Art Competition Odds

Art Competition Odds: 2016 Dieu Donné Workspace Program residency

The 2016 Dieu Donné Workspace Program residency received nearly 400 applications for 4 residencies.


Residents comprise about 1:100, or 1% of applicants.

See all Art Competition Odds.

Thought Experiments in Agency

Wages Among Art Worker Coalition Members

On the value of an hour.

In Julia Bryan-Wilson’s Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era, three hourly wages are described: $2–3, 4, and $25.


Lucy Lippard got her master’s at NYU so she could raise her hourly rate for doing research from $2 to $3. She graduated in 1962. In 2015 dollars, that’s $15.65 and $23.48, respectively.*


Slightly better paid were a few art handlers. Sol Lewitt paid four assistants $4 per hour for four days to fabricate his wall drawing in Kynaston McShine’s Information show at the Museum of Modern Art. Four 1970 dollars adjusts to $24.91 in 2015.* It’s decent; it’s close to a common freelance art handler rate in New York now.


This is Robert Morris’ wage in The Peripatetic Artists Guild, an performative art project in which he placed ads offering his services in a range of political, artistic, and construction projects. (He also stipulated that “all travel, materials, construction and other costs to be paid by the owner-sponsor” and that any subsequent sales require a 50% return of funds.) Twenty-five dollars in 1970 amounts to $155.71 in 2015 dollars.*

This is an art project, so it’s economically irrational, to the extent that Bryan-Wilson acknowledges that “in retrospect it appears to offer a remarkably good deal.” I assume that she’s comparing that hourly wage to the cost of purchasing Morris’ artworks now.

Still, I think there’s something fishy about this project as an exercise in wage labor. With such a high rate, all expenses paid, and resale rights that most artists today still don’t enjoy, the ‘guild’ is operating more like a hard-negotiating consultant. When you can make in one hour what others make in eight, you’re afforded more choice and autonomy. It’s not a precarious or proletarian position, so Morris’ identification with “workers” and “wage labor” is questionable.

As Patricia Maloney asserts in a recent op-ed on Art Practical:

“We cannot perceive artistic compensation as an end goal abstracted from the strata of support that precipitate that payment. We need to reinforce the infrastructure that enacts that labor.”

Building upon that, I’d ask what are the infrastructures that afford and determine compensation? How are these infrastructures shaped? Art handlers at large museums usually receive a decent wage and working conditions, mirroring the affiliation of museum workers with a union—one of the lasting accomplishments of Art Worker Coalition agitation.

How are these infrastructures biased?** Do they fall into the trap of equating administrative labor with women’s work, rendering it less visible and less likely to be well-remunerated? When I interviewed Elizabeth Travelslight this spring, she noted,

“I think administration—often because it’s gendered female—it’s not considered noteworthy.”

Yet administration keeps collectives, coalitions, and movements together. Indeed, one of the factors in the dissolution of the Art Workers Coalition was the defection of women—including its administrators—to feminist groups where they felt they could be heard.

*Inflation adjusted via

**The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s new study of diversity on museum staffs provides quantitive evidence to what many museum workers already know: women are well represented in curatorial, conservation, and education, and people of color are often employed in low-growth departments in maintenance and security.

Thought Experiments in Agency

Artists, Self-Care, Psychology and Politics

In thinking about psychological resourcefulness, and how artists might view ourselves, this struck a chord:

“I think of self-care as a political position, which one must take when one is vulnerable to a system that doesn’t recognize and care for you.”

—Shannon Stratton, as quoted by Zachary Cahill, “Exquisite Self-Reliance: Zachary Cahill talks with Shannon Stratton,” The Exhibitionist, August 10, 2015

It was great timing to come across this quote, as I’ve been thinking about artists’ power this past week-and-a-half in LMCC’s Process Space studio program.

Julia Bryan-Wilson: Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era

Julia Bryan-Wilson: Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era // Source: UC Press

I read Julia Bryan-Wilson’s “Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era” (2011), a look at the ‘art worker’ identity vis á vis the Art Workers Coalition and four key figures: Carl Andre, Robert Morris, Lucy Lippard, and Hans Haacke. The book has deepened my understanding of AWC and each of these individuals’ practices, especially how their politics influenced their artistic development and vice versa (rhetoric and a soapbox for Andre, risk and a cynical turn for Morris, public evolution of perspectives for Lippard, and a lost Guggenheim solo show and reinforced beliefs for Haacke).

