Friday, June 1, 2012

The definitive source for non-represented New York art: an interview with Megan M. Garwood and AS | Artists Studios


In case it isn’t obvious, we here at Art-Chelsea are in love with New York’s art gallery scene.  There is no other city in the world that provides so many outlets for artistic expression.  However, on a personal level, some of our favorite artists are not represented by any galleries.  Most of these independent artists were found randomly through the interwebs, others from classical word-of-mouth.  What seemed to be missing was a consistent, reliable source for talented independent artists.

Thankfully, that void has now been filled by the brilliant minds of Jill Conner and Megan M. Garwood. Their conception, AS | Artists Studios, is a continually expanding online database of New York’s strongest non-represented art. All featured artists are (1) located in New York City and the greater metropolitan region, (2) not represented by any New York City gallery, and (3) not enrolled in an academic program.

The neatly organized website is a treat to crawl through (the archive is a good place to begin).  It’s already caused us to add a dozen artists to our watch list…and counting. Naturally, Art-Chelsea wanted to learn more about the project. We asked Megan M. Garwood for an interview and she kindly obliged.


Art-Chelsea (A-C): To start, could you share the inspiration that led you to create AS | Artists Studios?

Megan M. Garwood (MMG): After I had left Marlborough Chelsea, NY, to pursue a fulltime writing career, I obtained editorial positions at a few New York City art publications, while I contributed to newspapers, journals, and magazines. As Assistant New York Editor for Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art, I had worked closely with Jill Conner, New York Editor, and developed a great relationship with Jill. Professionally, we took on new projects, such as rebuilding On-Verge | Alternative Art Criticism (CUE & aica usa); personally, we enjoyed our conversations because Jill and I held very different views on contemporary art and art criticism.

As an art critic, I tend to avoid the word “inspiration” as the term often connotes influence. Firstly, Jill approached me with an initial business proposal. Secondly, each of us matured her thoughts. Thirdly, we discussed our individual objectives: Jill was very interested in sociology, the study of contemporary art from the context of the market, and documenting underexposed artwork; I wished to extensively treat ontology of art theories and meta-criticism. Fourthly, Jill and I reached out to our colleagues for suggestions. Lastly, we agreed to create “something” that not only would satisfy our desires but also could meet our obligation to search for strong, less-accessible art than that which is created by represented artists.

Hannah Lamar Simmons

A-C: Those five stages that led to the creation of AS are quite interesting. You and Jill both seem to have a genuine passion for the art-making process and undiscovered artist, making AS the perfect output for your energies. I actually get that sense when browsing the AS website – that this is a truly organic and authentic project, seemingly devoid of any commercial interests. I’d be curious to hear your take on the other side of contemporary art, as in the primary and secondary markets (in terms of how those markets function currently).

MMG: Thank you. I have always looked at art in an objective manner. I actually do not read any of the artists’ statements of those whom I wish to accept, however I do look over everything that an artist sends me whom I may feel would not fit into our database. I believe that this along with the fact that Jill reviews applications separately really contributes to the database. Most-importantly, AS | Artists Studios has been created for people who can aid the artist, whether he or she be an institution, gallerist, private dealer, curator, or collector—ergo, I always consider the “commercial” aspect of art. I have found that many artists have been placed into a category due to the hierarchy of the artworld. For example, many great installation artists become known for painting because the artist contributes a painting to a group exhibition in a renowned gallery. Later, the public wishes to see similar works simply because that is the work that has been on view in a known gallery.

I feel the same way in each context, commercial and AS | Artists Studios. I’ve worked for Björn Ressle, who has been a major dealer of Sol LeWitt as well as other conceptual artists such as William Anastasi, and Marlborough Gallery, who deals in primary and secondary markets. I comprehend the importance of each market to a gallery, and I do not belittle either market. Many artists in our database appreciate my insight after my working in these types of galleries. As a writer, I strive to reveal the importance that society places on the market. Moreover, I believe that people are apt to blame the art market for the unrecognizing of certain artists. In the end, “we” (art enthusiasts) are the art market, and the stability of the contemporary art market rests upon “our” support of contemporary artists. Personally, I would love to collect works on paper; I would love to purchase drawings by Robert Ryman or Bill Anastasi. The secondary market does not have to be scary: it has to be understood, so that artists and collectors view it not as a threat but as an entity in and of itself. It would be quite easy to say that the art market were corrupt and that artists who have connections in the artworld are celebrated much more than others, yet I truly believe that the artworld is the single market where one flourishes solely on talent rather than connection. Sadly, not everyone who wishes to be viewed as the next “Picasso” will be. This is a problem in every discourse rather than simply a problem in the contemporary art market.

