COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How does it come to pass that accomplished artists — both past and present — become largely overlooked?
The gauntlet through which artists must run in order to achieve recognition has not changed since the mid-nineteenth century. The stages on which artists have launched their careers have been art galleries, art centers, competitions, and the important annual and biennial exhibitions at museums. Without these venues and the concomitant exposure provided by the critics, an artist’s chances of being discovered and gaining lasting recognition in his or her lifetime are remote.
As art historians, we are intrigued and challenged: Why have certain artists been undeservedly overlooked? How many of them are there? What can we learn from them? Without doubt, the rediscovery (or completely new discovery) of such talent is the most exciting part of our mission.
In regard to artists active from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, one of the most common reasons for their disappearance is the destruction of large bodies of work. Disappointingly, our research too often finds that the artists’ works and letters have been lost to fire. Since the Civil War, it seems, a major fire has hit almost every city in the United States, and many artists’ studios were consumed: Portland, Maine, in 1866; Chicago, in 1871; Boston, in 1872; Milwaukee, in 1892; Minneapolis, in 1893; Baltimore, in 1904; San Francisco, in 1906 — the list goes on, well into the twentieth century.
During the Great Depression, in the 1930s, some artists were forced to change careers or at least to sublimate their artistic life to necessity. Despite the efforts of the federal WPA programs, many artists never fully recovered. Perhaps more of their works were stored away — or thrown out — during the Depression era than at any other time. The works of many European artists suffered for the same dire reasons.
While those special historical problems apply to earlier artists, certain problems are universal and transcend any period. The most common one occurs when artists die without having left a clear plan for preserving and promoting their life’s work. Their collections are often divided between immediate relatives, and those relatives often pass works down to their children. As a result, the collection is spread to the four winds. Worse, those relatives often hold opposing opinions about the inherent value of the works. With such differing viewpoints, it is often difficult to unite the disparate parts of the collection to present the fullest rediscovery exhibition. Thus, some artists’ contributions to art history remain buried forever.
Another problem is revealed by statistics and probability. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, in the United States alone there are more than 2 million full-time artists (painters, sculptors, printmakers) and about 7,000 galleries. That means that if every one were to get a chance in the limelight, each gallery would have to represent at least 300 artists. However, the reality is that most galleries represent about 20 to 30 artists. That means that more than 90 percent of artists — Emerging, Mid Career, and Late Career — are without effective representation.
Compounding these staggering statistics are psychological problems that continue to complicate many artists’ careers. Some begin with great promise only to become victims of alcoholism or drugs. Still others are reclusive by nature, withdrawing altogether from the museum and gallery scene, if, in fact, they had ever been a part of it. Some are simply irascible characters, at odds with the world. Preferring to live their lives in seclusion, they choose not to exhibit their works. Still others are possessed of such wealth that they do not need — or want — to have their work promoted in galleries or in the important institutional exhibitions.
Finally, simply being a woman was (and can still be) a disadvantage. Before the 1930s, those disadvantages were greatly magnified. The National Academy and the system of juried exhibitions were clearly male-dominated bastions. It was not until the 1960s that the prestigious Prix de Rome for painting (first awarded in 1896) was finally given to a woman. During the 1970s, women came of age in the struggle against sexism in the art establishment and its attendant lack of exhibition opportunities. Then, in 1985, this issue was loudly exposed by the public protests of the Guerrilla Girls, whose secret members have remained vigilant. Since 2008, representation of women at the prestigious Whitney Biennial has improved to about 40 percent. Despite these gains, Jerry Saltz, the art critic for New York magazine, accused the Museum of Modern Art of “a form of gender-based apartheid” because only 4 percent of its permanent collection on display consists of works by women.” [Phoebe Hoban, “The Feminist Evolution,” ArtNews (December 2009): 87]
What follows is a series of questions and answers that best explain how we are committed to solving “The Problem” discussed above:
THE PROCESS FOR QUALIFYING
What do the terms, “Late Career,” “Mid Career,” and “Emerging” artists really mean?
Artists of any age can create compelling images — images that speak to all generations. True artistic achievement rarely follows a smooth bell curve over time.
We want people to learn to really look at art, not merely at labels and ages. Significant art stands on its own regardless of its maker’s age, religion, nationality. But ever since we entered the post-Warhol era, the art market has persistently labeled artists according to three absurdly broad age categories: Emerging, Mid Career, and Late Career. And, in the process, these designations have accentuated the dismaying fact that far too many accomplished but older artists have been passed over simply owing to what is often an annoying fascination with youth, thanks to clever marketing.
