Friday, May 10, 2013

Victoria to New York, Basquiat to Becker. Philip Willey May 2013.

 Let’s be honest. Victoria is a bit of a backwater as far as the international art world is concerned. Yes there are a lot of artists here and some interesting work is being produced but does anybody outside B.C. know about it?

Do any of our local artists aspire to living and working in the Big Apple? Does New York matter to us? Perhaps we’re happy here on the island and not even mildly curious about how our work measures up against the heavyweights. I suppose it’s a question of ambition. I don’t have any illusions about my own work but I do try to keep up with developments in the art world and New York is still the epicenter. Do young artists see it that way?

I can’t think of any Victoria artist who has moved to New York recently but what happened to Patrick Lundeen? Remember him? He’s from Lethbridge. He got a show at Weiss Gallery in Chelsea. Is he still in Brooklyn? [1] And what about Katie Brennan from Vernon who had a show with other Canadians at Agora Gallery? How did that go? [2]

There were 62 artists in the ‘Oh Canada’ show curated by Denise Markonish of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. [3] By all accounts it was well attended and popular. A lot of the work was very striking but I don’t think it included anybody from Victoria. Perhaps there hasn’t been anybody since Roland Brenner with the necessary international clout and not since Fran Willis have we seen a gallery with outside aspirations.

I can think of 2 or 3 local artists whose work wouldn’t look out of place in New York (no names, I’ll get lynched) but would they make a dent? Would they be appreciated more for their novelty value than any art historical contributions?

Getting a show in New York isn’t easy of course. Especially if you don’t actually live there. And starting from scratch must be daunting.

But what about New York itself? Is there as much happening there as we are lead to believe? It all seems a little post-Basquiat from a distance. I have a mental image of hipsters and ghosts wandering through whatever passes for grass roots type galleries looking for the next ‘thing’. Does the gallery system even exist anymore? Is there even an ‘art-world’? Jerry Saltz isn’t too sure. [4] In a recent article he talks about the art world having become a virtual reality. The gallery scene is on its last legs he thinks, replaced by art fairs. Collectors still collect but all the action is on keyboards and monitors. The energy is now online. Or maybe Jerry was just having a bad art day.

Don’t despair! One man stands alone against the forces of Entropy… Noah Becker!  We are facebook friends so I guess it’s OK to say that. Like many in Victoria I’m a keen follower of Noah’s communiques. Noah is a musician, a painter, a writer and he’s also the founding editor of  Whitehot Magazine. [5] He lives in New York and keeps his finger on the pulse. Noah left the safety of Victoria to brave the New York art scene. And he certainly isn’t intimidated by it. Good for him. He was kind enough to answer some questions.

I started by asking him what it was that attracted him to New York…
NB: It has the history and the appreciation for what I do.

PW: Does NY live up to your expectations?

NB: It's taken me 20 years to live here successfully.

PW: How would you describe the art scene there? Is it healthy, vibrant?

NB: It's run by different entities. There are many participants and it has a lot of international traffic. So I would say yes. Definitely a vibrant scene.

PW: What advice would you give to a young artist from outside trying to get a foot in the door?

NB: It's expensive here and most of the formerly bohemian spaces are high rent now. Don't underestimate how things like student loans or the kindness of friends can assist in the settling process.

PW: Do you think there is anybody there now with the caliber of Warhol or Basquiat?

NB: Different generations follow different heroes. If the audience is there then they will put someone on a pedestal. I think it's part of a shape that's yet to come. Certainly within the world things are happening on that level. In New York? -We'll see...

Noah Becker has made a film called ‘New York is Now’. It’s described as a ‘fast-paced trip through the contemporary art scene in New York - now. Major artists, auction houses, curators and dealers alike put forth their views on issues of decentralization, the market climate, and the clash between real and virtual space via social media and the internet at large. Featuring Lee Ranaldo, Richard Phillips, Bill Powers, Bibbe Hansen, Gerry Visco, Michael Anderson, Spencer Tunick, Michael Halsband, Richard Butler, and many more icons of the current scene.’ [6]

Sounds good to me. I haven’t seen the film yet, just a trailer, so it’s hard for me to come to any conclusion. Is it a fair picture of what’s actually happening in New York? Perhaps I have to go there and find out. But the film seems timely and I’m sure Noah Becker is well placed to paint an objective picture. I look forward to seeing the full version.




1 comment:

  1. Galleries like Agora are "Vanity Galleries" that prey on artists that think they need a show in New York in order to make it. Artists need large centers to sell work but for many of us these places have nothing to do with the making of art. Art and ego have the same number of letters but one has to be careful not to focus on the wrong word.