The Traveling Salesman

If you ask me, gallery phobia is an urban myth. Has anyone actually seen hard-driving young professionals dripping in cash but too intimidated to walk through a gallery door? But painter and curator Dan Devening says they’re out there, and his current project, “Wherever,” is aimed at cultivating them, in part by taking a cue from Tupperware. Devening commissioned 17 artists to make limited-edition multiples (30 pieces and 6 proofs each) on the theme of “place.” He’s got the work up on his Web site,, and is showing it by appointment at his studio near Garfield Park. He’s also making house calls for small groups, carting along pieces like Tony Tasset’s plaster and bronze mud pies and Carol Jackson’s leather coasters. He says he’s done five of these so far, with an impressive 80 percent of attendees making a purchase. About half the artists in “Wherever” are established, the others emerging, but most have never done multiples. Everything is priced under $1,000 except Tasset’s pies, which are $1,500. A boxed set of the whole project is less than $12,000–a great way to jump-start a collection, Devening says. (Preselected! Gallery-free!) Devening describes “Wherever” as an experiment: a show without an installation, a gallery without a space. His own work can be found at Roy Boyd.

Also: Don’t Suck

A panel of gallery owners decked out in the industry colors–black, black, black, and gray–reeled off a dos-and-don’ts list for an attentive audience of 120 at last week’s Artists at Work forum at the Cultural Center. Moderated by Natalie van Straaten, executive director of the Chicago Art Dealers Association, the panel consisted of fledgling ceramics specialist Dubhe Carreno, established dealer Carrie Secrist, and veteran Carl Hammer. Besides no-brainers like knowing what the gallery shows, including an SASE, and keeping the artist’s statement brief and clear, the list went like this: don’t get chatty with gallery owners at art fairs (they want to talk to collectors there); don’t schlep your actual creations into their space (call and ask how they review work); don’t ask them to critique your stuff (ask if they’ll show it); don’t show them everything you’ve ever done (they don’t care about your development and they don’t want to see more than 10 to 20 images); don’t look too slick or push too hard. And keep in mind that it’s all about the art.

Once you get a dealer the most important thing will be to Get Your Work Done on Time. Don’t squander your energy on nervous breakdowns. Take pictures of your pieces before you deliver them to the gallery in case something happens to them. If Hammer’s your dealer, expect to be part of the team promoting your art, but if you’re in Secrist’s stable, leave the selling to her. And don’t tell any of them how to install your show–that’s what they do best, thank you. (Just last week Hammer was up all night stewing after taking an artist’s suggestion on an installation.) Do expect to share and share alike with your dealer–the standard cut is 50 percent–even on sales made in your studio. In return he or she will give you credibility, get you market price, and wrangle the collectors–not a job you want to tackle yourself. (Secrist has had to charge right into buyers’ homes and rehang entire collections just to get past the “no more wall space” obstacle.) You’ll generally get paid within 30 days of a sale, they say, but don’t expect them to tell you who’s buying. You may be family, but they’re not sharing the client list. Carreno says artists who demand to see invoices are demonstrating a lack of trust.

The Wisconsin Connection

Journalist and sometime curator Ryan Schulz and painter-photographer Jodi Navta looked familiar to each other when they met on an improv team at the Playground about five years ago. On their first date they discovered why: both had grown up summering around Green Lake, Wisconsin, a town they both thought could use an art gallery. The evening was so intense and awkward, Schulz says, that they both backed away and didn’t date again for nine months. But things moved quickly after that: in early 2002 Schulz quit his job with a trade publisher and moved to Navta’s Green Lake family farm; in April that year they opened Water Street Gallery in a building they bought and rehabbed in the neighboring town of Princeton. They married in 2003.

Their Princeton clientele was a summer crowd, about 75 percent from Chicago, Schulz says, and the couple had in mind from the beginning that they’d eventually expand to the city. Last October they grabbed a two-story building at 1039 W. Lake, and last weekend Navta Schulz Gallery opened with a show of work by their roster of 17 artists, ranging from established out-of-towners like Thaddeus Mosley to up-and-coming locals. Former Ripon College art professor Lester O. Schwartz, another longtime neighbor from Green Lake, is prominent among them. Schwartz, a painter and sculptor who’s had work in shows at the Art Institute and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was an active figure in the art world of the 1940s before he settled in at Ripon, Schulz says. “We drove past his house every week on the way to our cottage. He had a huge sculpture garden. When I saw that [garden] I knew we were almost there. He’s been an icon for me my entire life.”


In his inane catalog essay for Barbara DeGenevieve’s photography show at Gallery 400, “Objectifying the Abject: Exploitation, Political (In)Correctness and Ethical Dilemmas,” Michael Weinstein argues that DeGenevieve puts to rest “once and for all” the racist fantasy in which a “white woman is imperiled by the figure of the lustful, feral black male.” How does she do that? By offering a dozen homeless men $100 each to bare their bodies and minds for a photo and video shoot, then setting up the five who agree in hotel rooms (where they’re grateful simply to have clean towels), cajoling them to look sexy, and showing them porn to catch their reactions. Afterward, in a separate videotaped interview, she wants to know if they feel exploited. One does: “For what this entails,” Hank Gooch says of his compensation, which had been set with an eye toward his usual income, “I don’t think it should be based on what I get for holding up a sign.” Last week, in a lecture and discussion at the gallery that included two of the men, both of whom “had a ball” and think this might launch their modeling careers, DeGenevieve explained that she designed the project to challenge her own political correctness. “I know I didn’t exploit these guys,” she said, right after she set up a donation box for them by the door.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Robert Drea.