Past Comments

December Issue 2004
by Tom Starland

Auction Results

As you can read in an article on Page 21 (see Featured Articles), Morris & Whiteside Galleries' Sixteenth Annual Renaissance Sale exceeded a million dollars for a second consecutive year. Last year our readers were held in suspense waiting to hear the results of this auction, but not this year. We got the results right away.

The two-day auction and set price event, held on Oct. 29, 2004, at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island, SC, netted over $1,360,000. While talking with Jack Morris about the auction, he expressed an interest in working with more artists and galleries from the Carolinas and including more regional works in the auction. Serious parties should contact the gallery about receiving a catalog from this year's auction to see what its all about.

This auction could become a great opportunity for Southeastern artists by getting their work presented to a highly developed audience of collectors which has been built up over the last sixteen years.

It's TRIENNIAL Time Again

My chief complaint with this exhibition is its title and description. Here is a description of the exhibition opportunity I found on the SC Arts Commission's website:

"The goals of the TRIENNIAL exhibition are to provide a venue to showcase recent work reflecting local, regional and national trends and issues influencing contemporary artists living and working in South Carolina and to increase awareness and appreciation of the artistic contributions and accomplishments of the state's visual artists.

The exhibition attempts to draw on the breadth of the visual arts community by providing a multi-media juried statewide exhibition opportunity in a major museum every three years. TRIENNIAL seeks to maximize exposure for the artists and the arts of South Carolina through its TRIENNIAL publication, which in its news-magazine format allows for a much more user-friendly exhibition catalogue that is more widely distributed than a traditional exhibition catalogue."

OK, that sounds fair, but it's the results of the selection committee which makes me want to call the exhibition - A Triennial Survey of SC's University & College Art Professors, Their Students, & Some. These exhibitions are never a survey of the greater visual art community in SC. More than 50 percent of the artists are teaching at SC universities and colleges and some of the others are their students. It's been a higher percentage in other years.

For one thing after seeing the results of five TRIENNIALs, most artists in SC don't even bother applying for the exhibition. Another factor which dictates the tone of the exhibition is the selection panel chosen by the Arts Commission. This year is a good example. They selected two university art professors and a director of a college art gallery. It's no surprise they gravitate towards the environment in which they live.

Frankly, the deck is stacked when it comes to the TRIENNIAL. It's an academic thing. It's the Arts Commission pushing the image of SC as a cutting edge contemporary art scene and it's not - not by a long shot. Many of the artists included in these exhibits are only seen in "Faculty" exhibitions or other Arts Commission sponsored exhibits.

Don't get me wrong - they're all good artists. That's never been my problem with these exhibits. The problem I have is about exclusion and bias. Of course that's a good description of the SC Arts Commission.

A lot of very good artists are being left out of the process, and that leaves this exhibit as only a small sliver of a look at SC's overall visual art community. It's the Arts Commission and the State Museum saying that the rest of the art community is just not that good and surely not worthy of exhibition.

And it's all done by design. There is a lack of proper and comprehensive notification for the exhibit deadline, a stacked deck on the selection panel, and no effort on the part of these state agencies to encourage others to participate.

The SC State Museum sent us a press release on this exhibit which is more a description of the process involved than a description of the work offered in the exhibit. You can read it on Page 12. The first thing you might notice a little odd about the release it that it didn't mention one artist's name. The other weird item is the playup of the impact the CD-ROM had on this exhibit. Jeepers - better exhibits with technology. I wonder what would happen if artists could enter this exhibit - online?

We've got the names of the artists right here for you to see. The (#) tells you how many times some of the artists selected have been in a TRIENNIAL exhibition during the five times it has happened. An (*) tells you which artists are currently teaching at a university or college. How about that Jane Allen Nodine* - 4 for 5 - not bad! I wonder if she has reached her "maximized exposure" level yet or maybe she's one of the emerging artists.

The TRIENNIAL 2004 artists are: Jill E. Allen*, Columbia; Russell Biles, Greenville (3); Jocelyn Chateauvert, Charleston; Debbie R. Cooke, Liberty (2); Yvette Dede*, Charleston (2); Patti English, Seneca; Tyrone Geter*, Columbia (2); Mana D.C. Hewitt*, Columbia; Julie J. Jacobson*, West Columbia; Liisa S. Jasinski, Newberry; Matthew N. Kargol, Clemson; Mike Lavine*, Rock Hill; Robert F. Lyon*, Columbia; Doug L. McAbee*, Spartanburg; Frank McCauley, Summerville; Elizabeth C. Melton*, Rock Hill; Larry Merriman*, Hartsville (3); Alice Ballard Munn, Greenville; Dorothy Netherland, Charleston; Jane Allen Nodine*, Spartanburg (4); Janet Orselli, Columbia (2); Herb Parker*, Charleston (2); Michelle Van Parys*, Charleston (2); Warren Scotty Peek*, Columbia; Colin Quashie, Charleston (3); Loren G. Schwerd*, Charleston; Lee Sipe, Columbia; Bob Snead*, Charleston; and Tom Stanley*, Rock Hill (2).

Oh! About that widely distributed exhibition catalogue mentioned above. If you don't go to the exhibit, where do you think you'll be able to get one? You can find Carolina Arts in over 300 locations. I know I'll be looking.

Both Sides Now

Last month in our commentary which was offered "only" online, we offered a fictional piece about a very bad art gallery. We were talking about a gallery which represent less than one percent of the good art galleries found in the Carolinas. Some readers called in or e-mailed new stories about what had happened to them at galleries (galleries we are happy to report are no longer in business), and a few thanked us for the warning. A few gallery owners even offered some tales about a few of their competitors. As I said last month - the art industry has a few bad apples, just like any other industry.

But don't get the impression that all the bad in the art community comes from those bad galleries. There are some bad artists out there too! Really, there are. And, we thought it would be only fair to add a bit of commentary about some of those bad artists. You'll find that on the website also - under past commentaries Nov.2004 - bad galleries and bad artists.

We may even offer a piece on bad customers. They're also lurking out there.

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