Saturday, December 25, 2010

"The lines between gallery and museum, corporate and curated, keep getting blurrier and blurrier"

The author Sarah Thornton once described the art world as "a loose network of overlapping subcultures held together by a belief in art." While an astute observation, those overlaps are becoming more frequent and more profound with the divide between the public (institutional) and the private (commercial) becoming ever-more blurred. A corollary of this mish-mash of roles in the art world are the glaring conflicts of interest that arise, a running theme too of this blog (e.g., see here). The latest conflict to catch my eye is the Whitney Museum's announcement that one of the two curators for its 2012 Biennial comes from the ranks of the commercial rather than the institutional or academic sphere: Jay Sanders, "a veteran art dealer who was previously director of New York's Greene Naftali Gallery." On the one hand, the co-curator of the show is clearly conflicted because he has a vested interest in promoting those artists represented by the gallery where he formerly worked, especially given the financial and reputational gains that flow from an artist being included in such a prestigious (albeit controversial) show. On the other, Jay Sanders is, according to ARTINFO, "a highly-regarded art dealer whose sophisticated approach to showing art has been evidenced in such gallery shows as one last year spotlighting the late experimental filmmaker and "flicker" pioneer Paul Sharit." I think in cases like this one a conflict of interest should not trump talent -- careers and talent would otherwise be excessively constrained and wasted -- but Sanders should have left the gallery before last month. Carol Vogel had reported that he left the Naftali Gallery in 2005 but Tyler Green reports that Sanders actually left the art market only last month...

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