In regard to emerging artists, we share a similar appreciation with New York Times art critic, Holland Cotter:
“My faith in youthful inspiration has been tested recently; by art, of all things, or rather by the art world’s fixation on barely-out-of-school talent. Not that my interest in new art has in any way diminished. It hasn’t. Still, these days I find my attention drawn to the not-so-new, to artists who are in midcareer and beyond, sometimes far beyond…They have one thing in common: their work has developed over time and maintained its presence for a number of years. In a fast-food culture, as capricious in its erasures as in its rewards, that’s the vote of confidence that counts.”
[“Artists in Midcareer and Beyond Are Showing That Experience Matters” New York Times, 21 April 2006]
At ADG we hope to take Cotter’s feelings a step further because we know too well that the ability of an artist’s works to “maintain its presence” over many years can be interrupted. Our goal is to keep that presence on track and in the public eye. We’re aware that after the next ten or even twenty years have elapsed, and emerging artists have gained some exhibitions and critical recognition, one day they find themselves surprised to read reviews stating that they have become Mid Career Artists. Therefore, purely from an age perspective, that means Late Career Artists are likely to be in their late 50s and older.
How do you identify your elected artists?
Artists are identified in several ways. First, many apply directly online. Some learn about us through the galleries that already represent them. In addition, we have frequent conversations with the members of our Curatorial Board, and they nominate artists. And, finally, we do our own research. Scattered throughout back issues of ArtNews, Art in America, ArtForum, and a host of their European counterparts are illustrated reviews of works by critically acclaimed artists whose names popped in the mid 20th century but that are no longer instantly recognized by museum curators, gallerists, and collectors. Turning the pages, we see that they keep good company, for there in the same magazines are works by peers from several generations who have maintained their stature and high esteem.
The process by which certain artists have faded or even disappeared from the limelight, only to become forgotten by later generations, can be a fascinating one. These are artists who have been unfairly left behind in that continuous and curious shuffle between art history and art promotion. For some of them, critical recognition has been long overdue. Even if their contribution was only a slight chapter in art history, we are delighted when the beauty, integrity, and power of their works can be brought forward once again to stand up to the best of their peers. This process of rediscovery can help all of us to draw a better understanding of art and culture. And, with renewed perspective, we are better equipped to consider current artistic achievement and look to the future.
Once identified, how is an artist selected?
Acceptance as either a “Featured” artist or a “Master” is not easy. While we would like to help every artist we must be very selective. Working with our Curatorial Board, we take a curatorial stance in directing our discerning eye to quality of vision and to the ability to express that vision consistently and with skill and integrity.
We are constantly immersed in research, fearing that an overlooked master will slip by us unnoticed. We scour the Internet and back issues of many art publications. We travel frequently, visiting galleries, shows, and artists’ studios. Owing to this exhaustive research process, we pre-qualify many of the artists on ADG. However, we still warmly encourage any artist to apply and have their works reviewed by our Curatorial Board.
The large volume of applicants often means that the prospects for acceptance are not always encouraging. Nothing is more painful for us than to have to deny membership on ADG to an artist who has clearly dedicated his or her life to their work. In the eyes of our Curatorial Board, some applicants may fall just slightly short. We find that unfortunate part of our task disheartening. However, for those who are accepted, we are particularly proud to present their life and work to an international audience of art professionals and collectors.
What is the submission process?
The artist, or an authorized agent for an artist estate collection, must submit the following:
- Images: At least 20-30 color images that best represent the nature of the collection. But the more images, the better. We prefer digital images sent via e-mail or CD. Since high-resolution images can get stuck in outgoing email, we recommend using services such as Hightail.com. Alternatively, you can mail us hard-copy color photographs. But please note that we will only return items mailed to us that include a self-addressed stamped envelope. And, ultimately, we will need digital images.
- Works Info: Each work must be identified with a title or description, the work date, dimensions (height always precedes width), medium, signature placement, and any other pertinent information about the work.
- Biographical Info: Essential biographical and career information, including the artist’s statement, education, memberships, awards, and any museums that own examples of the artist’s works. Any previously published essays and reviews are also important.
- For Collections: Initially, provide a brief description of the approximate number of works in the collection, according to their approximate size ranges, their mediums, dates, and their physical condition. Include a group of photographs that best represent the collection.