Adam Krueger

A-C: Moving back to AS | Artists Studios, part of the application process is said to involve personal studio visits. Have you or Jill personally visited the studio of every artist featured on AS?


MMG: Jill or I (normally, Jill and I) have met with every artist in the AS Archive. (Some artists do not have a commercial studio and prefer to show us work in a gallery or other space.) The core of our project is the studio visit and an in-person view of work being made, which is central to the rigor of artistic practice. The studio visit is crucial to speaking about an artist's work. Moreover, as a member, the artist receives detailed feedback and consultation twenty-four hours, seven days a week. (Believe me. I receive phone calls and emails during the oddest hours!) I have been asked backed by numerous artists and wish that there were more hours added to the day.

Linnea Kniaz

A-C: That's a very important aspect of AS that sets it apart from being simply a blog-like endeavor; the artists selected are not only profiled, but actually become a lifelong member of the AS community.  Can you go into a bit more detail on what this membership means and some examples of the consulting you and Jill have thus far provided?

MMG: We actually hope that artists are not lifetime members of the AS community because we hope that the artists who seek gallery representation gain it. When an artist becomes represented by a New York City gallery, the artist will be removed from the AS database and a link to his or her gallery will appear in the profile’s place. Consultation is a huge benefit of AS. From the very beginning of AS, Jill and I relied on the first fifty artists’ opinions regarding website design, promotion—right down to the contact information available on the website. In addition, Jill and I (more I as I never sleep) are available twenty-four hours a day if an artist has a question. Questions vary from aesthetic choices to opinions on galleries or contact strategies for museums. Neither Jill nor I directly put artists in touch with specific galleries. If we know that an artist is interested in a gallery, we try our best to give advice on how to approach that gallery. It is imperative that AS be a tool for art institutions, therefore Jill and I do not want to overload our connections in the artworld. As little as suggesting a framing technique or as large as editing a letter to a museum employee—we are here to get artists where they want to be.

Brian Higbee

A-C: Beyond the three basic requirements, what is your review process for accepting submissions?

MMG: Before launching, Jill and I decided that we wanted to feature dynamic ("characterized by continuous change, activity, or progress") art and artists. We are looking for applicants who push the boundary of medium as well as theory.

Currently, AS | Artists Studios is run solely by Jill and I (as stated), thus we are unable to visit each artists who applies. We put a large amount of time into each applicant and into the project in general. If we do not accept an artist, we encourage the artist to reapply in three months, so that he or she may have ample time to grow with our website. By "grow," I mean that an artist will follow our site and become acquainted with featured artists and our mission.

Jessica Baker


A-C: Have you considered expanding outside the New York City and greater metropolitan area?


MMG: We recently added Paris and the entire country of France to our concept. Jill and I looked for a city where the most artists—whom either Jill or I know—lived. Also, we wanted to establish that AS | Artists Studios would grow globally. Furthermore, we consider French artists to be largely overlooked even though they have a strong community of contemporary artists.

Recently, Jill and I met with the Cultural Attaché and the Director of Visual Arts at the French Embassy in New York, where we presented AS to them and explained our aims to capture the best of 250 French contemporary artists within the next year. They received the presentation well and will be assisting us with resources and names for us to consider as we build the AS | Paris portion of our site.

In the future, we would like to have liaisons, whom we trust to visit artists’ studios, around the country and world. We believe that AS | Artists Studios grows on our reputations in the artworld, and in turn our strict rule to meet artists and view artworks makes it difficult to add other cities at this time. Regardless, we believe that our dedication shapes AS | Artists Studios into a strong resource.

Adam Peiffer


A-C: I am excited to see AS expand to Paris. Thank you very much for taking the time to discuss the vision behind AS | Artists Studios. The website looks splendid and I hope it grows for years and years to come. Anything else you’d like to add?


MMG: Again, thank you for your support. Jill has been in Paris, France, reaching out to artists whom have been suggested by our French liaisons. We hope to have a separate section that promotes our French artists by summer. In the future, we envision numerous sections in which global artists may be on view. We only wish to remind artists and viewers that AS will always be run by Jill and me, therefore our purview can only reach as far as we can. Although we know that there are many artists that would benefit from exposure in the AS database, we cannot commit to a city or artist out of our reach. We are looking into supporters who may aid global visits and are very optimistic on the future of AS | Artists Studios.

*****

Now that you know more about AS | Artists Studios, go over to the site and take a look. You can connect with AS on Twitter, as well as the creators: Jill Conner, Megan M. Garwood.  And for good measure, here's AS's Facebook page.

All images courtesy of AS | Artists Studios

Written by Mike Starosciak, founder of Art-Chelsea