Tuesday, February 12, 2008

That New York Advantage

I have been reading many comments in art blogs recently suggesting that it is no longer imperative to reside in New York in order to have an art career. Because the internet allows for the rapid transfer of images and other information, many suggest that it may be possible to live and work someplace else, shipping one's work to the gallery representation in New York. But wait... how do you get the NY gallery representation if you do not live there?

I have never really felt that I had the option of moving to New York, even though I spent half of my life only 3 hours away in Binghamton. I have health issues that necessitate insurance coverage, so after grad school, I had to find that university teaching job with benefits.

I have made various efforts to "break in" to NY... Two years ago, I spent $4,000 to rent a studio and tiny apartment in The Village for a month. I set up my work like a gallery, and invited people to come. It lead to a few great opportunities, but it became apparent to me that this effort was only the first step: I needed to come back to the city frequently to maintain the contacts. I now average 4-6 trips a year, and would go once a month if I could afford it. At one point, I also found a great deal where I could buy a time share in a NY studio downtown: for $120 a month, I got a key, a slot in the painting racks, and the right to reserve the space to show work to curators. Unfortunately, the place shut down a few months after I joined, and I never had the opportunity to use it. (I would do it again in a heartbeat if I found another deal like that one.)

I have noticed that most artists who live in NY could not fathom living elsewhere. I presume that this is because of the proximity to all the great art they get to look at, as well as the advantage of having a studio that is easily accessed by the Whitney Biennial people when they finally come to call. I have also heard NY dealers make fun of the art professors from all over the country who descend upon Chelsea every Spring Break and summer, slides in hand, looking for representation.

Why bring up The New York Question when I am happily ensconced in NC, having one of the most productive stints of my life? Because last week, I got this email...

A friend was curating a show, and asked for help finding artists who did this very specific type of work. I sent out some emails to people I know, and eventually came to exchange emails with some people I had never met. One of them was a dealer who represented an artist I was trying to contact. After some email exchanges, this dealer's artist was contacted by my curator friend: all involved were very thankful. The signature at the bottom of my emails always contains my website link, and the gallery owner, who is located in Washington, DC, went to my site, looked at the work, and continued to email me with uncharacteristic enthusiasm, even after it was a done deal for her artist. The email suggesting that she had a curator friend who loved "my kind of work" was followed by another correspondence from her BlackBerry, that read, "I don't believe in coincidences", i.e., "I was meant to find your work". The momentum was building to a feverish pitch, it was like the potential of a new love affair, with messages appearing every few minutes in my inbox that afternoon, until the second-to-last one....

-"Wow! I'd love to meet you. Are you in NY? I go quite often. Would love to visit your studio."

-"Well, I live and work in Burlington, North Carolina. I go to NY every other month or so. I will be there during the Armory Show in March. I have stuff at the Museum of Arts & Design through April, and a few pieces at 31Grand Gallery on Ludlow St. through, um, Saturday. I am always in Miami for Art Basel, and I have quite a few friends in Washington who I visit 1-2x per year. I would be happy to show you some work next time I am up North, or you are welcome to make a studio visit if you are ever passing through, we are 35 minutes from Chapel Hill. -K"

"Kate- I thought you were in NY. Thank You."

THUD. and then nothing.

So I can't help but wonder, all other things being equal, what might have been if I lived in New York. I will be talking to some MFA students later this week, and will be offering a slightly different answer to "the New York question" than I normally give.


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