The Red Dot Report (8/17/2010)

by Jeriah Hildwine and Stephanie Burke

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In this, the second installment of the Red Dot Report, we bring good news from Judy Saslow, Linda Warren, Rotofugi, and Ebersmoore.  Also in this issue are Jeriah's responses to Lucas Deon Spivey's article, "The Red Dot Retort," from his blog, Meaning In Art.  Spivey made some great points and asked some great questions, and Jeriah does his best to address them!

Now some news!  Lucas Deon Spivey runs a Seattle-based art blog called, "Meaning In Art," and recently stumbled upon, and wrote about, the first Red Dot Report!  I got an email from him via my website (and also found it through a Google Alert).  My first thought was, "Holy crap!  People actually read this thing?"  And my second thought was, "Holy crap!  People in Seattle actually read this thing?"  And we've only published our first report!  This month's Red Dot Report will consist of Jeriah's responses to Spivey's article. 

Check out the slide show to see images of the work that we have seen marked "Sold" in the past month here in Chicago.  Also sold, not not pictured in the slideshow, are the following works:

Chris Cosnowski, "2012," 2010, oil on panel, 26" x 10", Price:  $5,500.  At Linda Warren Gallery.

Make sure you have the sound on when you visit Chris' website!  It's kind of amazing.

Lora Fosberg, "When you say now, when exactly do you mean?"  2010, gouache and paper on 13 panels, approx. 6.5' x 8', Price, $10,500.

Sorry for the lack of images of those two; I didn't bring my camera to the artist's talk, and those works weren't available online.  My bad!  I'll do better next time.  Okay.  On to my responses to Spivey:

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Lucas Deon Spivey's blog, "Meaning In Art."

Lucas Deon Spivey runs a Seattle-based art blog called, "Meaning In
Art
," and recently stumbled upon, and wrote about, the Red Dot Report!  I
got an email from him via my website (and also found it through a
Google Alert).  My first thought was, "Holy crap!  People actually read
this thing?"  And my second thought was, "Holy crap!  People in Seattle
actually read this thing?"  And we've only published our first report! 

After I got over my initial shock, I actually read the article, and Spivey brings up some interesting points, and perhaps more importantly, asks some great questions. 

Here's the first one:  "My question isn't what or why stuff sells, but are we supposed to make art that sells in order to get press?"

Great question, and the answer is emphatically, "No!"  This is what I would call "chasing the spotlight," and it is a bad idea for two reasons:  firstly, it results in bad art, and secondly, it doesn't work.

There are a few ways to get press, at least as far as our own art writing practice is concerned.  If you have a show, and we hear about it, we'll mention it in The Gallery Crawl And So Much More.  It doesn't even have to be good, but we do have to hear about it.  So make sure to submit press releases to the Chicago Reader, On The Make, Art Slant, Time Out Chicago, FlavorPill, Spaces.org, Chicago Artist's Resource, Proximity Magazine, and Chicago Art Map.  Some of those resources are Chicago-specific, but others have branches in other cities, so your Seattle readers may be able to take advantage of some of them.  And better yet, for events in Chicago, email us and tell us about it!  That's arttalkchicago@gmail.com, for those who don't want to click the link.

Of course, that's just a listing.  If you want us to come to your show, and recommend that others do so, you've got to lure us in, along with the rest of your viewers.  We go out to art openings every single Friday, or nearly so, and many Saturdays, Thursdays, Sundays, and other days as well.  So if we don't come to your show, the most likely reason why not, is that we were at someone else's show, and couldn't make it to both!  What makes us pick one show over another?  I attend shows if a.) my friends are in them, b.) the show card, website, press release, etc. look enticing, c.) someone whose work I like is in them, d.) someone famous is in them, e.) the invitation promises booze and snacks, and f.) miscellaneous personal reasons like my friends are going to see the show, someone offers me a ride, it's right next to something I wanted to see anyway, etc.

Stephanie places her "Top 5 Weekend Picks" on Bad At Sports.  Those are the five shows she most recommends other people go see.  They're NOT necessarily what we are going to go see.  There are a variety of reasons for this; for example, they may be far from each other and at the same time, so one couldn't do both.  We make a prediction about our actual plans and post it under "Where The F#$k Are You Going?" on Art Talk Chicago.  This represents our actual plans, although things change and we don't always follow our own prediction, etiher.

