Interview with Ed Winkleman from Winkleman Gallery, Chelsea, New York. Ed Wilkleman founded Plus Ultra. It quickly became a “hot” gallery in Brooklyn. After a few years he moved the gallery to Chelsea on 27th street and changed the name to Winkleman gallery. Ed has kept an active blog about the art world and life as a gallery owner since 2005.
How has the recession changed the art market?
There is one big change. Collectors are unsure of what the work that they are thinking about purchasing is worth. For example a painting that is 36 × 48 inches that sold for $5,000 is probably still a safe bet, being reasonable by any standard. But a painting that size by an artist whose work went up in value during the bubble, up to $50,000 or $100,000, is now more of an unknown. The uncertainty of what art is worth is much more pronounced in the contemporary art market. Older works of artists from another era are more stable. There is also one kind of collector who is active and coming back to the market. These are the mid-range collectors that were priced out of the bubble boom and now that things have settled back down, they are collecting again.
How can artists survive and thrive during this recession?
Artists should look at this time as an opportunity to play with some new ideas or consider some experimentation. Since artists don’t have to produce on demand for the next art fair as much, now is the time to master the new media that you have been thinking about or play with scale so that when the economy does turn around you will be ready to jump in with new work that you are excited about. Now is time to work on a project that you always wanted to do.
I have been told that a slump in the art market is a good time for new artists with less exposure to get in. Since the galleries are not selling out shows anyway, a gallery may take a risk on a new artist. Is this true?
I would say that conventional wisdom does not support that statement and that the opposite is true. A boom market is better for unknown artists because galleries are more willing to take risks. As the market cools there are experienced artists whose galleries fail. Those artists who have a more established careers are now looking for a galleries. If I had a slot open I would take an artists who had a reputation, many museum shows and collectors over an unknown artist. If there weren’t any experienced artists looking for a gallery, then I would consider showing a new artist.
How can artists survive and even thrive in this art market?
Consider what “product” (i.e., artwork) you can put on the market that is obviously “worth it.” Adjustments may need to be made to your work now that it is not selling in a boom. Artists can focus on drawings or traditionally less expensive media. This can help keep your work selling. It also brings down the price of their work to what collectors are willing to spend without devaluing the work. Many artists and galleries are selling prints or multiples. This is a great way to give the market what they want again, without devaluing the work. Many artists are also picking up teaching while their work is not selling as much as it used to.
Has anything changed in your advice to artists who want representation?
The same rings true now as always, the best way to get gallery representation is: First, Know what kind of work the gallery shows and if you work fits in. Second, having someone you know and that knows the gallery introduce you if it is a good fit. Third, network, network, and network.
What will need to happen before the art market can come back?
Collectors don’t know what they personally are worth. They don’t know how much money they have or what their real estate is worth. The stock market needs to stabilize and there needs to be indication of real growth. Patience is the key here. Some have said that there is new life coming back from some early indicators in the past couple weeks, but just as many others dispute that claim.