About Artist Management and Cultural Management

May 2006

Starting in the 80’s, the curator started to have a very significant role. There is more talk about the curator than the artist. And it seems to me that in an exhibition, the leading figure is the artist. I am not interested in the enormous intermediation that exists today in the art world: from the curator, the chief curator, the first and second curator, the assistant curator, passing through the publishers, the journalistic critic, the installer, the one who puts in the nail or the hanging wire, the communicator, the marchand, the dealer. There are a lot of sections behind a show. It seems to me that something that is simpler becomes more complex. The artist ends up being the last link in a chain of which he is actually the main figure. That’s why last year (2005) I put together the cycle “The artist as curator” at the San Martín Cultural Center. I am not against curatorship — I am a curator myself— but it seems to me that it is an activity that complements the artist’s work and nothing else. I try to work with artists with whom I share a way and a vision, because I like teamwork. And I am interested in a show being like a dance between two people. You can’t always do that, it depends on the partner you choose in an exhibition. 

Today, in cultural management people talk about professionalizing the art world. I agree with being professional, but we should define what it means to be professional. In general, it is assumed that to be professional is to have assistants to meet the demand of the fairs on time, to make neat bilingual folders, to invent theoretical frameworks so that the works of artists illustrate the ideas of curators, to give conferences with very complicated titles that add nothing, and to contribute to the general commercialization of everything in order to sell and sell. I think that art is the silence of time spent in the workshop and other things, like the waste of time from creative leisure. Gallery owners have their interests, and I think that’ s fine, just like media owners, where you have to do the difficult balancing act of the juggler to speak without getting kicked out. Today there is a mania for selling at any cost; we know that. Necrophilia sells, provocation sells. There’s a lot of yellow press. And the same thing happens in the exhibitions: a lot of press, public relations, and printed material to see more of the same. There is one style or artist profile that particularly interests me. They are the artists who take those times which are not the chronological ones or those of text message. In general, they are not part of the machine of fairs, curatorial interests and so on, but they are the ones I like. We know that in art criticism and cultural journalism, you have to fill characters and fill up space, but sometimes there is nothing to say. I think it is also good to be silent when there is nothing to say. I have a degree in Art History and I practice my profession within the framework of teaching, art criticism, cultural journalism, and curatorship. I know when I copy and paste in a text, and the pirouettes I do to submit on time the article I’m asked to do within three minutes. And I feel bad, and it’s part of the contradiction; and it’s part of stopping and thinking about why I got into this art thing. For me this has always been enjoyment, pleasure, happiness, understanding. I don’t want to be the top curator and stop having time for shared and collective dreams. It’s not easy to deal with this issue of cultural management, whether it be for artists, critical managers or anyone else. I mean doing cultural management, in general. You have to make decisions and sometimes fill in the holes because you don’t have ideas, or you don’t find the artist with new work that interests you. And I know when I write counting the characters because I don’t have much to say. That is when I stop liking it and I feel very bad. I chose this work because I love art deeply, so I don’t want to forget that initial excitement I had the first time, in everything. In order not to lose that emotion and not to stop being surprised, I prefer to distance myself from it every now and then.

Art is the artists, and the rest is the art system. I can be in that system when it’s convenient for me, like going to a dinner because I have to go, but it’s not what I’m interested in.  I know how to applaud when the other one needs the applause; we all know the game. I can be at an opening because I know the rules, but isn’t there a place more alien to art than an opening or a talk on cultural management? For me, and this is a personal opinion, there is nothing less artistic than the claustrophobic light of an art fair or the tedium of walking around an art biennial. I take an aspirin and go because I also know that if I overcome all those obstacles (the light, the tiredness, the noise, the crowd) I will suddenly find interesting situations, or an artwork that is different from what I knew, or I can perhaps rediscover the usual works that have always interested me, like old loves. But I confess that such an art journey of what is supposed to be today the cartography of art is not exactly an aesthetic experience.

There is no need to fake orgasms all the time. Art happens very rarely, like love. The rest is just filling up the spaces to occupy the time and have the stage lights on for a while because there is a very rare actor’s devotion not only in art but in this era. Now in the articles you write, you are also asked for your photo. Everyone wants their fifteen minutes of celebrity, as Warhol said. In addition to writing, now I have to show my face. I just got offered a cable show, so I’ll have to go to an acting school, too, I guess. I take this as part of the variants of job flexibilization. We’re all a little bit of everything. The artist is a curator, the assistant is an artist, the critic is an actor, the collector is the advisor, and vice versa. 

On the other hand, I recognize that I love to look at this scenario. It seems to me that we live in a very interesting time, in which everything has to be publishable, and people have an opinion about everything. It’s like a tremendous loss of intimacy. It’s a parodic, grotesque, and quite pathetic moment. And for all this, it’ s highly interesting.

*Laura Batkis has a degree in Art History (University of Buenos Aires). She is also a teacher, an art critic, and a curator. She is a member of the Argentine and International Association of Art Critics, and editor of the international art magazine Lápiz (Madrid), La Mano (Buenos Aires) and Arte al Día (Buenos Aires) .