When Alice Walton was building a collection for her Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art over the last several years, the art market loved her, her advisors and her curators. She was driving up prices--and to some extent demand. Now Crystal Bridges is ignoring the market, but in a way that may open opportunities for dealers.
"The mechanisms of the art market allow only a fraction of contemporary practice to be seen," the museum's president Don Bacigalupi wrote in his catalogue essay for State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now, an exhibition that opened at Crystal Bridges on Sept. 13. And in another passage, he added, "It's quite possible that we are missing the most crucial and meaningful developments being made in art today."
So he and an assistant curator, Chad Alligood, traveled more than 100,000 miles around the U.S., making studio visits to about 1,000 artists who are underappreciated by the powers-that-be. They selected 227 works of art by 102 artists for State of the Art. (You can read more background about the exhibit here, in an article I wrote for The Wall Street Journal.)
And that's where there is opportunity. When the artists were chosen, at least, many had no gallery representation, the museum said. Using the checklist the PR department provided to me, I counted galleries listed for just 40 of the artists. Now, it's true that some of the others do have representation--in fact, I noticed an artist whose work I have seen before and I know he has a gallery here in New York, though it was not mentioned in the credits.
Still, even if another dozen or so have galleries--and some, by the way, are local galleries--there's still plenty of room for other, larger galleries to find new artists, like Pam Longobardi, whose work is above (assuming they like the work). Usually, of course, it's the other way around: museum tend to show artists with a market presence and constituency. They may even lose an artist after a museum exhibit to a higher-profile gallery.
Not this time.