Publisher's Letter: Summer 2016
BY GINNY VAN ALYEA
When I was in college my father advised me to try to do two things every day: drink milk, and read a major newspaper. At the time, the newspaper reading was the easier of the two tasks. Fifteen years later the news landscape has gotten a great deal more crowded, while at the same time it is much less connected to the printed page. Now I read headlines on my iPhone in the dark when I’m up early with a baby. I try to put my hands on a hardcopy front section over breakfast, and by the time I’m at my desk I’ve scanned a more few stories in the car via email and social media. The advice my father gave me was wise, but in 2016, when I I have a lot more than two things to try to do each day, it seems like I could spend all day just trying to keep up with all the news out there.
While it’s easier than ever to have your questions answered, to stay up to date, and to feel widely connected to the world, it is also universally exhausting. There are days when I long to read a book without worrying I’m missing out on something important happening in the world. I wonder if I could take a digital vacation? The pressure of being overwhelmed permeates many areas of our lives, and I have recently started to wonder about how it’s affecting the art world in particular.
Art buying has been slow to move online compared to many other purchases, perhaps because art is visual and physical, and therefore best appreciated, and purchased, in person. However, the internet age moves along rapidly, and so many of us have become accustomed to buying things online that we previously wouldn’t have, art included. We now choose speed and convenience in many cases. We try just to keep up with all there is to see and consume.
There have been rumbles in Chicago about a slow winter and a subsequently sluggish spring in the galleries. I recently read a New York Times article (on my phone, at 4am) titled Is Staying In the New Going Out? This wasn’t about staycations, or taking a break after a busy week; it argued that there is so much to do online at home - streaming, socially, even romantically, that people figure, why go out?
Well, for galleries, museums and artists this is a problem. Art is made to be seen and experienced. You can visit websites and facebook pages. You can scroll Instagram feeds. But when we reach the point where we only view art through a third party, or you’re only seeking out the hits you’ve seen on social media, we forget what it’s like to see works of art in person or at full scale. We have dismissed the power of the physical in favor of an illuminated screen and a high rate of likes and favorites. We may have even forgotten, in our ditigal age when nothing truly goes away online and things can go viral, that a work of art may be unique and that the viewing experience can be entirely individual. You can’t go to a gallery opening from your couch.
After the sluggishness of the past few months and a bumpy start to spring, Chicago is starting to blossom. There are many reasons to go out. Whether you travel or stay close to home, hopefully this summer you have a chance or two to read a book or page through a newspaper or magazine. Take some time to visit a museum, learn from a dealer in their gallery or meet an artist in their studio. The experience will stay with you longer than a retweet.
Pictured at the top: people going outside (on the MCA lawn)