We are seeing massive cut backs in public funding for the arts. Staff is being let go and projects are going on hold or reduced. Museum hours are reduced and there are concessions on prices in an attempt to draw people back to these venues. Certainly, in the private section, not many are buying art now. But what we do notice is a huge surge in the outreach by commercial galleries to stimulate the market place. Galleries, both sales and non-profit, are well attended, at least at opening receptions as people seek a place to gather and talk. There are more art walks and open studios than ever before.
There is the new La Jolla First Friday Art Walk, the three open nights in North Park, the Downtown Art Walk, Kettners Nights, Mission Federal Art Walk, Cedros Art Walk (April 25/26)…you can see a whole list in our ongoing art events feature including about 20 monthly events and 33 yearly events and that does not include 14 annual juried exhibitions and a selection of 7 monthly ongoing juried shows. Most sales galleries change their shows monthly or every 6 weeks and that is true for University and school galleries as well. The Beyond the Border International Contemporary Art Fair scheduled for Sept 2-4 is 80% sold out.
There is a huge effort made by artists and galleriest to be involved in these events. They continue to pay for booths and entrance fees, frame work, feed and water the guest and even supply live performances to entertain the audience. But in a nutshell, the difference between a thriving cultural capitol and San Diego is that we simply do not have enough buyers to make an art career viable to the artists. If the artists sold masses of art, no one would complain of the charges for art fairs or for juried show. If people bought, art galleries would thrive and there would be year round places to buy art not just the art walks/fairs which are abounding. The art walks could take their rightful place as an introduction to the man on the street to art, which is what they do very well right now, giving huge exposure to masses of talent.
This month, besides attending the opening for the SD Art Prize 2009 recipients Kim MacConnel and Brian Dick at the L-Street Gallery, I visited the UCSD open studios graduate exhibition and I really enjoyed myself. I like the Elizabeth Mehrmand with her bed...when you laid on it a motion detector started a video in back of you on the wall with her nude image repeating how much she loved me. Just terrific and she is a first year student! I was also taken by Merve Kayan videos and James Enos' incredible architecture sculptures. It was good to see Yvonne Vennegas and Omar Pimienta (SD Art Prize artists). These students seem to have no interest in sales in the ivory tower of academia. Most have no websites yet and don’t even have a calling card. I remember my carefree university days. But it was rather delicious to sell a random color study even back then. Now I am proud of my hard won knowledge of the art market.
Reality comes hard and fast these days, but I am still optimistic about how much we can change the market during these times of economic stress. We have 40 venues and over 70 artists participating in the Little & Large promotion. We are planting seeds of desire. When the money starts flowing again, we will be ready.