Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Art World Wars

The New York City art world is a big scary place.

If you're an artist, it's basically impossible to make a living from your art but it is possible, for the very lucky few, to make a fortune. For an artist in this town, if you want a career, you have to be good at your work but also good at business. You have to know people, get to know more people, network, get your work displayed and seen by the right people, and stay ahead of the trends. And your work has to stand out, be special, and resonate with collectors and art fans. 

Needless to say, it's tall order to have a career in the arts in this town.

I have a couple of relatives who are career artists and they are amazing at their work and have had success in the NYC art world. But whenever I talk to them about it, they tell me how hard it is to create and sustain a career. 

A couple of articles this week shed light on this very subject.  

New York magazine has a big special issue on how to make it in the art world in NYC. It's an unbelievably complicated, almost treacherous terrain. Obviously the thing that makes it so complex is the vast amounts of money sloshing around the art world in this town. Collectors are paying record amounts of money for art but there are also a record number of artists out there, hustling. The competition is fierce. The money is (potentially) huge. The egos are just as huge. 

Game on.

And money, ego and history along with downright stupidity are what lead to the demise, last year, of the historic Knoedler gallery. This was, believe it or not, the oldest gallery in NYC, older than the Met. The Knoedler essentially invented the NYC art world and lasted for 165 years -- but was brought low by selling forged artwork. It's an unbelievable story -- and shows just how complicated the art world in NYC is. Vanity Fair does an amazing investigation into what lead to the demise of the oldest art institution in NYC. 

It's a tragedy wrapped around a farce.

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