Monday, 06.01.2015

“We’re all crying.” He says.

That statement pretty much sums up the reaction of most people I’ve met in galleries. The gallery owner, the framer, the artist, or whoever happens to be there asking me about my future goals. “You have to start with a lot of money, and then you make none.” This negativity follows me everywhere. We’re all desperate, we’re all lost, and yes, we’re all crying. There has to be a way around it. There has to be a way to make a living in the art community without selling your soul to greed. So where is the positivity?  It does not follow the pessimist. Optimism hides in the corners of galleries with the smiling host. It hides behind canvases splattered with late night passion, and creeps out so wink at the strong.

I’ve seen two opposite worlds in the art scene here in Chicago. The solo galleries and the community buildings. Usually the solo galleries are closer to downtown. Closer to the Gucci and the Prada. I walked into a lingerie shop where they sold a set of underwear for $1200. No wonder paintings sell for $70,000. On the flip side, I’ve seen solo galleries in different parts of town selling better paintings for $100, because “no one will buy it otherwise.” I’m searching for the happy medium.

I think it lies inside the rustic walls of larger art centers. These places are filled with private studios and galleries. I found a support system in these buildings like the Zhou B. I’m sure these places have their fair share of drama flowing down the halls, but mostly I see community. I feel the muses running between studios. I see the artist interacting and helping one another. They give each other advice and a helping hand when needed. Guests, collectors, and artists flock to these buildings to appreciate the art and the artist.

I was lucky enough to be apart of an opening at the Cornelia Arts Building. I was invited by an artist, Robert Pockmire, from 4Art to help him hang some paintings.IMG_9290 IMG_9291

I found this opportunity to volunteer helpful in beginning to train my curatorial eye. The experience made me even more excited to work with Robin on curating an exhibit with a variety of artists and work in a larger space. I had a splendid time at the opening. Seeing the different studios made me appreciate the variety these art buildings have to offer. I saw studios for sculpting, welding knives, creating paintings, jewelry, clothing, tiles and everything in between.

IMG_9293  IMG_9298

These art centers do not have the superficial air I’ve felt in other galleries. I’m sure it’s out there, but it’s overpowered by the passionate artist who fill the rooms. I feel fortunate to have found my way into these circles.

Patricia Singer, Intern.

Posted in About | Leave a comment

Sunday, 05.24.2015

There is no lack of exploring to be done in Chicago. I have been here nearly two weeks and have visited over thirty galleries. One thing I am beginning to realize is that there is no secret rule to running a gallery. It is a diverse business where gallerist with a variety of styles have found success.

This week has me thinking about the different aesthetics in galleries. Some galleries, such as the Corosh Gallery in Pilsen, are overflowing with art. I pulled the door open to be greeted by a sculpture standing dead center, two and a half feet away from the entrance. The placement of this piece reminds me of a strategy mentioned by Curator Kerry James Marshall of the Smart Museum. He sets up his displays to force the viewer to look at an image by exhibiting only a single piece on a wall. Talk about powerful. Another way to force the viewer to look at a piece is achieved by a different approach to organization. This method is done by galleries that provide the viewer with a big open space. Either approach is acceptable, but I find galleries stuffed with art to be more comfortable. It may take away from the dramatic impact of seeing a piece on it’s own wall, but I enjoy the cozy atmosphere one gets when they are standing in a room piled floor to ceiling with art. Maybe I am biased from working in the tight crevices between massive stacks of books for five years.

Another aspect of creating a desired atmosphere in a gallery comes from wall color. I would say about 80% of the galleries I have visited stick to traditional white, but I am much more drawn to galleries with a little more color. The yellow walls of the Hildt Gallery in The Loop had me locked in. Perhaps this is another bias of mine, because I grew up in homes with yellow walls. Whether it be bias or fact, yellow walls definitely have a way of brightening up a room. It is a stark contrast to the Atlas Gallery with its gray carpeted walls. Dark walls definitely tighten up the space. The Hildt Gallery had a much brighter flow even though the Atlas Gallery was nearly half windows and the Hildt Gallery had no windows at all. Don’t get me wrong, reader, I am not saying either method is right or wrong, but mark my words: my future gallery will be luminous!
Patricia Singer, intern.