If you want to read what we actually saw, check out "Monday Morning Quarterback."  This is our post-hangover review of the work we saw over the weekend.  It's the closest we come to writing real art criticism.  Neither Steph nor Jeriah is particularly fond of heavy theory; we may make some academic references but for the most time our responses are personal:  did we like it?  This writing is nothing to do with whether the work sold (the show is usually up for a month, and we go out on opening night, so odds are most of what's going to sell, hasn't yet).  We do, however, make recommendations to collectors, saying, basically, "We liked this piece and the price was reasonable.  You should buy it."  That's really secondary, though.  The main thing we do is analyze what the work does, and whether we think it works.

And the there's the Snack Report.  This is about as far from serious art criticism as it gets, and it is also totally unconcerned with sales.  This is a review of what galleries had for refreshments:  the cheese, the wine, the deli trays, the cans of Pabst.  It may sound trivial, but free booze and snacks can be just the motivation it takes to get a person out there and looking at some art, myself included. 

So the Red Dot Report is just one small facet of the art writing we do.  If a person wants press, there's a few things they can do.  What I do NOT advocate doing is trying to predict what work will sell, what work will be popular, or what work will be written about.  The work needs to be authentic and sincere.  It needs to be what the artist feels driven to make, not a publicity stunt.  I can't speak for what gets other writers to write about what they do, but for us, you've got a few choices:  you can be our friend, you can make great work, or you can promise us snacks and booze.  (All three would be ideal.)  Incidentally, another thing you can do if you want us to write about you, is to write a blog post telling us what we're doing wrong.  Seriously, we appreciate it:  feedback is how we know whether people are reading what we write, and whether they think it's worthwhile.  And even if the answer's "no," we want to hear it.

Yes, if the work happens to sell, we'll write about that.  But the last thing we would want is to encourage artists to change what their making in an attempt to make it more marketable.  This, again, results in bad work, and doesn't result in work that sells.  Rather, we want artists to know what the market is like, not so they can chase it, but so they are aware of what is going on.  Some artists, for example performance artists, don't make anything that can be sold.  Others make object-based work that isn't particularly marketable in a given context.  We aren't suggesting that these artists stop making this kind of work!  Rather, we want them to be aware of what is selling, not so they can emulate it, but so they aren't naive about the tastes of the market.  These artists can, like us, earn their income teaching or working another job, rather than trying, and failing, to make a living selling their work in a market that won't support it.  On the other hand, artists whose work is appropriate for the current market in Chicago may be encouraged to see examples of similar work that is selling.  It will also help them to see how to price their work if they want it to sell.

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Catherine Edelman Gallery.

Another good point:  "I called up Catherine Edelman Gallery and spoke with a nice gentleman named Trevor Power, the Gallery Manager.  He knew about the Red Dot Report but noted that it isn't necessarily representative of gallery sales, since many sales are done from inventory.  He added he didn't feel that sales would be affected by the Red Dot Report."

I think Trevor's probably right on both counts.  For the Red Dot Report, we only report on what we see (the dots on the walls), and since we only go out on opening night, usually, we only see a tiny fraction of the works that sell.  It would be best to think of the Red Dot Report as reporting on, "A small selection of the art that sold in Chicago this month, based on what had already sold by the time we got there on the night of the opening reception."  So any work that sells after the opening night, as well as any work that is sold from inventory (the back room, as opposed to the current show) isn't going to be represented.

We've invited galleries to share their sales with us if they feel it would be beneficial, but they've been understandably reluctant to do so.  The main reason for this would be Trevor's second point, that the Red Dot Report would be unlikely to affect sales, and I'd say he's probably right, certainly in the case of Edelman.  While I'd like to think that collectors will be inspired by reading the report, I doubt Edelman's collectors are going to be much moved by it.  While it would be great if we motivated someone to get out there and make a five-figure art purchase, or even a four-figure, I imagine that those collectors who would collect an artist because we mentioned their work selling would be young collectors with a budget in the hundreds, not thousands, of dollars.  I could be wrong, but I think Trevor's probably dead on with his assessment.

And, finally:  "Chicago is a dim market?  We in Seattle would be so lucky."

