To believe is to achieve the seemingly improbable or impossible. This exhibition
to cultivate a multidisciplinary platform for emerging and established international
artists as a stage for the future. Under the direction of its founder Noor Blazekovic,
and international art fairs but it has also become a leader and a driven promoter for
contemporary artists to engage with an ever-changing world. The Zhou B Art Center
to the pursuit of contemporary art.
Klein Artist Works
the Art world
Klein is a SupporTED Mentor of TED Fellows. He has long been an art advocate and proponent for art in Chicago. He was the Chicago Society of Artists’ 2006 Man of the Year. For the past 10 years Klein has espoused about local art and national by writing and distributing ArtLetter. He is constantly visiting artist studios, galleries and museums; speaking with artists, dealers and museum curators and directors. Like no one else, he knows and understands art, artists and the marketplace and integrity. He was the Managing Director of The Briddge Group, an art succession planner. Klein was the Art Consultant/Curator for the 2.3 million square foot expansion of McCormick Place. Klein owned and operated Klein Art Works from 1981 to 2004. When he first opened in River North he established the area as a new art center. After his gallery was destroyed by fire in 1989, his pioneering move to River West led to the development of the entire area. Via his Klein Artist Works course he has interviewed over 300 art world experts on the subject of artists’ careers. People like Alice Aycock, Jessica Stockholder, Michelle Grabner, Simon de Pury, Jerry Saltz, Nick Cave, Dan Cameron, Theaster Gates, Jason Middlebrook, Dawoud Bey, Martin Margulies, Mark Dean, Sharon Louden and Dave Hickey. Their wisdom appears in Paul Klein’s new book, The Art Rules; Wisdom & Guidance from Art World Experts.
By Adrienne Outlaw
Tell me a little bit about KLEIN ART WORKS that you ran for close to 20 years. I know you moved locations and then you closed. Why did you run it, who did you show, and why did you close?
PAUL: My taste and enthusiasm for new and challenging digital, new media art, out-distanced me from my audience so ultimately I sold the gallery. A few years after that I started Klein Artist works. I believe in artists and I want to see more artists be successful. I think that artists can be a paradigm for transition change in society.
ADRIENNE: I do too. You know, a lot of what we do at Seed Space is these professional development workshops, which are similar to yours, and what we find is artists, it doesn’t really matter the age, doesn’t matter the success level, still don’t have these professional development skills, which seem to be what you’re teaching with your course. Can you talk about some of the things that you have cover in the course?
PAUL: Yes definitely. I think lots of artists have — are disillusioned and think that it’s solely about making good art. And you know, I wish that was a prerequisite, it helps to make good art but I think you can have a successful career making lousy art. We certainly see some people pulling that off. I teach people how to have a successful career. How the art world works, how to engage with the art world, how people interact, what the customs are.
A: What misconceptions did you have or what conceptions have you seen changed while you’ve been doing this course for four years, Paul?
P: As a given there’re many things that enable an artist to be successful and one is having a distinctive voice, so that as you express yourself people aren’t getting you confused with somebody else. I think the second thing we need to do, is show up. You’ve got to get your butt out of the studio, you’ve got to get engaged, you’ve got to grow. And the third thing is it really helps if you make good art and as Dawoud Bey points out, if you make good art and you engage with your community, it’s inevitable that good things will happen. So the two things that I have really learned in the four years of doing this that I find so amazing; number one is the significance of relationships and that — I mean you must see the same thing in the work you do, how people interact and grow. It starts with I like you and how you think and it grows to my being interested in what you believe in.
A: I’m sure you see it happen in your course a lot where artists are thinking that either the relationship should immediately lead to getting sold or picked up by a gallery or the artists are fabulous, and they don’t realize they need to focus on relationships.
P: Yeah I agree. To be really graphic I think sending your digital images, jpegs, to a gallery and saying here are my images, do you want to represent me; is kind of equivalent to sexting, you know, and sending somebody a graphic picture and saying, would you like to have a relationship? I don’t think that really constitutes a good relationship.
A: I also see people — just scatter shoot, just sending out their resume to everyone. But they really need to research the place and develop the relationship and later approach them after the relationship is developed.
P: The thing that I really am at this moment is, impressed with, not only growing relationships, but growing a community. As artists must grow their own community I want to grow mine. The people who have participated in Klein Artist works either via the course or one—on—one mentoring, tutorials, or the book, are all participating in a growing community where artists are helping each other, patting each other on the back, supporting one another, showing each other opportunities, caliing people, encouraging them to finish something on time or do what you said you were going to do. This is a really beautiful support system that I was under the impression artists didn’t really want. But once artists discover other kindred spirits, they just really lap it up. There are over 400 artists who have taken the Klein Artist works course. One hundred of them still meet on their own, in small groups, as an ongoing support for each other. I think that’s amazing. It’s like a microcosm. I’m hoping it reflects really well on society.