Who decides, and when?
The Curatorial Board is directed by Peter Hastings Falk. Its members have been known to us and respected by us for many years. The team (15 and growing) is comprised of museum curators, art dealers, art historians, art professors, collectors, and artists with deep experience in the art world. Over many years, each member has become sensitive to recognizing the highest accomplishments of visual expression. Each is well versed in the movements and “isms” that define art history — especially the formalist and conceptualist precepts of the twentieth century. Each is highly attuned to composition, color, style, and technique. Equally important, each is perceptive when it comes to reading meaning, content, and conceptual intent. Each is passionate about art and balances aesthetic preference with intellectual background. Together, they form a trusted sounding board.
The review process normally takes 2–3 weeks and all candidates are notified immediately thereafter.
THE PROMOTIONAL PROCESS
Once elected, what are the next steps?
Ours is a personalized service. We want to get to know your work as thoroughly as possible so that we can be of the greatest help.
- One of our curators will contact you directly to discuss your several options for proceeding. Because every case is different, it is important to tailor the very best presentation for you. Once you have selected an option, we will clearly describe the subsequent steps.
- We will review the images and select those that we feel will comprise the strongest thematic exhibition.
- Our Registrar will begin the process of uploading your images and their descriptions directly online. In the event you wish to take over this process we will teach you and you will be provided with a User-ID and Password.
- Our Editorial staff may decide that the biography or essays you have provided will be acceptable as-is with some minor editing. On the other hand, information is sometimes sent to us in fragments — biographical sketches, articles, or catalogues — that need more extensive editing to make the strongest and most cohesive presentation. It is usually in your best interest for us to start over, using your sources to prepare a new biographical/critical essay. We tap our virtual staff of art historians to make your case effectively and professionally — and the cost will vary. In the event that you desire a longer biographical essay, or a series of essays treating thematic issues, we will discuss such projects and their additional expenses with you in depth. In any event, essay proposals will be submitted to you for your review and approval. There are never any surprises, and our policy is to maintain total transparency throughout the process. Our primary aim is a consistently high level of presentation of your life and art.
Who is responsible for uploading the artworks?
We are. We upload the thematic exhibitions, which typically feature approximately 25-30 works. We also effectively tag all artworks so that they are sure to find their appropriate matches in museum curators, gallerists, critics, and collectors.
In the event an estate wishes to create a catalogue raisonné, the options are either for us to do the work or for our Registrar to train your estate representative to upload the artworks. The uploading process is user-friendly owing to the program’s intuitive approach and clear structure. This means simply clicking on “pick lists” to tag each works’ pertinent attributes. And for each artwork subsequently entered, our system anticipates and automatically fills in information that is likely to be repeated, thereby greatly reducing typing time. Images may be uploaded on a regular basis, and there is no extra fee for utilizing the ADG website as a platform for an artist’s catalogue raisonné.
How are exhibitions formed?
We do it. We have decades of experience in making curatorial decisions in the mounting of compelling exhibitions. For us, this is an immersion process. We absorb and become thoroughly familiar with the nature of your collection. Our purpose is to understand your life and work so that we can have substantial and clear conversations that lead to live exhibitions.
By tagging each artwork we can create special thematic exhibitions that can be easily found. These are the vehicles by which we introduce your work to museum curators and gallerists. For example, a curator planning a show like “New Directions in American Landscape Painting” would do a search on works that have been tagged with “American” (nationality), “Landscape” (subject matter), and “Painting.” This advanced search attracts and holds the attention of the curators, gallerists, and collectors who quickly spot their own special interest.
While artists can sometimes be effective curators of their own work, our experience has shown that often they can be too deeply immersed to make the choices that would have the strongest appeal to a curator, gallerist, or collector.
The selection of particular images, and how many are needed to most effectively make the point, is critical. We place the work into categories and then implement an A-B-C grading system whereby both aesthetic quality and historical importance are weighed relative to the artist’s entire body of work. After all, not every painting that comes off an artist’s easel is an “A.”
What do you do to promote an artist’s collection?
Five specific benefits are at the core of our strategy for you:
First, one of the important benefits of your Membership on ADG is our review and consultation process. It is crucial for us to come to understand the nature of your collection intimately. And it is the only way to develop a promotional plan specifically for your art.
Second, we get right into the presentation process. This means selecting works for your special online exhibition.
Third, we write a new biographical/critical essay or utilize one you provide if acceptable.