Posted in About | Leave a comment

Monday, 05.18.2

Today I explored galleries on Michigan Avenue, The Loop, & The South Loop. All the galleries I visited were different and unique in their own way. State Street Gallery had an abundance of windows, which allowed for the gallery to be lit with natural light. I prefer this method to windowless galleries. The displays at State Street gallery are rotated every three months.

Next I visited the School of the Art Institute. It brings me displeasure to say that I was actually embarrassed for the first display. I hesitate to say, “drawings” and “collages” were arbitrarily taped on the walls along with random objects, such as cigarette papers, clothing items, and a block of wood. I would hardly call myself a tough art critic. Pretty much anything floats my boat except seashell art and whatever the hell the students displayed in the gallery were trying to achieve. Pathetic.

Another gallery at the School of the Art Institute was better. This was a windowless space. It felt almost like a cold factory with white walls and visible piping on the ceiling, but it somehow still managed to work. Pieces were suspended in the air. Unlike the videos at the Smart Museum, which one could listen to voluntarily through a headset, voice recordings playing on a loop filled the room. The exhibit, Coordinates, succeeded in connecting architecture, sculpture, performance, and costume.

The Oppenheimer Gallery on the corner of MIchigan Avenue and Hubbard can be described as more posh than the others I visited thus far. The walls were grey and a lavish carpet covered the gallery floors. About 99% of the paintings were displayed in ornate, golden frames. The theme of the gallery is natural history, so all the pieces were of wildlife or plants. The theme never changes. The gallery offers custom framing, and has rare books on display and for sale. I could connect with this gallery because I wish to incorporate framing and books in my own gallery, although I would not have the same theme. The books were a special treat for me. I got to see Abraham Ortelius’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Alexander Wilson’s American Ornithology, and Audubon’s The Birds of America. The Birds of America is one of the rarest books in the world. The production of this specific edition was halted by the Civil War, and actually bankrupted the Audubon family.

I concluded my adventure for the day at R.S Johnson Fine Art Gallery. I was greeted at the door by R. Stanley Johnson himself. He was a friendly man, I wish I had been less shy and spoken to him more. Perhaps I’ll return one day to interview him. His assistant, Eric was enthusiastic about showing me around. The gallery mostly had original Picasso pieces, along with German expressionists, and contemporary art. It was located on the 9th floor, so I imagine they don’t get many people in who only wish to browse. Erich showed me a secret wall that opened up into a storage nook for more paintings. He told me that their displays change about three times a year. He invited me to an opening at the end of summer. All the art in the gallery was owned by the gallery and they specialize in master prints. The gallery was opened in 1955 and sold to over 65 museums. That figure is larger than any other gallery. The space was quiet. It was surreal taking notes while sitting in a room surrounded by original Picasso paintings.

I have always enjoyed my time spent in museums, but I would much rather achieve the intimacy that galleries, such as the R.S Johnson gallery, provide their viewers.

Patricia Singer, Intern.

Posted in About | Leave a comment

Sunday, 05.17.2015

Since 3rd Friday just passed, there was not really much to do around the gallery. Robin let me go with one homework assignment: to explore! My adventure began on Sunday at the Smart Museum. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Chicago so I rented a bike. I was surprised to find out just how charming my neighborhood in Hyde Park is. The Smart Museum was only about ten minutes away by bicycle. The exhibition on display was Objects and Voices.There were 17 exhibitions each set up by a different curator or curatorial team. There was a huge variety of art ranging from furniture, to fine art, to literature, music, and even school children art. The exhibit was coordinated by Anne Leonart, a curator at the Smart Museum.

