Over the weekend, the Harvard-educated musician and pop star DA Wallach posted on Facebook a very long expression of his frustration with the art world. Wallach’s primary source of frustration is gallery culture and its emphasis on gatekeeping. Wallach’s post goes on to discuss a number of different issues related to the distribution of art.
What’s most important about Wallach’s frustration is not his particular critique but that a highly visible, well-educated and successful person can have such trouble gaining access to the work he’s most interested in. For all of the complaints about the middle market, one place to start might be finding ways simply not to rebuff the uninitiated:
And who are these middlemen? Well, I assume many of them are really nice people, just like folks who work at record labels. I imagine many got into the art world because they loved art. They just wanted to be around it, whatever that meant. And of course some of them are exceptionally knowledgable and perceptive.
But yesterday, I decided to go check out a bunch of galleries here in L.A. It was my first time ever visiting them, a whole strip of them on South La Cienega. And what I found were a bunch of arrogant jerks.
I went into uncreative white room after uncreative white room. They all smelled like crap. And there were so few pieces of work there for every square foot that it seemed like a practical joke on the visitor. A monastic silence permeated the air. The gallerists sat at their desks like judges, appraising me as I entered, then either murmuring a “hello” or simply ignoring me.
I walked around and looked at stuff, and on a couple of occasions asked a question, only to be met with condescending, empty replies. This was at all of them but one, where the gallerist was clearly just getting his business up and running, and attacked me like a carnival barker desperate to push his artists. And that made him, in this context, seem amateur. Not enough confidence. Not enough silent satisfaction that all of this art, his gallery, his buyers, etc. were all better than me.
In short, I – as a potential buyer – had the worst customer experience possible.
I’m sure it’s different if you’re Warren Buffett, but that doesn’t excuse it.