Publisher's Letter: Living a Post-Openings Art Scene
By GINNY VAN ALYEA
Chicago Gallery News was founded in 1983 as a means of promoting gallery openings in the then-brand-new arts district of River North. 16 galleries had recently moved to a former industrial area and were all located within just a block or two of one another. Within a couple of years, dozens of spaces were all located within that same small distance. And Friday night openings were the place to be.
That tradition continues today, though galleries are not as concentrated as they once were, and a younger generation of collectors often encounters art first via social media such as Instagram. Openings are a public invitation to come out and see a show first, to meet artists as well as fellow art lovers.
Suddenly, as we are all aware, openings are not the place to be.
We desperately hope that things will return to normal as soon as possible, so we can once again enjoy art, and other people, in person again. We know that they will, but it's been unsettling to not know when. Meanwhile, while galleries and spaces that are home to so much art and that help support the careers of independent artists are left with their doors closed, their websites and social feeds are open 24/7. Each must find new ways to continue to make sales in order to support their artists as well as pay the rent.
I implore you to remember that galleries are small businesses, and artists are all self-employed. What they sell does more than keep you in style for a season. It educates, enlightens, uplifts, reminds, humbles and transcends. And for each person it is different.
I am looking at the art in my own home more often right now, spending time with favorite pieces – some of which were gifts from friends and artists, others that belonged to my husband before we were married and which add to the vibrancy and eclecticism in our apartment. Art has never left our home once it has come in. My children notice things in works that I have never considered before. Making art is keeping our spirits up daily right now. It's clear that art is a valuable part of our life and daily environment.
Keep looking at art even while you're not attending openings, exhibitions and art fairs. Home in on what you like right now. And keep all those artists and art professionals WFH (working from home, in case you hadn't heard) actually busy – send them emails, share your social comments, or pick the phone. Ask to see images of an artist's work or shots of an exhibition installation.
At least one dealer (Ken Saunders) has had the idea to encourage commissions while giving artists 75% instead of the usual 50/50 split - a dynamic, fun way to support an artist while collaborating on work for your home that will last way beyond this damn virus.
Another dealer (Catherine Edelman) worked fast to do fresh interviews with artist Daniel Beltrá, who just opened a new show last week but whose work is now not visible in person for the foreseeable future.
Chicago Truborn has always maintained an active e-commerce site, but as of this week they've been offering curbside pick-up or they can easily ship art.
So many artists, dealers and museums are communicating daily about their new digital offerings, which would all be intriguing and worthy of study during normal times but are now creative and cultural lifelines. One thing this industry does not lack is creativity.
So, however you do it, diving into art while you're homebound doesn't have a downside. Chances are you'll gain confidence and knowledge in the process, sustaining your art affliction while boosting someone who needs your support right now.
Dive in here!