Each room had a different theme. First the rooms changed by region and then by context. I spent hours making sketches of each room, viewing the art, taking notes, and sitting down to watch videos of the curators. Each room had a short three to four minute interview with the curator. Perfect. Unfortunately, I got so into each display that I ended up running out of time and did not get to visit each room. I returned as soon as they opened Monday morning, but the gallery was closed. I made it a mission to return and finish the exhibit. One of the artists I was particularly excited about seeing was Alphonse Mucha. The museum was displaying his illustration for Job cigarette papers. I was happily surprised to learn that Mucha was a professor in Chicago. What a treat.IMG_9118

In an interview with curators Richard Aborne and Keith Hartley, I learned that  having clusters of work rather than individual pieces puts museums and galleries on the map. They made it a point to say that art must be seen in a variety of contexts so connections can be made. The pieces they chose for their part of the exhibit were chosen because they made these connections. For example, two collages were displayed on the same wall. One titled Collage by Roland Penrose and another titled Wall by Peter Blake. The two pieces were connected by the postcards they featured.

Another curator, Russel Bownem, chose to display Rothko’s Nature to Abstraction. He displayed pieces from other artists, but all the pieces he chose were chosen because they show the goal of Rothko’s series. Curators Jie Shi & Catherine Stuer also find importance in displaying work with a web of connections. The connection can come from where the art came from, where the artist came from, and where the art has been. This is especially important for their display of Asian art because of the heavy trade between China, Korea, and Japan. One distinctive characteristic of Asian art is writing on the art. Writing on a piece of art can be the artist’s stamp, the owner’s stamp, or poetry. This mingling of poetry and art led into a smooth transition from Asian works to a display on Goethe and his work.

Being a literature buff as well as an artist, I found the exhibit on Goethe to be most interesting. A display case held an actual book of poems by Goethe. Of course a book on display can only show one page, so the wall next to the book had photographs of other pages. There was also a packet of commentary and translations of the poems. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the display were the ipods. Goethe was a great inspiration for composers of his time. They would write songs based off of his poetry, and it was all right there with translation and the real book! Needless to say, I spent some time sitting on the floor, flipping through poems and listening to the corresponding symphonies. Goethe was not only an inspiration for musicians, but artists as well. Blown up plates from an illustrated version of Faust were displayed on the wall. There was also a portrait of Goethe and more illustrations inspired by Goethe’s poetry. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.IMG_9119 IMG_9120

All together the exhibit in the museum transitioned smoothly. The walls started out white, then began to alternate between grey and white to match the flow of the displays. Wall inserts were added to hang pieces and separate displays. Some larger paintings had an elevated white space on the ground in front of them. This keeps the viewer at a distance, which gives them a different perspective than allowing them to walk all the way up to the painting. In some of the rooms pieces were placed on pedestals in the middle of the room to encourage the viewer to circumambulate around the piece.

Patricia Singer, Intern. 

Posted in About | Leave a comment

Saturday, 05.16.15

I went into the gallery at noon. I was hoping to catch a client coming in for framing that day, but unfortunately they came early. On the brighter side of things, I walked into an interview with Robin. I was glad to hear someone else pick her brain. The lady interviewing Robin was a kind blogger named Kristin O. The interview felt very organic and flowed smoothly. I walked in when Kristin was inquiring about getting a space for a gallery. Perfect. I learned that the first thing one should know when trying to open a business is their budget. Know your budget and name it. Be in charge of your business. Robin gave a quick overview of what it is like to get a loan for your business. It is great information to have, but I feel that by the time I’m ready to start my own business I will need a more in-depth explanation. I learned that an investor will sponsor your business, but I’ll need collateral. If I make all my payments on time, then a bank will take over. That will give me a chance to build my credit. Robin told the interviewer that she had to max out many credit cards to start up her business, and that I should be expecting to be paying off the credit cards for years. Business exceeds rent, and there are many successful galleries, but a lot of what I make will go to paying off credit card debt. It’s the sad truth, but it is in no way a deal breaker for me.

The topic moved from opening a gallery to Robin’s own art. She is an honest artist who does art because she is dedicated and passionate. Her and I can agree that art without passion is nothing but a lie. She stresses the importance of originality and never deceiving your viewer. There are no new techniques, but there are new concepts and visions born everyday.

Kristin O. left and Robin and I turned our attention to the framing order. I quickly learned that framing is a delicate process. Robin began by sampling different mats to put around the pieces. The mat should match the piece, or compliment it. Always talk to the customer about what type of mat they want, but usually they will be looking for your guidance.

So the framing for the day came to a halt. I was a little disappointed. I’m ready to observe a framing and eventually frame on my own, but I must be patient. These things can’t be rushed you know.