Hans Haacke, On Social Grease (quote David Rockefeller; one of six panels) 1975. Photograph: Walter Russell. © Hans Haacke/VG Bild-Kunst // Source:

Hans Haacke, On Social Grease (quote David Rockefeller; one of six panels) 1975. Photograph: Walter Russell. © Hans Haacke/VG Bild-Kunst // Source:

I especially appreciate the extensive historical context, from the Vietnam War (and burgeoning anti-corporate ethos), the strategy of non-participation in the context of mass strikes and slowdowns, the New Left and the writings of Marcuse, and the rise of second wave Feminism (which ultimately bore the alternative culture the museum-targeting AWC aspired to create). I enjoyed Bryan-Wilson’s embrace of practice-as-rehearsal; ‘success’ and ‘failure’ are criteria too blunt for these shifting developments. She’s a fastidious thinker, using clear language to nimbly explore contradictory aspirations and actions.

Tom Finkelpearl, What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation // Source: Duke University Press.

Tom Finkelpearl, What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation // Source: Duke University Press.

I’ve also recently re-read the introduction and conclusion of Tom Finklepearl’s What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation (2013). The introduction is a thorough history of social and relational art, the social history that influenced it, and the books and exhibitions that mark its evolution. It’s a fantastically researched chapter, and if it were up to me, I’d make it required reading.

Finklepearl, formerly of the Queens Museum, profiles a refreshingly diverse set of artists. The conclusion draws upon American philosophical pragmatism, and social relationships and actions as productive fields of practice. It’s an energizing read, which left me thinking about how individuals contribute to groups, and how, in turn, individuals achieve more agency, individuation, and autonomy. A lot of writing about cooperation is based on evolutionary theories, which strikes me as a bit too transactional and calculated. For Finklepearl, the benefits of mutualism extend beyond corporeal or material gain to intrinsic reward and personal growth among participants. The optimism is contagious.


Life’s Too Short for Poor Habits of Mind

Recommended: an essay on freeing oneself from energy-sapping forces. It’s inspired by turning 60, but the call to preserve one’s attention for the truly worthwhile and to care for one’s emotional well-being applies at any age.

“Young(er) women, take this to heart: Why waste time and energy on insecurity? … I’m happy to have a body that is healthy, that gets me where I want to go…

What matters most is the work. Does it give you pleasure, or hope? Does it sustain your soul? …I’m too old for the dark forces, for hopelessness and despair…

Toxic people? Sour, spoiled people? I’m simply walking away… Take a pass on bad manners, on thoughtlessness, on unreliability, on carelessness and on all the other ways people distinguish themselves as unappealing specimens. Take a pass on your own unappealing behavior, too: the pining, yearning, longing and otherwise frittering away of valuable brainwaves…

My new mantra is liberating… I spare myself a great deal of suffering… goodbye to all that has done nothing but hold us back.”

Dominique Browning, “I’m Too Old for This” (NY Times, August 8, 2015)
Art Worlds

To Making Good Vibes

A double-whammy of expanding communities of artists. 

Some of my best moments in life are when I’m surrounded by smart, generous, enthusiastic artists. I’m thankful that I was able to be in that situation twice in the past two days. I am grateful for everything that went into making those moments happen.

Yesterday, I attended the orientation for Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Process Space, a five-month studio residency on Governor’s Island. I was excited about the opportunity but also anxious about meeting 19 strangers! There’s a lot that could go wrong.*

But it went really well—everyone was friendly and excited as we took the ferry across the sunny NY Harbor. When we sat down to get to know each other, it became clear that the participants have an interesting range of advanced inquiries. I was glad to see other POCs and a majority of female participants.

And I was happy that following the official orientation, J organized a happy hour. How I appreciate these social spaces has matured over the years. It’s not only for fun, but to learn more about individuals’ opinions, pasts, and senses of humor; it deepens connection, trust, and empathy. The sooner these spaces happen within any kind of artists’ programs, the better. I’m really excited to continue getting to know my cohorts, working alongside them in Process Space, and building a community of likeminded artists.

Today, I met up with 16 artists from the Artists in the Marketplace program for our informal, for-us, by-us walk-through of the Bronx Calling exhibition at the Bronx Museum. I initiated it because there’s so many strong, smart, and mutually-invested artists in my 2014 cohort, I knew it would be worthwhile to meet members of this year’s group.

I love it when artists talk about their practices and interests in an intelligent, unpretentious, and honest way. It’s great to be able to take in their words and ask them questions in the same space as their original artwork. I’m thankful to the smart, diverse, articulate artists who shared their enthusiasm and attention today.

