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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Can a Closing Gallery Get Some Respect from the Press?

With a world in crisis and an art market spinning out of control, ace art-world consultants Chen & Lampert deliver hard truths in response to questions sent by Art in America readers from far and wide.

It was with a heavy heart that I closed my gallery last fall. Proud of all that the gallery had accomplished over the years, I noted some highlights in a closure announcement that I sent to our mailing list. I was flooded with warm responses, yet it saddened me that no art press reported on our departure. Our shows might not always have received significant reviews, but it would feel great to be recognized for the blood and sweat we poured into the business. Is it too late now to get any farewell coverage?

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Oh, downtrodden former gallerist, we see you flatfooting the earth among the unwashed masses. The art world is a fickle and merciless mistress who will never thank you for the diamonds, pearls, and quarter-page Brooklyn Rail ads you have festooned on her. No, she’ll hurl these gleaming gifts in your face before striding off with another gallerist whose star-studded roster makes yours look like a gaggle of dumpster divers behind a Dick Blick. The art world we just personified could be a “he” or a “they” too, but our point is that the love you’ve expended will never be fully reciprocated. Doesn’t that stink?

Closing shop is a bitter pill to swallow, but as you pointed out, gallery closings are the trend du jour, so at least you don’t have to feel alone. Given the paltry critical attention your shows received over the years, you already knew that the freeloading freelance art press is picky, and that publishing space is rooked up. Galleries are not so different from restaurants in that they are extremely grueling to run and most of them ultimately fail. Did you watch The Bear? Did it stress you out? Imagine a similar show about an art gallery. Would you binge it? We could reassure you that this closure is just a career bump, and encourage you not to give up, but why would you want to open another gallery in the same hostile environment?

The issue here is that you are focused on the attention that you didn’t receive rather than the accolades that friends and colleagues spent real time writing. Why not hold on instead to the warm glow you get when recalling all the amazing moments that made the gallery so personally rewarding. If you still have the energy, maybe the solution is to whip up an unforgettable Hermann Nitsch-esque blood-and-entrails farewell event. It might leave a bad taste in people’s mouths, but not enough people appreciated your cooking in the first place.

I was invited to participate in a “curatorial intensive” in Eastern Europe. It’s a financial stretch for me to attend a program like this, and I have a fear that the workshop is an express boot camp for curators like me who feel stuck in curatorial assistant purgatory. Is it worth the cost, and, more important, what happens at these intensives? How do I know it’s not a waste of time?

Sounds like you’re thinking about attending art sleepaway camp. It’s scary to be far from home in a situation where you have to share a bunk with motley independent curators and Euro-strangers. If you go, you will make new international friends who have different eye-opening perspectives to share. Unless they are psychos, the other attendees will likely be as anxious as you are about this intensive experience. The enrollment fee may be high, but you can expect plenty of arts activities, group exercises, karaoke, wine drinking, and heavy meals that will become forever memories. You will make pen pals for life and might even leave with plans for more art theory–filled sleepovers in other countries. Be sure to pack your favorite books and Powerpoint slides. Don’t forget your e-flux login or Advil for this aesthetic adventure filled with art world ghost stories and moonlit dreams about shows and QR codes you will produce one day at a remote Kunsthalle

Your queries for Chen & Lampert can be sent to [email protected]

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