This is the second part of a series of interviews with Miami-based arts professionals whose multifaceted practices were once seen as contradictory and now are quite necessary. Among other things, Michelle Weinberg is the creative director of the Girls Club in Fort Lauderdale.
In High Price: Art Between the Market and Celebrity Culture, Isabelle Graw has an interesting passage about the expanding roles of those in the art world. She says:
…Every art boom is accompanied by a restructuring of the art system, reflected in expanded demands made on artists and in hybrid identities such as the artist/gallerist/curator/critic. Just as the Dutch artists of the late sixteenth and especially seventeenth centuries broadened the spectrum of their painting, committing themselves to interiors or still lifes, in the early twenty-first century, an expanded job profile for artists has now become the rule, bridging the gap between the art and the market. They are now responsible not only for their work in the narrow sense, but also for the production of meaning, self-promotion, and marketing. In the wake of every new advance by the market, then, come expanded profiles and altered artistic identities…
Can you list the roles you have had in the art world?
Art School admissions
Curator (I don’t really like the term curator. I prefer organizer, presenter, something else)
Arts Administrator/Advisory Committee member
Non-profit director, development and programming consultant
I think that’s it….
At the beginning of his book on Gerhard Richter, Robert Storr quotes Nietzsche. “When we have to change an opinion about anyone, we charge heavily to his account the inconvenience he thereby causes us.” Obviously referring to Richter jumping from style to style in pursuit of his theory of painting, the quote I feel can be applied to the anxieties caused by changing direction. How have you felt about switching gears? Has it led to more reflection? How has it clarified your goals?
I believe that all my work is integrated. While many of my activities originated due to the necessity to earn a living, the tangents I’ve been privileged to explore have stretched me, challenged me intellectually and artistically. I’ve acquired new skills, had new experiences.
Do you consider yourself first an XXX and second a XXX, or do you place equal importance on the different aspects of your practice?
Well, I think that first I am an artist. I often say that painting is the point of origin for all my projects – my interest in pictorial space, architectural space, line color, re-arranging a set of givens, all this is where the passion is. So many ideas and sensations flow from that. I like the unfixed, subjective occupation of the artist. From there, I can adopt any form or format I choose at the moment, and function with much freedom, change my mind.
Are there any combinations of professions that are more or less problematic? For instance, is it less contradictory for someone to be a critic/curator than a critic/collector?
I don’t think in terms of limitations or problems. If it feels good and productive to manage several positions, then it’s good. The goal is to be uninhibited by the judgments of others, to resist checking our own impulses. I think one can attempt do everything one wants to do in life, but perhaps not all at once. I take turns, try to balance being a producer of work and presenter or nurturer of the work of others.
Economic realities aside, how does having a pluralistic identity cramp or enable your mission?
Can we locate this trend historically and geographically? Is it a New York thing? A Miami thing? A 2012 thing? Baudelaire was a poet and a critic, Motherwell was a writer and a painter, but it seems like there has been a recent swell of artists who have based their practice around this multiplicity.
I perceive a gradual loosening of the outdated hegemonies of the art world. Like any subculture, the art world exercises its own peculiar and powerful taboos upon its loyal followers. Artists are now freer to exhibit in more than one gallery, organize their own projects and in general, be more in charge of their own destinies. I find this very healthy. I think that the same creative freedom I seek in my work should also define my career, my entire life. I don’t want my life story to be like anybody else’s. Miami is a younger city. Many things have not been tried here. Older cities may be more fixed in their ways, but I don’t think that applies to New York. It’s a big place, and many new artist initiatives are initiated there and thrive on the fringes of the established art world. Miami has great vitality, and because it’s smaller, players can have a greater impact, faster. Great opportunity in that.