Making these spaces happen takes initiative, labor, and, risk—you can’t guarantee that people will attend or enjoy themselves. But I would encourage artists: Do it! Why miss an opportunity? Make time and space to have fruitful conversations with other artists about art! If you’re worried about the time commitment, remember that events pass—and so does the labor of organizing them.

The payoff is worth it. Though the happy hour and walk-through were initiated by individuals, they manifested like potlucks—everyone coming to the table with something, like good will, openness, and receptiveness.**

*Recommended satire about social anxiety, see: “Everything I Am Afraid Might Happen If I Ask New Acquaintances to Get Coffee” by Hallie Cantor.

**Of course, these spaces are the cherries on the cake that is the support of LMCC and the Bronx Museum, for whom I’m tremendously grateful.

Thought Experiments in Agency

Eleanor Heartney on Precarity and Creativity

[Full disclosure: This is from the catalog for a show I’m in (along with 71 other artists).]

“…the arts and humanities help ensure that you are more than just vir economicus (man of economics). In fact, the study of humanities, like the decision to pursue an art career, may work against a neat fit into corporate culture. People with a broader knowledge of history, literature, philosophy, and art may not be so willing to accept the current state of things as inevitable. …given how poorly the status quo is serving the vast majority of people to today, maybe critical thinking is exactly what is needed now.

Can artists transcend their role as cogs in the capitalist system? …the challenge is to find a way to live between the demands of two very different marketplaces [the art market and the marketplace of ideas]…

…each era evolves its own reaction to an oppressive structure…

If artists are to be more than small manufacturers for the luxury trade, we have to acknowledge a need for new thinking, new institutions, new methods of distribution, and new publications interested in the discussion of ideas as opposed to the dissemination of market news. The current situation is not inevitable or even rational…. artists must use their creative imaginations… to rethink how they interact with each other and with the larger world. They may need to assume multiple roles, reach out to different kinds of audiences, and reimagine what it means to be an artist… Out of adversity comes possibility.”

—Eleanor Heartney, “The State of the Arts: Precarity and Creativity,” from the catalog, Bronx Calling: The Third AIM Biennial, Bronx Museum, 2015.

Through Sept. 20: Bronx Calling @ the Bronx Museum

Participants are invited to string together the flags representing  their strengths. Connect the toggles to the loops.

Participants are invited to string together the flags representing their strengths. Will shows how it’s done: connecting toggles to the loops.

July 9–September 20, 2015
Bronx Calling: The Third AIM Biennial
Bronx Museum, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY
Always free.
Open Thursdays–Sundays 11–6 and until 8 on Fridays.

I’m very pleased that this exhibition, which has been two years in the making, is now open. It includes work from 72 participants in the Bronx Museum of the Arts’ Artists in the Marketplace program, who have diverse, strong practices (whose praises I sing in the Time Out article below).

On July 15, the museum held an open house for Bronx Calling as well as ¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York (recommended!). Over 1,000 people attended. See photos of the open house, which included numerous performances.

I’m debuting Character Strengths Signal Flags. This project has been three years in the making—I designed and sewed 24 signal flags in an edition of three. Each flag has a letterpress-printed label identifying the character strength and one of the six categories developed by positive psychologists Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman. The flags are installed with a legend and flagpoles. Viewers are invited to find and fly the flags of their strengths. See more pics on my website.

Character Strengths Signal Flags, 2015, linen, twill tape, letterpress-printed ribbon, rope, wood, flagpoles; 24 flags: 12.5 x 12 inches each; edition of three; flagpoles: 72–84 x 12 x 12 inches each; display: 73.5 x 20.5 x 27 inches.

Character Strengths Signal Flags, 2015, linen, twill tape, letterpress-printed ribbon, rope, wood, flagpoles; 24 flags: 12.5 x 12 inches each; edition of three; flagpoles: 72–84 x 12 x 12 inches each; display: 73.5 x 20.5 x 27 inches.

See Time Out New York! 

Dana Varinsky. “Emerging Artists Take the Bronx,” Time Out New York, July 15, 2015.

Dana Varinsky. “Emerging Artists Take the Bronx,” Time Out New York, July 15, 2015.

Bonus: You can top off your visit with a street festival!
Sundays, August 2, 9 and 16, 12–4pm
Boogie on the Boulevard
Right in front of the Bronx Museum, Grand Concourse from 161st Street to 167th Street will be closed to cars and open to a world of fun with free music, activities, and programs hosted by artists and organizations from the Bronx and beyond. What’s not to like?