Fourth, our promotion of your work is reinforced by special e-mail alerts targeted only to those curators, gallerists, and collectors who we know to have an affinity with your works. And, we follow up with phone calls to further qualify their interests.
Fifth, when it comes to your desire to market your work live and direct, ADG consigns shows to other galleries around the country, and we exhibit at major art fairs and pop-up exhibitions at upscale high-trafic venues in major art destination cities.
Which curators and gallerists are on your list?
Our staff has identified all of the fine arts curators and gallerists in the United States. Curatorial job changes and gallery movements mean that this map is in gradual transition. The editors of our resource directory keep careful track of all comings and goings in the art world.
But how do you know so much about their preferences?
After examining the nature of every gallery, our staff analyzes and documents their interests and collecting direction. We conduct the same research and interview processes with museum curators, coming to understand their mandate and special focus. A second, deeper level of understanding comes when those same gallerists and curators are encouraged to directly register even more specific “want lists” and profiles on our site. Finally, we follow up with personal phone calls to every curator and gallery owner and even meet with them at every opportunity.
In a culture of e-mail inundation how do you capture sustained attention?
We have all experienced the internet’s plethora of art-related websites. We also know that attention span on the Internet is quite brief. Curators and gallerists want to quickly find the object of their search without tedium — or they will leave. ADG is so specialized that curators and gallerists actually look forward to receiving our e-mail alerts. They’ve asked for them because they know they are pertinent. This is why our tagging process is so effective in exposing your collection to the people who matter to you.
What is it about the way you enter the artworks that makes them quickly found?
We have “tagged” our clients’ interests and our artworks the same way. Both have been defined according to a combination of factors such as nationality, medium, work date, subject matter, style, and gender. Therefore, amid the overall flood of e-mails our clients receive, the alerts coming from ADG are most welcome. For example, a collector interested in American Women Abstract Painters in the 1970s would search by simply clicking on the pertinent attributes from our various “pick lists,” as follows:
Work Date……….. 1970-1979
YOUR TARGET MARKET
How many Art Dealers are there in the United States?
There are two basic types of “art dealers.” There are gallerists (with brick-and-mortar galleries), and there are private art dealers (available by appointment only). Both types can also serve as corporate art consultants and private advisors.
Based on the U.S. Economic Census the number of art dealers in the United States can now be projected at more than 7,000. These are dealers in original unique artworks and original limited editions — not reproductions. No art dealer is ignored simply because the business may be small and regional. Sometimes, such galleries can provide a good start for you. The ultimate goal toward which we strive, however, is to secure the most prominent. We estimate that there are 2,100 top dealers. And of these, we estimate that 1,500 are gallerists and 600 are private art dealers. These are the ones who will be not only the most effective marketers but are also listed in the most popular national art directory, which is published annually by Art in America magazine. On the way to documenting all art dealers we first focused on this core group and determined their strengths and art affinities. This is how the most pertinent matches are made for the presentation of your collection.
How many Art Museums are there in the United States?
Art museums are either public or private and run by states, cities, colleges, universities, private boards, or foundations. Keep in mind that there are also regional art centers that do not have permanent collections but are important because they actively host exhibitions.
According to the American Association of Museums, there are about 17,500 museums of all kinds in the United States. However, only 8,300 of them are sanctioned by the AAM and are listed in their Official Museum Directory. But for your purposes it’s important to cull from this number only the fine art museums, of which there are about 912, the approximate number listed in the annual directory of Art in America magazine. As additional validation, this number is also reinforced by the membership of the Art Libraries Society of North America, which totals about 1,000, and of which we have been a member for decades. Our job is to understand each fine art museum’s mission and collecting direction, which usually is led by the museum director and implemented by the chief curator. The larger the museum, the more departmental curators there are on staff. Again, our job is to identify those departmental interests so that we can present your collection to the most pertinent curator.
How many Art Collectors are there in the United States?
The number is huge and difficult to accurately quantify. For your purposes, any definition of the art market eliminates the many millions of people who buy reproductions and posters as home décor at shopping malls, small framing shops, and online. That’s a $27-billion market in the United States alone, but it’s not for us. Your focus is upon serious and regular buyers of original fine art, whether unique works or limited editions. In the United States, there are more than 2 million millionaires who are art collectors, but our statistics suggest that we need to double that figure because there is an equally large group of passionate collectors who, while not millionaires, form the vast base supporting the art market and buy works in the lower price ranges. Therefore, we estimate that there are about 4 million collectors in the United States, and we know that they spend more than $10 billion on art annually. The states with the heaviest concentration of collectors are California, New York, and Florida.
