ISSUE 11 | VOLUME 4 | May 2010    

Ideas, Stories, Events and Careers

Take Me to the Fairs... The whirlwind of art and antique fairs everywhere keeps me spinning, yet I can't get enough. Just back from ArtChicago, where I organized a panel on Public Art and Architecture for ArtTable - the leading national organization of women leaders in the visual arts. The generous and illustrious speakers were my colleagues Joel Straus, of Joel Straus Consulting, who, I was privileged to announce, has just been appointed/anointed the representative for public art projects for the Sol Lewitt Estate (Congrats, Joel!); Lynn Basa, artist, author and teacher, whose book, The Artist's Guide to Public Art: How to Find and Win Commissions is not only practical but also a great read; and, Ed Uhlir, the Master Architect and now Executive Director of Chicago's Millennium Park, one of the world's great public spaces. Ed had the audience enthralled with stories of the Park's development -- the rejection of Skidmore Owings and Merrill's initial neo-beaux arts plan that would have referenced the great 1893 World's Fair, to persuading Anish Kapoor to move Cloud Gate (lovingly called "The Bean") closer to the street in order to reflect the skyline; to Jaume Plensa's concern that the faces on his monolithic fountain reflect Chicago's diverse ethnic populations and has become an exciting and fanciful urban water park.


Joel Straus talks about community involvement and the process of public art © Photo by Peter Thomas

Some of the topics the panel considered were:
-- As changes in the economy redirect how people spend their leisure time, is there a renewed need and interest in dynamic public spaces that can be enjoyed and utilized by a diverse public?
-- How is a public art project deemed successful and what is the role of money and patronage on the outcomes and process of making public art? And,
-- What is the generative role of artists in a public art project -- are they concerned with the primacy of the audience and the experience of the end-user?

What better place to organize such a panel than in the city where Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Bernard Goldberg, Helmut Jahn (I could go on and on) did some of their greatest work. I encouraged everyone to be inspired by the interplay of art and architecture by walking up Dearborn Street to experience Mies' Federal Plaza with its 55-foot flaming Flamingo by Calder; on to Chagall's Four Seasons mosaic murals at First National Plaza; and up to Daley Plaza with the monumental Picasso, and finally, Miro's Sun, Moon and One Star, nestled between two buildings in the narrow Brunswick Plaza. And this is just a daily modernist fix!

We were thrilled by the offerings of our clients who participated in ArtChicago -- just when you think you've seen all the Warhols possible, David De Buck of D.B.Fine Arts showed several smaller intimate works; Tom Parker at Hirschl & Adler was doing business briskly when I stopped by; and, downstairs at NEXT, Mike Weiss had a solo show of Elisa Johns. Our good friend and ArtTable member, Rhona Hoffman, was entertaining a crowd of clients and onlookers; and Andrew Bae, with his refined eye for contemporary Asian Art, sold three works in the first hour of the fair. All in all a good time was had by all -- the city sparkled; people were happy; access was easy, and Chris Kennedy and Merchandise Mart Properties are fair-organizers par excellence.


(from left: Joel Straus, Lynn Basa, Geri Thomas, Ed Uhlir) © Photo by Peter Thomas

Dropped in on the Affordable Art Fair here in New York and was pleasantly surprised at the range and quality of galleries this year. Good friend, Cynthia Corbett from London, continues to show smart and sassy works by artists such as Klari Reis and Tom Leighton; we were taken with a large Richter-like portrait of a Vietnam minority woman at New York's Vietnamese Contemporary Fine Art; and Hang Art from San Francisco brought along several new works by one of my favorite painters, Siddharth Parasnis.

And just when you might think there may be too many art fairs, we are excited and looking forward to our long-time colleague Nick Korniloff's new venture, the Florida International Fine Art Fair, February 2-7, 2011 (FIFAF). Nick's a partner and director of Art Miami LLC and one of the most professional show directors in the business. With the continued expansion of Miami as a hub for the art world and a gateway to Latin America, according to Nick, FIFAF will fill a gap in the market with a goal to make it an important destination for dealers and collectors on a level similar to Maastricht. Go, Nick!

State of the Arts - Employment

We’ve had hundred of inquires since the start of 2010 from arts & culture professionals at all levels regarding the state of arts employment in the light of a slowly recovering economy. From senior directors, curators and sales staff, to recent graduates just out of museum studies and arts administration programs, people are concerned with a job market that imploded with the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 and which is only now starting to show signs of reviving.

Most activity that we’re currently seeing has developed in the commercial and private sectors. Galleries and auction houses are again hiring for significant positions, although the hiring process is often taking longer to conclude as employers are showing more caution in terms of candidate suitability. While some larger, blue-chip galleries are expanding and opening new spaces, particularly in Los Angeles, many other galleries are still relying heavily on part-time and project-oriented assistance although we have seen signs of retrenchment at this level as well. The first quarter of 2010, like the last quarter or 2009, has been very quiet, and we expect this trend to continue on through summer as galleries continue their restructuring processes and calibrate new levels of buyer activity. If new market activity continues to grow with the start of the Fall season, we expect a continued return to hiring and expansion overall, although we doubt that pre-2008 levels will be returning any time soon.

Museums and many visual and performing arts organizations, on the other hand, are facing continued financial difficulties with cutbacks in funding from municipal and state sources. These organizations are cautious about hiring, although some of our clients have “un-frozen” positions and are actively recruiting for necessary positions, especially in development and fundraising. Even project-based work in terms of exhibitions has lessened dramatically. There’s a misconception circulating that with so many people out of work, it should be easy to recruit and find experienced employees. The reality is that such employees are staying in their current positions or leaving for academia or other pursuits to enhance their marketability when the economy rebounds. Working with an agency devoted to arts & culture is still the best way to source high-quality and top talent, as the current flood of job seekers includes not only entry-level candidates, but also applicants from other fields who are desperate for work in any industry.

We are always interested in your thoughts and comments, so please email me directly at gthomas@artstaffing.com. For employment opportunities and our newsletter, please join our mailing list.

Cheers! Geri

About Thomas & Associates, Inc. / artstaffing.com
Celebrating our 10th Anniversary serving the global arts community, Thomas & Associates, Inc. is an innovative firm with offices in New York City that offers staffing, consulting, career services and training programs for museums, non-profit organizations, and arts and culture businesses nationwide. In addition to permanent placement and executive search, Thomas & Associates also provides temporary and interim personnel at all levels and has recently launched its career advisory division and outplacement services to address the needs of arts and culture professionals everywhere.

Please contact us at 212-779-7059 or visit our website at www.artstaffing.com for more information on our firm and our services.
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