Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Art, Commerce and Damien Hirst

A recent opening reception at Offramp
As we begin the mad consumer dash to the holiday finish line, I thought I would share a few thoughts on the commercial side of running an art gallery.

The art business is a business like no other -- we are held to a different and sometimes double standard. Case in point: At an opening here at Offramp Gallery last year, someone complained about how crass it was to have a cash register at the front door. (It was a laptop, and we were selling a humble catalog for $10.) It was one of those things that really got under my skin and made me wonder how many free art openings this guy goes to a year, how many glasses of wine, how many plates of crackers and cheese he consumes -- without ever dropping a dime to support the gallery -- and on top of it, he feels justified insulting the host. This malcontent would probably be the first to call us elitist if we acted like we were above making money and paying the bills!

Don't get me wrong -- receptions and the buzz they create are an essential and fun part of the gallery business. But it isn't galleries like Offramp, that are struggling to show honest, quality work, that give the contemporary art world its bad reputation.

For that, one need look no further than Don Thompson's The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art. A fascinating look into the machinations of the high-end of the contemporary art world, this book is a real eye-opener. What exactly possesses someone to pay $12 million for a stuffed shark? It's all here, from the personality and ego-fed branding of gallerists, artists and auction houses, to the collectors who blindly follow them, competing for the right to pay millions for work they neither like nor understand. I highly recommend this book as a must-read for artists and art-lovers alike.

I found this video of art critic Robert Hughes, who isn't buying the hype about Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol or Richard Prince. He chats with billionaire collector Alberto Mugrabi, reducing him to babbling inanities about why Richard Prince is a great artist.
What do you think? Does Hughes speak truth to power and money? Or is he a bitter, washed-up art critic living in the past?

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Congratulations to Offramp's Myron Kaufman for the profile published about him in the Pasadena Star-News! Click here to read it.

Click here for more information about Myron Kaufman.

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Image of the Week

Chuck Feesago
ART LIES, A Contemporary Art
Quarterly #1, No. 60/Winter, 2008,
Theatre As Metaphor, 2010
paper, string & acrylic
approx. 64" x 64"

Upcoming Events at Offramp Gallery
The opening reception for ArtZone will be on Sunday, December 12, from 2-5pm. The exhibition is at Offramp for eight days only with these special hours: Saturday & Sunday (December 11, 12, 18, 19): noon-8pm; Monday - Friday (December 13-17): 4-8pm. ArtZone is a joint venture between Project 210 and Offramp Gallery, a one-stop holiday shop for affordable art. Twenty-seven artists from both galleries have been invited to submit art work priced at $500 or below.


  1. Great post Jane! Love that image of Chuck's. Also the invite for ArtZone is beautifully designed.

  2. Excellent post. It is beyond my understanding how someone could object to a cash register like device in a gallery. Thank you for your Blog - it is so professional. I love reading it. Keep your observations - your reflective thinking on issues about Art - keep them coming.

  3. Obviously an inveterate moocher. I've never heard of anyone with half a brain ever complaining about art as commerce. Onward and upward, Jane.

    Also, Mr. Hughes IS opinionated and grumpy, and he could have easily ripped off Mugabi's skull and sucked his brain dry of vapid, trite remarks, but he realized that it would have been a moot point. Score one more for Hughes.

    See you at the next opening.

  4. I enjoyed crusty Robert Hughes as he probed Alberto Mugrabi. Art makes an odd business. It is tricky how a work of art comprised of sincerity, even innocence becomes a hard core product. Good galleries seem to do it with respect and finesse though too many artists get left out of the mix. I have absolutely no problem if a gallery has a cash register or whatever.......! It is a small business after all . The funds for rent, utilities, insurance, publications, etc has got to come from somewhere!

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