Weekend

Required Reading

This week, a new self-driving car, Kara Walker in New Orleans, #MeToo in the art and architecture worlds, the death of a historic Greenwich Village building, a gallerist quits art fairs, and more.

The Renault car company is working on a driverless Uber-style transport system that might change the way we get around in cities. Dezeen has the story. They report, “The on-demand vehicle can be requested via an instant-booking service app on your smartphones, in a similar manner to companies like Uber and Lyft, or through physical stations.” And here’s a video with more information. (via Dezeen)

Walker titled the whole montage the Katastwóf Karavan, or Caravan of Catastrophe, the use of Haitian Creole signaling the mix of Caribbean and Southern histories that shaped New Orleans. Walker’s first public installation since the 2014 Marvelous Sugar Baby — the enormous Sphinx-like mammy figure that she built out of sugar in the now-demolished Domino factory in Williamsburg — the Karavan went up for the closing weekend of the Prospect.4 triennial, which ran for three months at multiple sites around New Orleans. The installation was freighted with layers of site-specific symbolism — none of it subtle if you knew a bit about local history, yet all of it obscured by years of avoidance or, at best, awkward notes in the narratives delivered by school curricula or tourist brochures.

When a work is already available for public viewing, the decision to keep it on view should be weighed based on whether the work and the institution have the capacity to elicit productive discourse. Could such discussions help us engage with art in multi-layered ways, revealing societal and cultural contexts in addition to individual artistic pursuits? Can art help us better critique historical narratives or current society, and by extension, lead to a more nuanced and critical understanding of our world? If so, educators and other frontline staff should be given strategies to manage conversations derailed by incendiary comments so they can navigate discourse back to a constructive place in which visitors feel safe.

At the very top, the numbers are even more staggering: In November, Dezeen found thatonly three of the world’s 100 biggest firms are led by women, and that 90 percent of their C-suite executives are men. Compound this with the economic realities of the profession—starting salaries tend to be relatively low, and the gender pay gap broadens as architects progress in their careers—and it’s hard to ignore the resulting power dynamic.

Several of these economic realities are well-known risk factors for sexual harassment. According to a comprehensive 2016 study by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “anywhere from 25% to 85% of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.” Organizations with a lack of gender diversity, significant power disparities, and “high-value employees”—who bring in significant amounts of money or prestige for a firm, or who are perceived to do so—are also organizations where women are more likely to experience harassment.

Abraham Lincoln is said to have slept here; and after his assassination, his casket paraded past the hotel. Then his widow stayed, traveling to New York incognito and in debt, desperate to sell off jewelry and clothing, including fur boas, a diamond ring, and a pair of opera cloaks. In parlor room 208, Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the “speaking telephone” to New Yorkers for the first time. Sarah Bernhardt wrote her letters in the Ladies’ Writing Room. Ulysses S. Grant wrote his memoirs here—and when he was struck by writer’s block, Mark Twain moved in to assist him. Buffalo Bill Cody and P.T. Barnum stayed, too. The Walt Whitman Fellowship met here, delivering lectures on topics such as: “Walt Whitman and Woman” and “Whitman and Physique.” When Susan B. Anthony spoke to the local women’s Suffrage Association at the hotel, “She began,” reported the Times, “by stating that she never had paid the income tax and she never would. If men wanted to put Susan B. in jail she would go.” These people, and many others, climbed the grand spiral staircase, its balustrade entwined with wrought-iron dragons, smoothing the mahogany railing with their hands, adding their footfalls to the indentations still in the marble steps today.

  • Andrew Goldstein talks to gallerist Jose Freire (of Team Gallery) about quitting art fairs. He suggests fairs have been some of his biggest loses. And Team is not a poor gallery. With three spaces (two in NY and one in LA), it’s clear they have a lot of resources:

The easiest way to talk about that is to talk about Art Basel Miami Beach. Five years ago, I would come back from Miami with enough profit to run the gallery for three months. At the time, we only had two spaces, so it meant that we could do four shows—two at each—with profits from the art fair. Now, maybe one of those shows might have a dinner, one might have a shipping bill, one might have fabrication costs, and one might have all of those things. And I wouldn’t have to worry about selling any work because of the profits netted at the fair.  Then, in 2016, I came back from Miami with $35,000 in sales from a booth that might have cost $200,000 to put together. You’re now coming back with losses.

And here’s part 2:

For example, I make no money in Miami anymore and I’ve probably never made money in Basel, and I feel like I haven’t met a new person in Basel in at least 10 years. But I do meet new people in Hong Kong—I go there and it’s very exciting for me. And unlike Miami or Basel, Hong Kong is a great big city with thriving economics and lots of choice, so if you get a hotel there you pay a fair price for it. But, in any case, I’m done. I feel like you have to be all-in or nothing—that’s just me.

It’s fascinating to read, but just a reminder that we can never assume gallerists are telling the truth in interviews, rather than just give us their pr spin. This reminds me of how people are continuous trying to tell us mid-tier galleries are in trouble, even though the evidence suggests it’s just an evolution of the model (and most galleries of that type have always struggled).

Robin Starr, vice-president of Skinner auction house in Boston, attributed the growth in defaults that they’ve been seeing to online bidding, noting that embarrassed bidders blame a child in their home for making a bid by accident, or the family cat jumping on the computer mouse.“Yes, we’ve actually been told that,” said Starr. Usually though, it’s that they couldn’t see the screen clearly: “They think they are bidding on a Redon but it’s a Rodin.” Had they looked at an artwork in person, they might have “realized that the work was too large to fit in their living room.”

In fact, there are so many takes on “Black Panther” that New York-based educator Roberto Soto-Carrion has helpfully compiled dozens of analytical stories related to the film and the “Black Panther” comics in general into a 14-page Google Doc called “The Black Panther Reader.”

  • Anil Dash goes after the New York Times for a puff piece about Peter Thiel this week. Just a reminder that Thiel is responsible for destroying a media company out of spite. His Twitter thread explains why (also, did you spot the Robert Longo art work behind him?):

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

comments (0)