Enter: The Bravo Generation. A scene to Consider for for New Grads

“I stand behind my vision. It represents me as an artist.”

I looked at the aluminium foil-clad box she just “installed” opposite the isolated robbed-from-the-web,  float-framed photograph then back at her and then back at the “installation.” I’m all for minimalism, but if this represented her vision as an artist, her pending MFA was going to have a short life span on the art market.

I felt like Michael Kors and this artist was about to throw someone under the bus to stand behind her artistic vision.
I felt like Michael Kors and this artist was about to throw someone under the bus to stand behind her artistic vision.

Frankly, her fate as an artist didn’t concern me. The feedback from me and our curator that this (shoddily-thrown-together-sorry-excuse-for-a-commissioned) artwork was entirely different from her accepted proposal, and therefore, entirely unprofessional fell on deaf ears.

I wanted to shake her — don’t you get it? We’re trying to help your career!

That’s what I hoped my eyes said to her when she added:

“I don’t think this is at all different from my proposal.”

Feeling a bit like Michael Kors on Project Runway, facing a designer blind to her own inexperience, I simultaneously admired her self-confidence and abhorred her arrogance. I vowed this was the last time I’d work with an MFA student. Emerging artist? No, thanks. Give me an established artist, I said to myself.

Ironic, considering that not so long ago, I was a soon-to-be recent grad school graduate waiting for my first break into the real world…

Maybe, I’m being harsh. But my experience with the Bravo-Reality-show-educated artist hasn’t been an anomaly when dealing with recent (as in, since 2011) graduates…

Enter the Bravo Generation, where an individual’s vision reigns supreme and constructive criticism from seasoned vets is really not constructive, it’s a complete lack of understanding.

Coming Soon? What? Your web-based business? Or adulthood?
Coming Soon? What? Your web-based business? Or adulthood?

I wasn’t entirely sure that recent things I read, including an A.O. Scott film review, were being entirely fair when they call the early to mid 20-somethings complacent, or stunned in their growth to adulthood. What I’ve noticed is an attitude — a kind of supped-up sense of entitlement (I have a right to be who I want to be and wait, as long as it takes, for the exact job that will put me on the path to be who I want to be) — and the false senses that an internship = experience and that starting a website and calling yourself a “founder” legitimizes you.

Sure, it’s the age of Entrepreneurship, but “coming soon” can only go on for so long.

So graduates, here are 3 things to keep in mind as you head out into the real world:

1. Know what you don’t know: Internships are only introductions — they don’t make you experts. Learn to acknowledge the difference between exposure and experience — Earning a 2-year MA in museum studies is not the same thing as working in a museum for 2 years. Courses for a grade are not the same things as projects for your boss.

2. Be prepared to earn your stripes. No one owes you anything and you’re not proven until you’ve been tested.

3. There’s always someone better than you out there. Let that keep you motivated, but also keep you humble.

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The True Confessions of a Young Gallerist

The front page of this weekend’s NY Time’s Sunday Styles featured an article called “The Young Gallerists.” The piece by Laura M. Holson highlighted a handful of young, ambitious go-getters who are making waves in the contemporary art world as they run their own galleries and curate shows of marked significance.

Clearly, I was out of town when she called.

Behind every gallery opening is a mess a young gallery director needs to clean up

Ms. Holson’s article points to the economic uncertainty of ventures in the art world, but focuses on the glamor of exhibition openings. Behind the glamor is a gritty story of a gallery director, a drill, and a large bottle of advil.

“ADAM! HELP!” I screamed as the 8 foot ladder under my feet began to tip.

Before my assistant could swoop to my rescue, I made a Lara Croft style dive for the lighting track, letting the freed can and blub crash to the ground.

I was in the midst of installing my gallery’s fall exhibition – a show of large-scale contemporary sculptures – and my near death experience while adjusting the gallery lights was just another almost catastrophe in a week ripe with artwork-induced calamities.

Before my assistant could rescue me, I made a Lara Croft-style dive for the lighting track. I sense a new cult video game: The Young Gallerists

In the wee hours of the previous night, I offered to serve as the human vice for an artist while she sawed the head off a bolt. The saw only slipped twice, and unfazed, I watched the corner of my recently manicured index-fingernail shoot off. Luckily, the artist stopped before we had a chance to see if my new health insurance covered partial amputations.

“How thick is the plywood behind the plaster?” another artist asked as we tapped on one of the gallery walls, trying to decide if there was enough internal support for his work.

I shrugged and hoped for the best.

I inherited the gallery walls... I found out some of them were concrete the hard way.

After all, I inherited my gallery walls, I didn’t build them. I have no idea what they’re made of. As far as I was concerned, there was only one to find out: Drill, baby, drill.

When the anchor for his florescent resin tree branch began to tear a stripe through the plaster, we figured the plywood wasn’t the ¾” thick we had hoped for.

I pulled out the patching putty and we resumed tapping.

“Do you have a stud-finder?”

“I assume you don’t mean my Friday-night wingwoman?”

Apparently, a stud-finder is a small contraption that you run over a wall to find an upright post in the framework of a wall.

The exhibition will open. The wine will pour. The charm will ooze. And then... the gallerist collapses.

I count the number of causalities amassed during the installation – my fingernail, my olive-toned crepe silk pants, half an artwork, one intern – and consider what still needs to be done. Wall labels need to be mounted. Price-lists need to be finalized. Exhibition brochures need to be picked up from the printer. Wine needs to be purchased.

There are only 2 days left till the opening. The clock is ticking.

On opening night, I’ll be made-up and bedazzled in vintage couture. The wine will pour. The charm will ooze. And then, like I’ve done every day since the loan agreements came in, I’ll collapse into bed, hoping my eyeliner will still look fresh when I go back into work the next morning to start all over again.