Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Table Discussion Topics

Here is a preliminary list of potential table discussions and people who suggested the concepts.  We have named several, so please don't take offense if we butchered anything. We are also doing away with the traditional, hierarchical panel discussion and inviting the 'experts' or invited guests to sit centrally at our converted work tables along with the first people to arrive at the gallery or who RSVP (this depends if we receive a strong response for the finalized discussions).  We hope to make the conversations more informal and promote greater interaction with the audience by including some of them at the table, literally and metaphorically.  There will also be beer and pizza, when we can afford it, to keep things light, especially if the discussion turns heavy.

While we are still awaiting confirmation for invited guests for many of the discussions, we are also soliciting nominations and volunteers who feel like they'd be willing to share their expertise and experience.  Please get in touch.  If you'd also like to host a discussion or add a topic, send it along.  We only have a certain number of slots for the series, but we'd like to post discussion topics regularly in the think space.

Possible Discussions:

Collecting with Your Eye, Not Your Ears (Suggested by Barry Hoggard and James Wagner)
• What motivates collectors to acquire work?  Is it what you hear about an artist or is it the work itself?  Barry Hoggard and James Wagner have been invited to lead a discussion around how and why people build private collections.  It can't just be to fill the New Museum or flip at auction!

Nocation, Nocation, Nocation - (Suggested by Emma Gray)
• How does not having a traditional brick and mortar space affect the roles of independent curators, pop-up galleries, roving spaces, independent dealers?  Is it a matter or resistance, a new business model, a niche role in the market, or a reaction to the recession as fixed costs displace dealers and empty real estate creates new opportunities?  What's happening out in Bushwick?  We want to hear from you.

The Critic's Panel - (Suggested by Edward Winkleman)
• What will happen when some of New York's most prominent critics come to the table at #class?  We have a few brave volunteers to bring the critic's perspective to the discussion, but we are looking for other voices out there in the trenches.

The Anti-Conceptualism Discussion - (Suggested by Jen and William)
•There are a vast number of people out there who don't like conceptual art, what Jen and William do, or what Ed Winkleman promotes.  Do you think we are bullshit? We'd like to hear from you!  We are inviting any formalists, purists, and ideologues with open arms into the gallery for a frank discussion on conceptual art and even #class itself.  We currently can't fathom inviting anyone, but desperately want to host an animated dialog.

The System Works - (Suggested by several people who would like to remain anonymous)
•What's wrong with the market?  Well, for many artists fully invested in it, nothing! We recognize that the market has worked and continues to work for a lot of artists (including ourselves!) and #class would be a one-sided debate without inviting in artists, dealers, collectors, and others who find more right than wrong with the market-based arts-investment system.  We say chance and you say luck.

The System Doesn't Work - (Suggested by years of experience or William with Jen's support)
•What's wrong with the market?!  Well, for many artists with nothing invested in it, everything!  We recognize that even just getting access to the market seems to be based on pedigree, insider connections, randomness, and a byzantine social hierarchy right out 18th Century France.  Then there's what happens when you work within the system; ruthless competition, sellouts to zero sales, dealers vanishing in the night, bounced checks, no art reviews, and a sense of ever impending doom.  If this sounds like your perspective and luck is as likely as hitting a Win For Life scratch off, then we'd love to have you at the table.

Access - (A necessary offshoot of the previous topic)
• One of the defining issues at the heart of #class.  Is open access for all artists even a possibility in the broadest sense of the art experience?  Is it the wisdom of the crowd, a lottery drawing, or the discerning 'eye' of the curator, dealer, or tastemaker that should shape we see?  Galleries are open to the public, but they are not the most inviting spaces, while public museums can cost more than a trip to the I-MAX for Avatar 3-D.  Reading an issue of Artforum often feels like it requires a pocket theory translator (where is the app for that?).  The complexion of the art world is a lighter shade of pale, and despite the Whitney Biennial's gender parity all is not well in the market.  So, we raise the question of elitism and hegemony for #class.

The Ivory Tower - (see previous topic)
•In the late 80's and the early 90's, you could get an MFA without so much as drawing a line, well if you don't count all the underlining and highlighting of Derrida and Foucalt.  Many young artists plow through undergraduate and graduate school for degrees so they can immediately get a tenure track teaching gig in....well anywhere, without ever trying to be a working artist.  There are also a lot of artists who've been teaching for decades out there.  What's your take on the rise of academia and the proliferation of art programs that promise a 'career' in the arts? Are you unhappy in your teaching gig?  Are you swamped in student loan debt and considering going back to law school? Is it a symptom of the professionalization of the arts or something else entirely.  So many issues...we really need to hear from you.

The Art World as High School - (suggested by William self-identified troublemaker)
•You can't possibly have a discussion about the art market without thinking about New York as a series of carefully placed lunchroom tables where even the subtlest glance, bit of gossip, or movement can set off a fight.  Are you a cool kid?  A rich kid?  A fat kid?  A jock? A nerd? An Outcast?  Think about it, and if you want to address how reputation, coolness, likability, personality, wealth, and other social aspects shape the art world, please volunteer to have a deeply uncomfortable discussion.

Bolshevik! - (suggested by William)
•An open invitation to Marxists (and sympathizers!) to have a special dialog about the aging alternative to Capitalism.

Success? - (suggested by Edward)
• Another open invitation to discuss how the easy and plentiful money of the art boom fueled perceptions that this one was different and that it would last forever.  How does the influx of money change artists, dealers, collectors, and is it a trap that promotes a defensive, cautious position?  Does success promote creative stagnation or is money what we all really miss, deep down inside in the dark place?

The Straight White Middle Class Male Panel - (Suggested by An Xiao)
• Artist An Xiao would like to invite the default setting for artists in to discuss how their whiteness, maleness, straightness, middle-classness influences their art.  We assume An is also looking for Americans, but Europeans and others from Western nation states will do fine.  Again, we welcome you with open arms to talk about your art, which could be worth making the implicit explicit.


  1. Hey hey,
    Don't forget "The Labor Class"
    Those unknown toilers who make, transport, and install the work of the famous artists.

  2. Relevant to 'Nocation, nocation, nocation' - the new online venues are populist. Collectors are made by the artists themselves, not the dealers or gallerists. Revolution via technology. Get Etsy to speak.

  3. will you guys be posting notes on the discussions and posting them so that people that don't live in New York can have an idea of what's going on? I would love to read this stuff. Maybe the big names have a monopoly on the situation, but New York has a monopoly on art.

  4. #class/Bolshevik! is not the runaway train; it is, rather, the emergency brake. Wish I were in NYC.

  5. This list of topics feels just about right to me, but it's funny to not see specific mention of the one thing my mind has been turning over since first reading about #class and your coming circus: Manufactured Celebrity as a Marketing Device Within the Art World (mirroring the mass culture).

    This is the one thing about the current culture for me that detracts most from the art experience. On some days I find it downright destructive. But I've no idea how any single player or small collective can avoid the machinations of celebrity entirely if they wish to be in the game.

    Though you have not mentioned the aspect of celebrity directly in any of these topics, I see it as implicit in at least 2/3rds of the ones you name.

    It will be very interesting to see what happens when these topics are unleashed into meat space. I know I'm curious to compare which ones blossom into impassioned debate and discussion and which ones just sit there as concise, pretty but inert ideas. Either result will not be the final word on any given topic. But I'm still interested in those results regardless.