How big is the international art market?
Again, this number is difficult to accurately quantify. While some economists’ estimates indicate an annual turnover as high as $60 billion in 2015. The greater consensus is that all market players are spending about $20 billion specifcially on fine art annually. About 75 to 80 percent of that turnover takes place through art dealers (gallerists and private dealers, whether brick-and-mortar or online), and 20 to 25 percent of that turnover takes place at auction houses. These figures indicate that by doubling the art market statistics for the United States one comes fairly close to the numbers for the rest of the world. According to this hypothesis, there are probably 8 million market participants worldwide. Our objective is to reach as many of them for you as possible.
Are elected members charged any fees?
We do not charge buyers any subscription fee. Instead, we represent the seller’s interests. And that means we have to charge a modest fee to elected members to cover the cost of creating, maintaining, and promoting the platform we create for you. Our responsibility to our elected members is to attract as many interested people as possible to view their work.
Every case is different, so please inquire directly and we will call you to discuss the fees and expenses as well as your options.
There are significant benefits. First, it is important to realize that Membership is highly selective, vetted by a distinguished Curatorial Board. The artist’s works, biography, and essays are archived forever for the benefit of the public and the art world. The benefits of membership include:
- Consulting: A personalized curatorial assessment is made, leading to a strategy for achieving your primary aim, plus follow-up consultation.
- Essay: We review your existing biographical and critical essays and will reproduce them if they meet our editorial and scholarly standards. If not, we must create a new one. *
- Synposis Paragraph: We write a short introduction, which is a snapshot aimed to catch the viewer’s attention. It shows your picture and provides the highlight critical commentary that best explains why your work stands out.
- Curating: Acting exactly as a museum curator would, we select the works for your first exhibition on ADG.
- Uploading: After adjusting your images for color quality and size we upload them along with their titles and descritions as well as smartly “tag” them for searching.
- Exposure: Special e-mail alerts are targeted only to those curators, gallerists, and collectors who we have already identified as having an affinity with your works. These email alerts are an ongoing aspect of our proactive and customized approach to affinity marketing. In addition, we speak directly with museum curators and gallerists to learn their special interests and upcoming exhibitions.
- Sales: All member are directly referred to ADG for further promotion, marjketing, and sales.
- Museum Exhibitions: We propose to museums that your thematic exhibition is virtually “ready to ship.” The artist or the artist’s estate earns royalties from any fees earned from those exhibitions.
- Your Catalogue Raisonné: You can use ADG as your own platform for hosting an unlimited number of additional images with work descriptions — at no extra charge.
- New Content: We will review, edit, and post new essays, articles, and reviews.
- Annual Report: We prepare an annual report on the viewing statistics for your collection and works. We review the report with you and discuss strategies for going forward
* New Essays:
We reserve the right to refuse to publish any existing essays about any artist’s lives and works that we feel do not meet our editorial and scholarly standards. We would then tap our staff or choose from a broad field of specialist art critics and top art historians to write a new essay about the artist’s life and works. If your biographical essay is prepared by our staff we review all of the information you provide as well as conduct our own research. After reviewing all biographical materials we produce an essay of about 2,000 words or more that effectively capture the artist’s life and artistic purpose. Such essays cannot be provided free. The cost will vary from writer to writer and according to the length of the essay. Consider this a start-up fee that is a critical part of building the most effective presentation. Such work is discussed with you in advance and requires your approval.
DOING IT WITHOUT US
Inevitably, artists or their estates find themselves confronted by large quantities of art that have been in storage for many years. Can artists detach themselves from these wonderful children born of their own creativity and think of them as inventory in a business? Are they or their families inclined to promote their art, and are they capable of doing so effectively? The answer, with art historical perspective, ranges between “sometimes” and “never.”
Some artists or their heirs may begin by seeking out art-knowledgeable people in their region and using them as a sounding board. But what if that sounding board were to be expanded to art-knowledgeable people around the country? And what if those people had solid professional relationships with museum curators and gallerists? That’s real networking with ADG. We know that most late career artists and owners of artist estate collections need a partner who knows the inner workings of the art market — a partner who will work as a powerhouse to secure exhibitions, publicity, and respect — a partner who will deliver.