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by Tim Slowinski

Advertising is virtually impossible for most artists. Unless an artist’s work is shown in a top gallery that is reviewed by Art in America or Art News it will remain incognito unless the artist buys an advertising page in the magazine. A single page in a magazine like this can cost $7000, an amount that is unattainable to most artists. In this way these magazines assure that accessibility to the marketplace will remain in the control of those with deep pockets.

Advertising was not always like this. Back in the 1980s when I had a gallery in the East Village, the best way to promote an exhibition was through postering. Artists having a show printed up posters and plastered them all over Manhattan. Every surface was fair game, doors, walls, sides of buildings, light poles, anywhere you could glue a poster one was placed. Competition for the space was intense. If you wanted a poster to be seen on the weekend you had to go out Thursday and Friday nights about 4AM and plaster posters like a maniac. Thursday would get the Friday night crowd, Friday would get the Saturday. If you went out before then, say at 11PM, by the morning your posters would be gone, plastered over by someone who would go out at 4 in the morning.

Postering was affordable, creative and effective. There were all kinds of crazy posters out there and people would see them and come to the shows. It was a great time to exhibit art, but it didn’t last. City Hall, pressured by the landlords in Soho, began a campaign to crack down on the artists and banned postering. Heavy fines were given to businesses that were advertised on posters. I resisted until the very end. The last show I postered for was in 1990. I went all over Soho and put up posters in the familiar spots. The next day I got a series of phone calls. One Soho landlord threatened to come over and break all my store windows if I didn’t remove the posters I put on his building, another threatened to break my legs. Ivan Karp from OK Harris Gallery called and left a message on my phone machine. He called anonymously but I recognized his voice. He said that there were a lot of great luminaries in Soho, all I had to do was come talk to them and they would help me, I didn’t have to poster on their buildings.

So I went over to OK Harris Gallery to talk to Ivan, I said, "OK luminary, I’m here, are you going to show my work?" He was surprised that I had recognized his voice. He said he wouldn’t, but that there were a lot of new galleries over on Broadway and I should go there. I said why should I go over to some unknown gallery in a loft on Broadway, I had a storefront gallery already and showing in one of these galleries was worse than showing in my own store. He chuckled and agreed, but still offered no help.

Mary Boone, she was another one. I used to park my van in front of her gallery when she was in Soho on West Broadway. It was a very distinctive van, probably the only one in the city at the time, a 1968 International panel truck. It had a big sign on the side of it that said "LIMNER GALLERY." I would park it there on weekends and put posters and cards in the windows. People would see it and come over to my gallery. It was legally parked and she hated it. One afternoon a man called and identified himself as being from the Mary Boone Gallery. He told me that if I did not move my van from the front of her gallery he "would not be responsible" for what was going to happen to it. I ignored him and left it there for the weekend. A few weeks later I parked my van in Soho again. I left it overnight and when I returned in the morning all four of my tires were slashed. It cost me over $500 to tow and fix it. Of course I cannot prove Mary Boone slashed my tires, but the threat was made and the tires slashed—that was the actual sequence of events.

This is the situation of artists in America. Artists are expected to exhibit in galleries owned by wealthy art dealers who purchase advertising in high-end magazines. Most artists can not get into this type of gallery and end up in low wage jobs as store clerks, waiters, construction workers or house cleaners. These artists dream of getting into one of these galleries and spend countless dollars and hours submitting work to them that they never show—but they must never try to sell their own art. If they do take any action, such as open a gallery, sell art on the street, show in bars, restaurants or clubs, they are reviled. They are threatened, assaulted, insulted and condemned—or just ignored. Any efforts made at self- advancement are resisted and beaten down. Unfortunately, this is the way of Art in America.

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