Art historian and art tour guide Lauren Kaplan talks about:

Her start giving tours at venues from the Met and the Guggenheim to galleries around Chelsea; the pros of giving tours at the Met- open and flexible access, liberal policies towards guides, and cons- some of the other tour leaders aren’t properly educated and give misinformation to their groups, which Lauren says isn’t her problem though it obviously doesn’t make it an ideal context for her business; how she organizes her largest tours, which can be up to 40 people, by dividing the group in half and leading a tour for each half while the other looks around on their own; a particularly memorable encounter with a star actor while doing a slightly compromised tour at The Frick Museum; how small tours (families of four) are more conversational that big tours (30-40) which are more lecture-based; teaching people on her tours to feel comfortable not knowing what they’re looking at, and how she regularly takes Chelsea gallery tour groups to shows she knows they won’t like or get (and sometimes that she doesn’t like), which invariably lead to the most interesting conversations; some of her memorable gallery show tours, including Thomas Schutte, Terence Koh and Carrie Mae Weems; the “ven diagram of people” living in brownstone Brooklyn and commuting to the museums on the Upper East Side, and she compares the two neighborhoods in ways you might find surprising; how she came to learn who the core demographic for her tours is (hint: she’s a modernist); and she shares some memorable anecdotes from her tours featuring both kids and adults.

London-based artist and PhD candidate John Walter talks about:

From the U.K, his romanticized version of the U.S. vis-à-vis New York and its high-’80s art boom; and he tries to reconcile the work of some of his early heroes, particularly Julian Schnabel, vs. their oversized egos and macho bluster, while dismissing most of his countrymen (Freud, Auerbach, etc.) for being ‘bad’ for the wrong reasons; his PhD thesis, relating to HIV/AIDS in relation to visual art and ‘maximalism,’ and as manifested through his interactive installation Alien Sex Club, which looked at the social aspects of ‘cruising’ in both analog (gay bath houses, cruise mazes) and digital (Grindr, etc.) forms, through his maximal aesthetic applications; his former apartment Tandoori Cottage, which took on a maximal aesthetic along the lines of some of his work, and how it was something of an experiment in collapsing the divide between work and life; his PhD program, which was in architecture, and which allowed him to produce Alien Sex Club as well as a book of symbiotic writings, and how getting the PhD has been part of his need to diversify to get by as an artist, an artist as “nomadic jester”;  how after returning from Skowhegan in 2012 he was completely broke, had to swallow his pride and take a job at a book shop as part of that recovery, a big wake-up call that led him to the PhD program, part of his new era of strategic decision-making; the flat he and his partner bought in London to get out of market rent; how he’s leveraged grant opportunities to help support himself largely by accessing subject matter outside of visual art (mainly virology); his being an ‘interloper’ in virology, as part of his Alien Sex Club project and his Capsid project, which forces him to acquire a whole new knowledge-base in science; how he takes a very often dry sensibility (virology, science-as-art) and makes it ‘wet’ for an art audience; how despite making a lot of ‘gear’ (artworks), the commercial galleries he’s worked with haven’t worked for him, and how he’s taken the reins for his work as opposed to waiting for his work to be ‘ordained’…and so the market will come later; that galleries tend to trade on the artist’s credentials, rather than their own credentials; the logistics of running his studio/office space, which is just five minutes from his flat, by wearing multiple hats in the same space; how he uses ‘telly’ (TV) as a way to switch off his brain; and we discuss art openings and forming relationships in the art world, in the context of the ‘hospitality’ component of his many installations/performances, promoting a form of welcoming interaction that tends to run counter to what actually goes on at an opening, and how he advocates finding ways into the community through folks that you ‘get on with.’

 

In the 2nd half of our conversation with Los Angeles-based provocateur Mat Gleason of Coagula and Coagula Curatorial, he talks about:

