Friday, May 28, 2010

Whatever, whenever, yesterday

I had the distinct pleasure of touring the Whitney's Biennial last night from 10:30pm until 12:30am today. I could have stayed as late as I wanted, or come back at 6am before going to work (no, that would never happen to me). I wasn't the only one - hundreds of people were lined half-way around the block to join me, as the Whitney was open for 24 hrs a day from Wed at 12am until tonight, Friday, May 28th at Midnight. Turns out this was part of an artist's work - a proposal from Michael Asher to keep the museum open 24/7 throughout the Biennial. The idea was to challenge how we perceive the museum and who goes to the museum (this is my very short summation) and I thought it was brilliant. Being open those hours, that is, the Biennial is another discussion all to itself for another time!

It was great to see so many different people at the museum at that time. I was naive enough to think we'd be able to see the museum in a less crowded state - it was more packed than at any time I've visited any museum. Young, old, stoned, amped on coffee or other drugs and stone sober - all enjoying art at a distinctly non-art time. Or at least from the perspective of the "official" art institutions. While many of the artists I know produce their art at all hours of the day, and I partake of art, in my own way from magazines, online, on film, on tv, at parties..., at almost hour, the museum and gallery world think we should only see art Tues - Sat from 11-5. Or every day except Tuesday. Or, sorry, yes our website says we're open today, but we just didn't bother to open. Or, I'm sorry, how dare you think you could look at art on a weekend in August? Yes, we advertised our show as having just opened, there was a review in the G-D NYTimes, but we just assumed you'd never want to come look at it this weekend.

That's the usual modus operandi of the art world. It drives me nuts, as you can probably tell. There's no wonder that it struggles to survive and to be relevant to anyone outside a select few. They assume their audience will attend on their schedule, thinking they know who their audience is...or just thinking they can't be bothered to show up so the masses can see their gallery. I've been in NYC long enough not to show up on a Tuesday at MoMA, but how many tourists make that mistake daily? How many upstart galleries have lost my attendance and possible future business, forever, because they weren't open, contrary to their website after I biked from Manhattan to some industrial stretch of Brooklyn to see their latest show?

There might have been a time when your audience consisted of polite society who can arrange a visit to your gallery or museum at 3pm, but legions of your potential audience today have jobs that keep them there well past 8pm nightly, not at your institution. Sure, you're main donors, or clients, aren't those riff-raff, but you're focusing on one demographic to your peril, and perhaps that of the entire field. Today's art consumer (that's all we are anymore....) has been bred on anytime, anywhere access to their entertainment and culture. They want to consume it when they want, where they want, on what device they want, and they wanted to see it yesterday. While we think of this as mainly true for music and the moving image, this spirit of anytime access is bleeding into other aspects of our lives. This isn't a sense of entitlement, but rather the new way things work - if anything, the entitled view is that of the gallery owner who can't be bothered to wake up and represent his/her clients to potential buyers or new lovers of that work before 11am. Sorry, things don't work that way anymore.

I don't expect every gallery or museum to stay open 24/7. A friend of mine used to work in the upper ranks of a major museum and he pointed out that a fair trade-off would be to just stay open until 10 every night, but that union rules would never allow for it. I do think, however, that arts institutions need to realize that the anywhere/anytime/yesterday phenomenon affects not just music, but the art world as well. We need to re-think our established notions of when we should be open, how our calendars should be organized and who our audiences are (and when they might visit). Programmed smartly, 24 hours for three days could bring new audiences and new revenue to multiple institutions. Perhaps not all of your clients head to the Hamptons for all of August and you're missing a big sale. Perhaps 150 of us would vote to come watch a 2am movie if you gave us a crowd-sourced way to plan this in advance.

Or perhaps I just had too much fun at the Whitney after-hours and am a bit crazy today....

Editors note - for those few of you who actually read this blog often, I'm sorry that my posts have become so infrequent. I've been writing a chapter for an upcoming anthology, more on that soon, and that's taken most of my writing time. I hope to be back more frequently soon.

1 comment:

KillMyLandLord said...

You ride a bike?