any artist who is in a quagmire of self-doubt.  Go to the Bechtler Museum and be inspired.  Go to the Bechtler Museum and be energized.  Go to the Bechtler Museum and be motivated.  Then go straight to your studio and paint your heart out, sculpt your heart out, mold/print/photograph/design/CREATE your heart out.

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art 
Arts and Science Council

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Painters and Photographs

On Friday, Jan 8, I went to see the artwork of Osiris Rain and Joshua Gage at the Dialect Design Gallery.  The exhibition is called "American Dream."  During the q&a session, Osiris mentioned, almost in passing, that he doesn't use photographs - he paints live.  I thought that was interesting, so I asked him why not.  His response referenced his pedigree of education, saying that he was not trained that way.  Osiris then said that the naked eye can see more than any photo would ever hope to.  Which only piqued my curiosity even further: what do you think of artists who do use photographs for painting?  His chuckle told me he was going to hold back and "be nice" with his answer.  I asked him to be brutal, and he put it simply: it's laziness.

Now, Osiris Rain is a realist painter.  In fact he is a member of the International Society of Realist Painters.  Could his self-imposed, unforgiving standard be justifiably relaxed for the abstract artist?  I would like to pose this same question to a few more artists and see how they came to their decision.  Do you agree with Osiris Rain?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's Resolution: Make It Happen!

Whether you need to create more art, to sell more art, to find studio space, to save for art supplies, to improve your technique, the best New Year's Resolution is - to Make It Happen!

Lose your remote control and find time in your schedule. Forget about the new season of ____, and start thinking about your new line artwork. Never mind fantasy football; plan your sales strategy. Disregard the vortex of distractions around you. Focus on the artist that you are and the needs you have for succeeding as an artist. Cross those needs off your (mental) list. Give yourself everything you need to be successful. And don't wait - make it happen.

Happy New Year, and I hope 2010 is a fruitful year for you!