Then, too, as many artists noted, life proceeds at a relatively slow pace here. Vergne said this slowness “might be what the art world needs now. You have the possibility to be more radical here because you don’t have market pressure. And of course a lot of people want to have market pressure, but here there is the leverage to produce in relative freedom.” As a curator rather than a dealer, Vergne can of course be less mindful of said market pressure, and more geared to the long-term development of an artist.
But consider also that the factors that let artists “keep a foot in New York” are the same ones that allow curators and dealers to go farther afield in their search for talent. In fact, one could even say that contemporary art, like indie music, places a value on a certain type of obscurity. “Everybody knows what’s happening in New York could be very ephemeral,” said Vergne. “You can have a show, everybody loves you, and the next day it’s over. So for an artist, it’s wise—it’s a matter of survival—to be able to disappear and not be overexposed.”
It’s a provocative point, considering the struggles artists undergo to receive any kind of notice. Does it mean that once they come to the attention of the general population—as in, say, features like the twenty-four pages of young artists frolicking in designer duds in the February issue of W magazine, or Vogue’s six-page profile of Dana Schutz the same month, or, for that matter, this publication—they are overexposed? That type of caution can seem merely to reinforce art-world elitism. However, it’s also protecting something larger and more intangible that great art requires, something that is completely outside the demands and constraints of the market: the value of art as an endurance event, a life-long journey through a series of aesthetic inquiries. The ability to make that journey is a luxury, and even then there’s still the question of whether your work will matter ten or fifty or a hundred years later. But being able to do that away from the center of it all—now that could very well be an advantage, if an artist plays the cards right.