Monday, August 1, 2016

Goodbye Gallery World

This past Saturday was, what I hope, is my last day of having to work at a gallery. The job I left wasn’t a bad one but I am ecstatic Ecstatic! That I don’t have to work as a gallerist anymore. Yes, some of you know that I run a gallery so in some ways I’m still involved but what I mean is that I will no longer have to work for another gallery, work another art fair, go to another dinner or reception that I don’t want to go to ever again.

I have worked in the gallery world in some form for thirteen years. 13 years! Nuts. I never wanted to be a gallerist. I just fell into it because that was the jobs that I somehow got right after college. It wasn’t all bad though, I learned so much especially from bosses and peers that mentored me and made me have abilities and levels of skill and confidence that I probably would have never reached in other fields. Through these positions I also was able to have a structure in which to create a world, and an identity, which I was able to capitalize on even when working independently. All these things really were amazing and the experiences, the cities, countries traveled, the parties, the smart people and talent that I got to immerse myself in was truly something out of a novel but alas, I am so so so so happy to be finally done with it.

As I have written many times before on this blog, I love ‘Art.’ I think about it and need it in my life because it is what I truly care about and what challenges my brain. What you also know is that I hate the art world. It is just the worst and after thirteen years I have zero patience, illusion or desire to be reliant on perpetuating this incredibly flawed system. The art world is a giant racket, mirage, and frankly the ultimate pure form of capitalism at its very worst.

The concept of lifestyle and the hierarchies of cultural capital have made ‘Art’ into a product of exchange. Value, visibility, access and success are entwined into a system that is not about the thing in of itself but the structure of the whole. The need for preserving and perpetuating these things is essential and yes, at times there is a rationality and need, but the truth is that most of the art world structure is rigged and frankly boring.

Yes, I am the equivalent of a Bernie Bro in my stance on this but I’m not saying this for some egotistical naïve rhetoric but rather because being so drenched in it for as long as I have there is nothing clearer then the truths of how things are. Most people in the art world know this. They see and feel it as clearly as I do but most won’t openly admit or discuss it because 1) it makes you look like a beta loser with a chip on your shoulder and 2) because if you do then you can no longer participate because the reality of this truth will slowly crush your soul.

Being a gallerist, working in galleries, working art fairs, selling things to clients, institutions all that jazz is the starting vector to enabling and perpetuating this structure. Not only does your job depend on it but so does your social mobility and construction of self. To be in the gallery world and the higher you get, and the better galleries you work in is a type of social climbing that is mesmerizing and desired because it equates your value and your necessity. It’s a hard thing to do, to become the king or queen of an art hill and you probably really deserve it and others will respect you for it.

This structure though is entirely stupid. As I have admitted, I like to watch period movies and shows. There is a type of show within this genre that is about the upstairs/downstairs hierarchy and its dramas and relationships. While I was watching one of these said shows, it clicked in my brain that the gallery/art world is just like these shows. The idea that there is this superior echelon (very rich people) and those that service them (gallerists). The contact with this upper crust makes everyone that has access and connection with them feel that they too are a part of this superior level of humans. The way that galleries are even architecturally structured and function is a mimicking of this idea of inclusion/exclusion. People have attendants (assistants), they have private, secret rooms that must be given protocolled entry. There is the silent air of seriousness, elegance, class and business that is enhanced by the telepathic following of orders and the one nod instruction.

If you work for a gallery you are immediately trained to be a certain way. The lower the station you hold, the more silent you are. Don’t look, don't talk, just do what you are told with grace and efficiency. Even when you are the top director or owner of the space there is a production and unspoken but writ rules of behavior. If a point is reached where one has a more casual relationship with the client then there is another type of performance. A convivial coziness but one that is nonetheless contingent on the same structure of serving/ being served. Many people I know that work in galleries literally have client’s kids birthdays, pet’s names, food allergies at the finger tip ready so that they can ensure that this casualness is facilitated. I also know so many whose jobs are essentially about going out, taking out, and smoozing with clients or rich client’s relations to see the ‘real’ whatever city they happen to be in for a night or two. Gallerists are the ultimate concierge. Many enjoy this. Many reading this would find this a fantastic thing to have to do but I for one can’t bare it.

I really hate having to interact with people that I find dull and when I have to pretend I feel like the meaning of life is pointless.

That’s just me though.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m against rich people. Honestly a good, smart collector is probably the most interesting person you will meet in years, but the thing I can’t stand is how the art world is built upon this structure of service and the delusions it has on what that implies. This structure also applies to the other people served via the gallery. Artists, curators, everyone that is in a higher position then you. It is systematic and you are just one domino in the line.

How, why I have worked in galleries for as long as I have, I really have no idea. I don’t think that I was ever built for it. I don’t think that I have that gene that cares about the appearance of having some sort of clichéd glamorous life. All the money, all the parties, all the VIP whatevers has zero interest to me. I know some may think I am being jaded but I promise you I’m not. I’m just done with it and relieved that I don’t have to do it again just to pay the bills.

On a for real and positive note though, the art world has given me my life, my friends, and so many good conversations and incredible times. This I value, respect and will keep nurturing and grow. What I also know for sure is that I won’t miss the gallery world and I am certain that it won’t miss me. 

Goodbye! I hope that this is the end and if not I will write all about it with my tail between my legs.