A: I definitely see it in the art world and when I did the webinar with you it was inspiring to speak to artists who are holding themselves responsible.
P: Awesome. Yeah, I think that’s a really good point; you need to take responsibility for yourself and even if you create a relationship with an art gallery, that does not mean you relinquish responsibility to that gallery. You still need to work on your relationship with your career. You may be one of 25 artists with a gallery, but a gallery has many more artists than an artist has galleries Artists should work to have more galleries and not have so many eggs in that one basket. I think that’s scary.
A: Can you talk about why, I mean this Klein Artist Works seems so successful. Why did you choose to also go forward with the book and what is The Art Rules
Wisdom and Guidance from Art World Experts book about?
P: The book is really based on excerpts from the course and has many of the voices of the experts who’ve participated. There are 300 I’ve interviewed in webinars with and many of them were excerpted in the book. Significantly, after you hear similar perceptions and advice from 100’s of people and it all pretty much sounds the same, you start to notice a trend!
A: What are the galleries saying about finding new artists?
P: They say they can’t look at everything, that they trust the artists they show and listen to hear who impresses them. For artists, relationships with artists who show with galleries you like is a good start. “If I don’t hear anything about it I don’t really want to see it.” I hear this all the time, if you have a friend who’s a friend of mine, or if we, or our kids, went to third grade together, okay, we can talk.
A: Yeah, I’ve found that that actually happens to me a lot. I hear the same thing over and over and then finally somebody has said it in exactly the right way and I’m like, oh, right.
P: Another thing is that so many older people have figured this stuff out and so many younger people don’t want to hear about it. They want to make their own mistakes. Oh God, I wasted a lot of time making my own mistakes.
A: I’m curious if you’ve met with any resistance within the university systems, in terms of the universities realizing they need to be teaching this stuff to students; because I still at don’t see it figure heavily within course work.
P: That’s a question I was hoping to avoid. I think that — when I began this course four years ago, I began it with the intention of serving artists coming out of art school because I felt the schools weren’t doing a particularly good job with this. And I found that those students were disinterested or overwhelmed or overloaded. Many art schools exist to perpetuate themselves and to propagate some artificial theory. I find that that theory is frequently disingenuous and doesn’t reply to what an artist really needs or deserves.
A: I totally agree with everything you said.
P: Schools are beginning to teach professional art practice courses. A lot of this is coming from the periphery; wonderful people like Creative Capital and other schools, and also online education. Even Sotheby’s has some piecemeal information. So that these are picking at the periphery, at the edges of censorship and weakening the core. The art schools will ultimately get with the program. A lot of what I like about doing the course and bringing in guests to interview is to have differences of opinion and to be able to say to people you should do what resonates. Don’t necessarily it what I say. I’m not going to tell you that you must go to art school or you must join a guild. I’m not going to say your doctor has to be in western medicine and acupuncture doesn’t work. I’m going to say you know, do what resonates for you, be who you are. I’m not going to say buy into my passion; I’m going to say find yours.
A: Is your book going to be more like a guide or is it more, here is what this person said about this and here’s what this person said about this?
P: It’s more of a guide which I’ve woven into a narrative. I realized there’re certain kinds of things that I’m not as good at as other people are. So I invited seven other people, other art coaches and mentors to contribute chapters. One art mentor I really like is good at structure and organizing and keeping yourself on a schedule. I barely know what those words mean.
A: It sounds really great, I look forward to reading it. I think that’s the thing about your course is that, it doesn’t strike me as one in which you, or the experts you’re bringing in, are talking down to the audience. It’s more that we are all having a dialog and we’re all sharing our experiences and I think that’s very refreshing in the art world and I look forward to seeing that in the book as well.
P: The book came out in February, 2015 the title is The Art Rules, it’s being published by Intellect Books in England and is being distributed in the United States by the University of Chicago Press.
I am a socially engaged, interdisciplinary artist whose work is informed by ethical issues. I am curious about the individual’s function in and responsibility to community, and how individuals can retain autonomy inW an increasingly diverse and rapidly advancing world. I have an expanded studio practice rooted in community engagement, object making, and the production of space. Interested in ways artists can partner with the public to create positive change, I often collaborate with and invite others to participate in the realization of works addressing issues of individual health in an increasingly diverse and rapidly advancing global society.
PAUL KLEIN interview By Adrienne Outlaw