Patricia Singer, Intern.

Posted in About | Leave a comment

3rd Friday, 05.15.15

1029 W 35th Street, formally known as the Zhou B Art Center, introduced itself to me as a quiet place upon my arrival, although I was told 3rd Friday is a pretty big deal at the Zhou B. I believed it, but I couldn’t have imagined the life that would fill the building that night. Like blood rushing through excited veins, people filled the halls and brought the building to life. The building seemed to expand with all the gallery doors open. There was plenty of wine to be drunk and plenty of food to be eaten. Musicians roamed the halls carrying their violins and upright basses. They stopped in the galleries to fill the room with melody. One gallery even had a DJ. Whether the people were there for the party or for the art, there was something to do and see in every room.

My job for the evening was to walk around the gallery, greet people as they walked in, and encourage conversation between the guests and the artists. The night started off slow due to a performance on the ground floor. It gave me a chance to talk to the artists and put their faces to their work. All the artists were ecstatic about meeting me. Some were bold and gregarious others were reserved wallflowers. Whatever persona they took on, they were glad to meet me and give their insight. Some artists gave me Museum suggestions such as the Smart Museum & The Beverly Arts Center. Others told me who to meet if I want to make it in the art world. Most just wanted to chat about art.

When I tell people that I want to be a gallery owner someday they usually pull their mouth to the side and pull in their eyebrows. “Good luck,” they say. I guess a little bit of luck is needed, hell luck is needed no matter what you want to do. I once read somewhere that opportunity is the perfect meeting of luck and timing. Although, I don’t believe I’ll need all that much of it. I know it takes blood, sweat, and tears. It’ll take loans and debt and late nights followed by early mornings, but I think I’ll make it. I know that no one gives a damn about a college degree in the world of art, so my main goal while I am in the big city is to network. I took as many business cards as I could and tried to remember names and faces. Almost everyone I told my career goals to said that I could call them for help. So far so good. I was even asked to help an artist with their next upcoming show. Not bad for my first night. I was so enthused to be apart of such a great event that my cheeks were genuinely sore by the end of the night. I didn’t realize how tired I was until I got home. I left around 10:15 pm, and the building was still booming with people and music. I thought about staying and mingling more, but I was anxious about waking up the next day and returning to 4Art Inc.

IMG_9063 IMG_9064

Patricia Singer, Intern. 

Posted in About | Leave a comment

Thursday, 05.14.2015

Today marked the beginning of my internship at 4Art inc. Gallery in Chicago. My newly found mentor, Robin, asked me what I would like to achieve. I guess I would like to achieve finding the loophole to real life.

I would like to achieve doing what I love everyday. I want to look forward to going to work. I don’t want to be stuffed in a cubicle or a pair of waitress shoes. I want to go outside when I please, and be inspired by the sky. (Have you ever seen a sunset? Have you seen orange clouds roll swift, warm over the rose sky? Like petals she falls into my heart.) I want to melt into a puddle of paint. I want to stick to the bottom of your shoes.

I want to talk about art all day! Just talk about art like it’s the most important thing in the whole damn world. (Serious as a heart attack.)

I can’t wait for tomorrow. I can’t wait to just talk about melting into clay.

My first day at the gallery was laid back. Third Friday is tomorrow, so Robin already had everything set up. This gave me the time to look around the Zhou B Art Center and to get to know Robin. We talked about our objective as a gallery. Our goal is to connect the artist to the viewer. Not to push, or sell, but to notice when there is a connection, and to bridge the gap. There is no point to sell. A piece will resonate with the viewer, or it won’t. You’ll carry it to all the places you’ll stay, or you’ll see it for a second and pass (as the seasons, as the flu) right by it. Like my boyfriend Nicolas’s Francois that he saved from an unworthy owner versus that painting of saw grass you slept under in a Motel 8 and never even noticed.

I am glad to have Robin as a mentor. She radiates positive energy, despite her doubt in 21st century artists. Passion pours from her pores, and our conversations inspire me to create. I have a feeling that she will teach me a lot this summer.IMG_9052

Patricia Singer, Intern.

Posted in About | Leave a comment