Apples and Oranges: The L.A. vs. New York Question

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 6.25.53 PMOriginally published in Artweek, July 1995, Volume 26, Number

” . . .artists can no longer sit back and take the attitude that
the work speaks for itself . . .”

After opening a second office and gallery in New York last September,
I have spent a good deal of time accumulating frequent flier miles. On the
average, I spend one week each month in New York, which has been a real
eye-opener for me, a native Angeleno who has been actively involved with
the Los Angeles art scene for twenty years. Admittedly, yes, the LA art
world has had its ups and downs, but until this year I always believed that
we on the West Coast were just as good, just as educated, and just as committed
to the arts as New Yorkers. What the past ten months have made painfully
clear is how wrong I was, though not for the reasons I suspected. It isn’t
that New Yorkers are smarter or more driven than those of us on the West
Coast. The major difference is that art is relevant to New
Yorkers in a way it isn’t here in LA, a point which has become abundantly
clear to me.

This is not necessarily our fault, of course, but we do suffer the cumulative
effects of our indifference to the sagging (non-existent) state of the current
art market. We have not properly educated our collectors, for example. Therefore,
when the investment value of art is gone, the market evaporates because
no real foundation exists to sustain it. The solution is not simply increased
sales. Sales may provide a quick fix, but they should not be our immediate
goal. And, until we can visualize our immediate goals, we will not achieve
them. The answer lies first in education.

You can not open the New York Times on any given day and not find
an article about art-not necessarily contemporary art, but art. You can’t
walk six blocks in Manhattan without passing a gallery or museum, and can’t
meet six people for the first time without discovering that at least one
of them works in the arts (theater, visual, music, etc.). What this accomplishes
over a period of time, I feel, is education by osmosis. It’s the trickle-down
theory of culture. I read an article about Clyfford Still in the New
York Times that was so well-researched and well-written that it taught
me more about Still’s work than I’d learned in four years of art history
at UCLA. It’s true-a unique vitality emanates from the congestion of New
York City. This energy tends to fuel itself, so that each art activity breeds
more art activity. Networking in New York is not a strategy, it’s a religion.
But these are the results of a foundation that has been established over
many, many years.

If we on the West Cost have any hope of revitalizing our art market,
we must start at the ground level and rebuild the foundation. We must all
voice our concerns for more local and national press coverage, more public
funding of the arts, and better educating in our schools. Artists must assume
the responsibility for education their dealers and collectors by speaking
intelligently about their own work. One of the great advantages of collecting
contemporary art, after all, is that artist is still alive, available for
discussion. Artists can no longer sit back and take the attitude that the
work speaks for itself Take the time to articulate your reasons for working,
your influences, your sources, and so on. Develop a firm foundation in art
history so that you can realistically assess the ways in which your work
fits in the current scene. Create dialogues with other artists in order
to hone your skills at expressing yourself. If you feel incapable of doing
this, hire a writer to spend time with you in your studio, developing an
artist’s’ statement.

We can create a viable art market. But it’s going to take a lot
of hard work, and the burden of responsibility begins with the artist.


One Response to “Apples and Oranges: The L.A. vs. New York Question”

  1. Stamatis Burpulis aka nicholas burpulis said:

    Apr 05, 10 at 9:31 pm

    I have been making forrays to Los Angeles for several years now. It is true what you say above about the almost perocial atmosphere of LA and the Art Scene there. The laid back feeling in LA is deceiving because one still has to pick one’s self up from their bootstraps and start a search every new day if you are there for the art or to find some gallery tht will look at your art.. It is true that the collector base seems non exsistent and what is sold in some areas of the city and environs is so new it feels like play but it feels much worse. None the less a good artist needs to lolly gage quite a bit as a child and as an adult to think and to sit and to look.

    NYC has many advantages over LA. The art and museum world are much more concentrted as you noted. There IS an established collector base and audience. I feel the “economy” is not a big deal depending what one is about to collect in relation to their pocketbook. In NYC there are all kinds of collector pocket books. There are lots of bests in NY. Art, Artists, and Art Museums. It is an incredable city! Many artists, like Paul Cezanne just do their work and forget the effort in locating a gallery or making money but invent cubism for Picasso to elaborate upon. Picasso knew how to promote himself. Cezanne did not care. For him it was his location, quality of life, good food, and a very independent attitude combined with his family money. He painted and that was all he really wanted to do.