That's probably fair.  Chicago isn't New York and it isn't L.A.; there is a lot of art here but I suspect that Houston and Miami have us beat in terms of sales.  If I had to guess, I'd say we're probably third in terms of quantity and quality of shows, but maybe fifth in terms of sales.  I could show you where I got these numbers, but to do so I would require a doctor with a flashlight.

Seattle is probably about on par with any number of other cities with a small but active art scene:  San Francisco, Portland, Denver, Boston, Philadelphia, and DC may be comparable.  This isn't to denigrate Seattle or any of those cities, nor the artists, dealers, or collectors who live and work there.  Even in even smaller art cities, like San Diego, Baltimore, and Austin, good work is being made, shown, and bought.  A lot of bad work is being made, as well, and vastly more art--good and bad--is being made than is being bought and sold.  What a person can do to improve the situation, in his or her own city or any other, is pretty straightforward:  buy art, make art, teach art, or write about art.  The last of those is what Spivey is doing with "Meaning In Art," and it's what we're trying to do with our various online publications.  I'd like to think that our respective art scenes are a little richer for Spivey's efforts, and for our own.

Whew!  What a long post.  If you're still reading at this point, kudos to you.  The following are the galleries at which we saw red dots this month:

Judy A Saslow Gallery - 300 W. Superior St. ART FROM THE ESTATE OF JOHN STERN & BACKROOM INVENTORY EXPOSED.

Linda Warren Gallery - 1052 W. Fulton Market.  Lora Fosberg, "You Can't Fall Off The Floor", and Chris Cosnowski, "Apocalypse."
ebersmoore - 213 N Morgan St, 3C. The Big Gray Con, work by B.C. MacEachran. Reception 6-9pm. 8/13-9/18.

Rotofugi Gallery
- 1955 W. Chicago Ave. Chicago Variety Show, work by Jeremiah Ketner,
Myong Kurily, Jim Pavelec, David Rettker, Shawn Roberts, and Chema
Skandal. Reception 7-10pm. 8/13-8/22.

OK.  That's it for this time, kiddies.  Stay tuned, in the next edition of the Red Dot Report, we hope to explain the meaning of the green and blue dots you may see.  (There was a Green dot by Lora Fosberg's "Dare To Fail," this month, although by the time we got there it was a de facto red dot, although Linda had either run out of red dots or not gotten around to changing it yet!)

These few examples surely represent only a tiny percentage of the
artworks recently sold in Chicago.  The above examples are those which
we saw, in person, with red dots (or "sold" tags) next to them, on our
weekly gallery crawling adventure.  In coming weeks we will continue
reporting this publicly-visible evidence of sales, as well as
information furnished to us by galleries. 

If you represent a
gallery and would like to participate, please email us at
arttalkchicago@gmail.com.  Please include any information you would like
listed, including an image of the work, the artist's name, your
gallery's name, year, size, medium, and (optionally) the wall or list
price.  We respect the privacy of collectors, galleries, and artists
when it comes to any difference between the wall price and the actual
sale price.  We respect the anonymity of collectors; however if a public
collection such as a museum acquires a piece and wishes to announce it,
we will gladly publish that information.

And please, if you, like Spivey, have any suggestions as to what we could do better, or what we shouldn't bother doing at all, say so!  Blog about it, facebook it, Twitter it, or just email us and let us know!  We'll probably even publish it, along with our reply.

Stephanie Burke
was born in Nevada City, CA in 1984. She received her BA in Studio Art
and Anthropology from Humboldt State University in 2007, and her MFA in
Photography from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009.
Currently she lives in Chicago with her husband Jeriah,
makes work, teaches, writes for Bad at Sports, is Editor-in-Chief of Art Talk Chicago, works as Managing Editor and Director of Operations at Chicago Art Magazine, as well as maintaining
her own blog, The Gallery Crawl and So Much More.
When not making, teaching, looking at, or writing about art, she enjoys
running around in the woods, drinking beer by bonfires, crazy quilting
and target shooting.

Jeriah
is an artist, educator, writer, and snack enthusiast.  You can see his
work at www.jeriahhildwine.com,
and read his columns at Art Talk Chicago and Chicago Art
Magazine
.  Jeriah lives and works in Chicago, with his wife Stephanie
Burke
.

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