The benefits of having interns, and people he didn’t hire because he knew they’d graduate too quickly to even have them start; how he ‘punches up, not down,’ meaning going attacking bigger fish, not smaller ones (MFA shows); why gallery staff at the desk act the way they do, and how Mat trains his staff to act towards visitors, while Deb argues that it’s a service to their community, but that visitors have misconceptions about what gallery staff are doing (not just greeting), and Mat refers to the ‘bozos’ and ‘yahoos’ who come into the gallery and how inappropriately they act; he talks about his litmus for leverage (at openings/parties), the ‘Peter Frank’ point; the obscurity of artists in relation to celebrities (and which Mat put in context of the pyramidal hierarchy); speaking of celebrities, Mat shares a great anecdote eavesdropping on Loni Anderson talking to Burt Reynolds at an art opening (at maybe Ace gallery); his most recent episode of getting in trouble for writing in a recent Coagula issue, and how he needs to report significant episodes even though now that he’s known he’s more likely to be heard from by his subjects; who he’s against in the art world, in particular those who are pretentious, social ‘practicers,’ people who speak to you as a child, and academia; how he taught at Claremont Graduate School not having a college degree himself, to many students’ chagrin, and yet years later students told him how much he told them how it is in the art world; how he realized he was a Foucault-ian after years railing against him; the controversy around the Kelley Walker show at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, which Mat has very strong opinions about, including his analysis of the repercussions of the botched artist talk, his hope for change in a private club-culture art world as well as his vehement disapproval of the artist and curator in question; and lastly we discuss the gentrification scenario in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, particularly the area where galleries have moved into commercial spaces (around Mission and Anderson Streets)…Mat, having been a lifelong Angeleno and having friends who have galleries in the neighborhood, offers various provocative but thoughtful angles on the situation, including that the protesters won’t go after the government entities that have brought on the gentrification –that would be biting the hand that feeds them – or big businesses like Warner Bros., which is moving into a big building nearby, so they go after galleries, the easiest target, and how the protesters started getting media attention by doing so, what Mat calls ‘gold’ for their cause.

Mat Gleason, Los Angeles-based creator of the infamous zine Coagula, and owner of Chinatown gallery Coagula Curatorial, speaks in quintessentially outspoken fashion about:

How people in the art world are so committed to being neutral, and unwilling to speak their mind frankly out of a fear of going on the record and being tied to that position; his position not to be jaded manifesting as, “if I’m going to trash something, I’m going to trash it…”; how Coagula started as a “punk zine for the art world,” in 1992, and which became his entry into the art world; how as he became more enmeshed in the art world over time, he found himself having to be more careful about whom he trashed in print (or otherwise); how he and his friends decided to try and loot MOCA during the L.A. riots; one of his most illustrious and hated writers for Coagula, Charlie Finch, based in New York, who was(is) the ultimate character; the lawsuit for libel against Coagula, one year into its run, that he had to face and endure, from a former employee of Threadwaxing Space who Coagula had written about regarding alleged embezzlement (though ‘alleged’ was missing from the article), taking eight years to go to trial…though it cost him 30K in legal fees, he got a lot of media attention for Coagula out of it; why he decided to fight the lawsuit, which helped him decide that Coagula was his most important and successful endeavor after numerous failures, and that he needed to fight for it; how and why he started his gallery Coagula Curatorial (print was dead, information was free…); how there really isn’t any purity in the art world, and every relationship worth its mettle is a conflict of interest to some degree; how to sign artists to your program who aren’t flakes (and what the definition of “flake” is in L.A. vs. New York); and how if his interns were in his place of running a gallery, “they would never hire me…”

Manhattan-based collector and real estate attorney Stacey Fabrikant talks about:

The work she’s done as an attorney, working pro bono for several years – when she was married -with artists, galleries and non-profit art organizations (including non-art ones) on contracts of various types (she now has barter rates, start-up rates and non-profit rates among others so people can work with her), and the satisfaction she got from the thank-yous in lieu of payments; her work ranging from assisting artists in rent stabilized situations settle for buyouts from developers, to artists in contract disputes with galleries; contract scenarios that artists are faced with,  and their tendency not to spend money on a lawyer for negotiating, rushing into signing; what she wants artists to understand about the contracts they’re signing, if she works with them; the rather counter-intuitive reality, from her experience in real estate, that there are numerous artists setting up group studios in Manhattan, or as little as about $2/square foot, while she worries that in Brooklyn, in the buildings and neighborhoods where artists are inhabiting spaces, the developers are right on their heels, meaning the artists only get a year or two before they’re forced out and have to move deeper and further out; her history as a collector, from her roots via what her mom collected (racy David Salle and Robert Morris pieces) to her first pieces 20-odd years ago, starting with a Sugimoto photo and an Alan McCollum surrogate, through her connection with the artist scene in New Haven and the artists that she’s supported there (and who come stay with her when they’re in town), and local artists, some of whom she’d like to support in even greater depth were it possible; how she’s educated herself about art (she didn’t study art history) through multiple trips through Chelsea (at one time she was doing galleries there 3-4 days/week) seeing the work and talking to the artists and/or gallerists, and how she’s found the Lower East Side gallery community even more approachable and relaxed; how highly she prioritizes her own collection, to the extent that for her new place she’s about to move into, she doesn’t care about the furniture- it’s all about being able to curate and re-curate her collection throughout the space; how much she loves to show off her collection, particularly to get into the backstories of the work, and also as a way to gradually infuse a level of appreciation into her otherwise art-skeptical friends; how her ex-husband laughed at our complained about all the art she bought when they were together, but since the split has caught the bug and is becoming a pretty obsessive collector himself; how she’ll go to art fairs, and enjoy them, but won’t buy there so as not to get caught up in the frenzy; and how she’ll always be the collector who will remain happy with a given artist’s piece and grateful that they’re still alive, which she believes is important to a lot of artists, and that’s what makes it fun for her.

