Call for Submissions.
June 25th, 2009 by Lex

Urban Aesthete is looking for artists, writers, musicians and multi-media experimenters to add to its vocabulary and presentation. If you (or someone you know) are interested and resonate with our vision of urbanism, avant-garde and modernity, please send examples of your work.

Similarly, we are happy to develop link relationships with specific artist sites, portals along conceptual lines, and other interested organizations.

Track Records.
March 5th, 2008 by Lex

Humans use stereotypes and generalizations as shortcuts to get through an over-complicated world. Decision makers, such as admissions committees, galleries and investment managers, all rely on track records. They flatten information into easily understood streams of progress. For example, if you were looking to invest your money, you would find a professional that has outperformed a benchmark for the last five years. Similarly, an art gallery will ask to see where you have previously exhibited in order to keep or cut you. Nobody wants to take on a dud, and so indicators of prior performance are used as guides.

As far as I know, only in the investment business do people make an explicit statement that past performance does not necessarily translate into future performance. Mean reversion is pretty powerful. Since doing well can sometimes be simply an expression of statistical luck, that luck tends to run out. Many times, managers that have outperformed in the past few years will be have several down years soon after. A kind of gravity. And so clients are thoroughly warned not to read too much into the past. It seems that in the art world, the track record is far more important. There is a heavy institutional mindset that is hungry for reputation.

So what about investments (galleries choosing to represent artists are investing) that are lumpy: many years of sideways or zero performance, and then BOOM, a true hit. The financial world has plenty of such business models, laying down capital and patiently working until the payoff. How is this handled in the arts? Are there venture firms that sponsor 20 emerging artists to have one or two succeed? If so, they are painfully rare.

A systematic portfolio approach could be implemented by the galleries to breathe some freedom into the scene. Certainly galleries have a portfolio of artists, but they are often similar quantitatively (reputation, tenure, etc). Your 401K portfolio on the other hand takes advantage of lumpy performance, by holding stocks, bonds, hedge funds, commodities, and so on to diversify your returns.  The possibility of those excess returns is pretty valuable. Galleries could do this too: take on a few blue-chip artists, those with long lists of exhibitions and 10-page resumes. At the same time, have a slice of the gallery devoted to emerging thought and new blood.