Cold white (backlit) walls

We're all looking for an online model that supplements or replaces the traditional gallery. A common trope amongst experimenters is to de-position bricks-and-mortar as forbidding and inconvenient. A typical example:

"[Company X] is a gallery for the next generation of art collectors. Forget the cold white walls; we bring the gallery experience to you. Discover the best emerging artists in our online gallery, or talk with one of our personal art advisors free of charge, to find the perfect artwork for your home or company. Art collecting has never been easier."

Two problems with this. First, ease and convenience are not primary goals in collecting: effort and reward are highly related, and even a new collector quickly learns that much of the pleasure is also in the difficulty.

Second, nothing is less warm than a website, even one with Apple-ish design and online chats. Something about the color temperature of a backlit screen and absence of opportunities for interaction with physical artworks, I guess.

I understand why this marketing jingoism exists but it doesn't advance anyone's cause. We need to collectively define web experiences for art (and thus for art-buying) that respect the medium while acknowledging its limitations.

A good starting point is Panther Modern, which hosts exhibitions in a modeled physical space. This places useful constraints on exhibiting artists, while creating a comforting feeling of return to a known environment for visitors. It's engaging, easy to access and allows for some real–and thus challenging–art experiences. I'm not saying we all have to create modeled physical spaces to succeed online, but I am heartened by the worthy experiment.

Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize remarks

A short version of my remarks at last week's reception for winners of the Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize at Portland State University:

It’s difficult to get art prizes right, both in their mission and in their execution. Setting aside the fact that reasonable people may disagree about the merit of the recipients, many art prizes can be critiqued for opaqueness, for placing too much emphasis on valorization, and for being too populist or not populist enough.

The Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize, on the other hand, gets it right in every respect. The mission of the prize is inclusive in the right ways, by welcoming all forms of art and design and including both undergraduate and graduate applications. But the program is also exclusive in the right way, offering a rigorous competition and exhibition opportunity at a critical point in student’s education. As well, the financial awards are significant, the panel is diverse, and the application and selection process are transparent. The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation and PSU's School of Art + Design have given this community extraordinary template for doing an art prize right. 

I offer my profound thanks to all the students who applied, for taking the risk of being an artist and of applying for this prize. My gratitude of course to our three winners, Amanda Evans, Chris Freeman and Melodee Dudley for giving us a chance to spend time with your work. And special thanks thanks also to Ryan Collard, Will Elder, Emily Fitzgerald, Zach Gough, Maggie Heath and Amanda Wilson, who along with other applicants made this a difficult decision by presenting us with such an artistically rich set of applications from which to select.

Kind words

As we have remarked before, our monthly visit from The Emerson School's Art4Life program is always a highlight for us. Recently one of the students left this lovely endorsement in our guest log:

"Your art is great, I can't wait to come back and see more, I have been here a couple times and each time I have been dazzled. The art that you put out is so unique the artists know what they are doing and know the right place to send their work. All your work has inspired me to do my own work. Keep on doing what you do. You have a great place and a great gallery."

That's what we love to hear!