Art shows in domestic settings often set off house alarms. No doubt, it can be an inviting contrast to the commercial stark white cube. But at the same time, can the art be taken seriously? Is it more a matter of — "Let's play gallery? You be the curator, I'll be the artist. We'll clean out the garage and invite all our friends!"
Alternative art spaces have been around for a long time. This isn't breaking news. But the fact that they still exist and still thrive — with the insider/outsider factor — makes them something to pay attention to. In this issue, our feature writer Anne Martens has made it her mission to track down Los Angeles homes that double as art spaces.
But let's back up a little. Some of the best shows I've ever seen have been at alternative venues. One infamous space was "OneNightStand," at the Farmer's Daughter Motel near the Farmers Market, back in the early '90s. Founded by artists Michael Arata and Leonardo Bravo, it was held on Friday nights in a couple of rented rooms. A little bit of intrigue always accompanied the show (who's spending the night?). A couple of times the police had to break up the "openings." Another favorite was the U-haul art exhibit, run by Mark Dutcher and Daniel Bogunovich. These alternative galleries were vibrant, unabashed, gutsy and honest. Both the curators and the artists took chances. That's what these spaces are all about — nonconformity — and really, isn't that partly what art is all about?
The art world could certainly use a change of scenery these days. Maybe it's up to the alternative spaces to shake things up a bit. Most often, these "galleries" spring up in the residences of younger artists (most of whom haven't had major shows yet) and are fed up with the stodginess of the commercial galleries but want to get their work out there. And quite simply, they are tired of rejection. Are the bigwigs in the art world really omnipotent? Who, indeed, are these people who dictate the standards of art? Are they the museum curators, directors, gallery dealers … the collectors? When art becomes a commodity, and a byproduct of the machinations of that industry, artists get caught up in the vortex of money and fame. The art itself starts to reflect that: the high-tech equipment, the expensive fabrication, the slickness, not to mention the hired assistants. Its soul gets stripped away.
It can be refreshing to see these spaces and the energy that accompanies them. So I invite you to take a tour with Anne Martens, who goes snooping around people's backyards and attics, and finds lots to talk about. In New York, a more established foundation, dedicated to the inspired artist, Creative Time's Anne Pasternak is interviewed by our New York contributor Carole Nicksin. And our Guest Lecture, artist Rainer Prohaska, from Austria, wants to build a gallery/home on free land. (Boy, is he in the wrong town!)
I don't want you to get the wrong idea: We're not down on the establishment entirely. Our New York correspondent John Haber sits down with art dealer Edward Winkleman to discuss his new book, How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery. He talks about advertising and how much to advertise; a topic we hope prospective gallerists pay especially close attention to. So you see, there's room for everyone in the art world.