David Prince, artist, girls private school teacher and owner of Adjunct Positions gallery in Highland Park talks about:

Teaching at a private school in Pasadena, which gives him financial stability, an art community of teachers and even some facilities he can access if needed; the impressive tools the school has, including C & C and 3D printing; how the school, while having expensive tuition (though fairly normal by private school standards), is progressive in its teaching the students to be aware of and even take part in social issues; how he counsels students getting undergrad educations to study something other than art, even if they’re going to become artists, because that background in a non-art education will make them more rounded in the long run; Snapchat, which along with Instagram is the social media of choice for his students, and why he himself likes it as the anti-social media app, free of the pretensions of the curated, manufactured image we use on other platforms; his 2 ½-year stint in NY after grad school at Art Institute of Chicago…he left New York through a combination of his business partner (in a furniture biz) left town, he lost his loft in Williamsburg to condos, and he got a residency out of town; how when he and his sister were looking for a house to buy, he had in mind one with a street-facing garage so he could start a space, which became his Adjunct Positions gallery; the open-ended approach of the gallery, including splitting install costs with artists, which they know going in, showing work throughout the house (the living room, the patio) in addition to the garage-gallery, and the exhibitions not being about showing ‘a body of work’ but a more conceptual bent, and including work that’s been produced specifically for the show; how he focuses on local artists to both support a local community as well as to grow his own network; the scarcity of opportunities in the art world, and how almost all the Adjunct Positions artist are involved in some kind of hustle; how the conversation among younger artists has shifted to include more practical questions, especially how to make a living (while being an artist); how David is more interested in showing artists than in showing “work,” which comes through meeting artists, doing studio visits with them and starting conversations that evolve into a collaborative process; and among other fellow high school art teachers, he appreciates that he has something of a dream job, while speculating that education will be one of the last casualties of the zombie robot apocalypse.

Brooklyn-based artist and gallerist Ryan Wallace talks about:

Living and working in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and how it’s changed over the 17 years he’s been there, and the precarious rental situation he’s in with his apartment building’s future, and a rapidly rising studio rent; how is exhibition is doing (open for another several days at the time we spoke) at Susan Inglett Gallery- about half sold; art that rises quickly in popularity with certain movements, and the many casualties that result amid just a few artists that stick around; the ‘art fund’ collectors who are looking for the quick score, and how their stock-based buying affects the good collectors, and how collecting is not a get-rich-quick scheme;  the gallery in East Hampton that he co-owns with Hilary Schaffner- their program, their schedule (full-time during June-July-August, tapered to appointment only in the winter), his role in the gallery (he goes into a different mode at art fairs), how much that he had to put up to get the gallery up and running initially (about 17k), etc.;  how he wound up in the Hamptons in the first place, and decided to set up shop there; the difference for Ryan being a dealer at the gallery in East Hampton, where it’s low pressure, very educational about the work, and so on, whereas at the fairs it’s all about commerce, which has taught him that you can’t tailor work to fit the market, because ‘commerce and work cross on their own agenda;’ how some local collectors who have come to 50% of their shows in East Hampton haven’t bought a piece until they were in their booth at a fair; the one time representing at a fair was soul-crushing, when he had to do it alone (which was only at one fair so far); and we have a spirited debate about potential conflicts of interest, as an artist and/or a gallerist, including how Ryan, being an outsider for so long, is now pro-nepotism because he wants to support the artist friends in the scene he’s built around his gallery, and how it’s a case-by-case basis in which, as a business, you ultimately make decisions; and yet how as an artist and a gallerist, he tries to stay away from cross-pollinating directly; and we talk about the Hamptons vs. Montauk, the latter of which has had problems with entitlement mixed with ‘vacation behavior’ which has led to a level of revelry that has had the locals up in arms.

Deborah Fisher, New York-based artist and co-founder/executive director of A Blade of Grass talks about:

