Blog: Breaking Through

Christine Alfery

Posted on December 30 2019

Oceans Deep by Christine Alfery

Featured image: Oceans Deep

If you have visited Art Basel Miami and the satellite fairs, you may have experienced “Art Overload.”  Aisle after aisle, row after row, tent after tent, and gallery after gallery, I found myself wondering,  “All this art, all these galleries, all these artists, how does any one of them survive?”  

You know the routine, if you engage with someone in a booth they can usually cite a list of the artist’s most impressive accolades in 60 second or less. They list the solo exhibitions, national and international shows, major museums, retrospectives, galleries, collaborations, awards, collectors in rapid fire fashion, looking to make an impact with a list of successes. 

If there are so many artists, how does one gallery decide to work with one particular artist?  Most galleries told me the same thing, “It is subjective, the gallery likes the artist and the artist likes the gallery.”  Subjectivity is one thing when it comes to creativity and connection, but it is a totally different thing when it comes to representing an artist.  Pragmatism suggests that galleries are prone to choose the popular, the trending, and what sells. They have a major investment in their business and they, like all business folks, want to succeed.  

How do artists today, myself included, follow the paths of those before us and find a gallery to work with? What if that path includes a history of being ignored, as exemplified by the notably smaller percentage of famous female artists historically?  It isn’t until recently that art historians have begun to write about these women and their work and the significance of it. So what path do we follow today to find a gallery?   

Who holds the keys?  Who are the gatekeepers?   Who has the authority and the power to control access?  If you seek a path outside the gate, will you be shunned from the traditional market and never given access to the traditional networks or the good-old-boy circle of power?  

I came to the conclusion after Art Basel that, like modernism, we are living through a fracture in how art is created and how artists become recognized.  This fracture appears as social media and chat rooms that are talking about “what is art” and what “qualifies” as art today. It appears as selling on-line and using new and different media. Exposure has new outlets.  

I am reminded of how the modernists probably felt, DeKooning, Pollack, Frankthaler, Hagen, and Mitchell, when they, too, created fractures in the traditional structure and decided to build bridges rather than change how they wanted to create and get their work out there.  It was a different time. We are now in a different time. I see changes happening and fractures in the structure of access.  

I would love to have one of the gatekeepers offer me a key, but, in the meantime, I will continue to create and share my art with the world any way that I can.  Like the modernists of the 60’s, I will continue to seek a key and build bridges across the fractures created by a changing time. 

In the meantime, how does an artist survive?  They must create what they love and what they are passionate about.  Art lovers, collectors and patrons must do the same. The unique subjectivity that exists in some art today is filled with these passions.  We need to look for it and support it as best as we can. 

Artists and art lovers alike, follow your passion rather than worry about the keys that the gatekeepers supposedly hold. Seek creativity, seek fracture, build and create bridges and don’t stop seeking just because you have not been invited in . . . yet.  Focus on what you love.   

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