Her project Cityspeaks, which started as an Instagram account and has become her way of making art during downtimes—waiting for the elevator, while commuting, etc.—since those limited parameters are what she can afford time-wise with her demanding arts administrator job; how it also started by asking herself the question: “what’s the riskiest thing I can do” –  as an arts administratorm how am I going to take advantage of that freedom?; how A Blade of Grass happened to her while she was being an artist; the ‘scarcity art world,’ in which artists do anything they want except value their work, because that ‘value’ comes from gatekeepers and stakeholders, which leads to a huge crisis in worth and validation all the time; how to be an “un-artist,” as described by one of her great influences, Allan Kaprow; how her conversations with her employer, Shelley Rubin of the Rubin Foundation, who had a lot of questions about contemporary art, led to conversations about context, and how art is integrated into everyday life, and ultimately that led to the creation of A Blade of Grass; ABOG’s mission for its fellows, in a sense, as ‘rehearsing for the revolution;’ the realities of participating in change, and how even when accepting funding from less-than-ideal entities, grantees can engage in conversations with them about their objectives, and in so doing, ideally move the needle at least a little bit in the right direction; the analogy between politicians selling message thru stories and artists (or art and ideas people like Deborah) selling projects through their own story concepts; how the sexiness of socially-engaged art is it’s “selling tomorrow” …and what if the conversation around cultural production was making the world a better place? how the types of artists ABOG works with are collaborative, even cultural stakeholders; and how, while on a retreat at a Zen monastery with an alternative approach, she transitioned from “me” to “we,” honoring what she came to realize was her social contract, just as she was transitioning from being a traditional artist to becoming an arts administrator and an artist who doesn’t make things but sees things, as encapsulated in her Cityspeaks project.

Manhattan-based art writer and budding curator Emily Colucci talks about:

Her place on Avenue C in the East Village, and how she’s managed to live in a Manhattan that’s now cheaper in many cases than Brooklyn; the C Squat next door to her place, which has existed since the ’70s and the city allowed them to permanently inhabit if they brought it up to code (which they did), and which also runs the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, which does walking tours of former squats and community gardens and non-profit art spaces in the neighborhood; the heydays of St. Marks Place and the East Village, and how each generation looks down on newer generations’ scenes as not having the same level of artistic relevance; her cultural blog Filthy Dreams, which she founded as a place for “minorities who don’t even fit into our own minorities,” inspired by John Waters’ quote, and for the queer and LGBT communities; writing about (and taking down) James Franco’s show at Pace gallery, which was his attempted version of re-creating Cindy Sherman’s iconic Untitled Film Stills series…why Pace had the show in the first place, what Cindy Sherman’s reaction to it was, plus Emily brings Filthy Dreams’ take on Franco’s history of appropriating Queer culture while simultaneously publicly declaring that he’s not gay; her curatorial projects, including a past show Party Out of Bounds: Nightlife as Activism since 1980 (which was about nightclubs, activism and AIDS), and an upcoming show on Disco’s legacy, and the two years of work that goes into each show, including relying on oral histories from eras where many of its notable participants have passed away; how exhibitions, unlike articles on art, can actually make a tiny difference in exposing people to things and even changing minds; how it’s terrifying at times being a freelance writer, but because she’s allergic to office work, she wouldn’t trade it for anything, and she always has Filthy Dreams to write for when the other gigs aren’t happening, and how even though she knows there are more readers, she always assumes there are two people reading her blog: her mom and her best friend (though she did get to experience what it’s like for your article to get some serious attention, after her piece on James Franco was picked up by Live Journal).

Brooklyn-based artist and activist Ann Lewis talks about:

Her recent move to Greenpoint from Bushwick, where she was kicked out of her live/work loft when the building was bought by two hedge-fund entities; the realities of living in an ever-increasingly expensive New York City, gentrification, and Ann’s experience with it both as a tenant – including negotiating with the owners for a modest settlement that helped with her move out – and as an activist (she was actually protesting at an anti-gentrification rally at the time she received a 30-day-notice warning under her loft door); her concern that New York, Brooklyn in particular, will just continue developing into a mass of suburban sprawl, with nothing that can be done from the ground to stop it, leaving only the hope of the bubble bursting; a deconstruction of New York City government’s complicity in maintaining a corrupt system that fosters unbridled development, to a large extent a system put in place during Bloomberg’s administration; how, with artists being the canaries in the coal mine, we can learn from the past problems of neighborhoods being unstably gentrified by moving into homeowner-dense neighborhoods and collectively investing in them for the very long-term, in hopes of diverting the gentrification train; how she feels we’re seeing change coming out of social activism very quickly now, through social media and greater attention being paid to issues, and how there’s been a big increase in the # of artistically minded people being more regularly engaged in social and political issues via FB and beyond; how her activist work started with street art (stencils) because she felt so strongly about certain issues (Abu Gharib, mass incarceration, etc.) that she needed to start having conversations with anyone who would listen; one of her performance pieces, a protest piece from 2014, in which she spent a month wearing a prison-issue orange jump suit in public, engaging with both strangers and people she knew in conversations about mass incarceration; how when she pushes herself out of her comfort zone, which she does in her performances, learning new things and providing ever more meaningful experiences for those experiencing her pieces; her maze wall paintings, which include subliminal messages contained within them; and she entertains the potential of Detroit as a future home and artist community, should living and working in New York become untenable, though we hope it won’t.