Interview with Patrick Meagher of Silvershed

…every show is good practice in some way.

In Interviews by Meg Kaizu 2011-02-04 print

Patrick Meagher is an artist who works with painting, sculpture, installation, and video. In 2008, he started Silvershed, an artist- run contemporary art project space in Chelsea, together with Yunhee Min and Oliver Lanz. The project runs in New York, Los Angeles and Berlin as a collaboration for exhibitions, publications and events. As the website states, “Silvershed explores social dynamics of increasingly lateral flow of exchange of information, ideas and resources among artists to generate and to connect discussions of contemporary art values, ethics and aesthetics in the 21st century.”

How did you come to start the Silvershed?

It came together organically as the artists found one another. I had always organized art events in the past, as part of or parallel to my work. It felt natural and made sense to me to experiment and share more preliminary states of artwork before developing it further for public or commercial spaces. We were showing short films once a month on the roof deck of my studio and living space at the Silvershed Film Club for a year before we had a meeting one day and decided to do a series of shows as a type of research and dialogue on subjects we were interested in exploring further. In the spring of 2008, Silvershed had its first show in New York and Berlin and the project gradually expanded. Since 2009, we’ve been doing projects in Los Angeles.
Music by Sammy Miller & The Congregation
How has the process been?

It has been enjoyable, creative, and educational in practical aspects of organizing exhibitions of various scales and formats. There was also a challenge in balancing private studio time with group work, while gaining a deeper understanding of the roles of organizer, advocate, curator and collector. The extra responsibilities of it all also put constructive pressure on the studio, which benefits the artwork.

How did you find collaborators?

Yunhee Min and I met at Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, where Oliver also was at school, shortly thereafter. Yunhee and I had shared interests from the time we both spent in grad school at Harvard. Oliver Lanz and I met through friends at Carnegie Mellon at art shows that he had organized. Years later, we were all in New York for the Armory show, and started Silvershed. After we had been organizing shows collaboratively at Silvershed for a while, we became curious to know more about what other groups were doing in New York. I met two groups along the way, HKJB and The Metric System, and we started organizing the ABCyz show together at Silvershed. Eventually, we got to meet many other groups with shared art interests and organizational goals that became the basis for Collective Show and a lot of friends and friends of friends pitched in to make it happen.

How do you see the role of artist initiatives in the art world?

Artist-run initiatives serve artists and their communities. The focus is on art and art-making, before and beyond commercial interests. Artist initiatives provide various opportunities for artists, friends of the arts, emerging art organizers and independent curators. It is an accessible and friendly way for people to get involved and a good starting space for artists to show their work and to come to fuller understandings of the various art worlds. It can be a lot of work sometimes, but every show is good practice in some way.

How do you see it serving the artists?

It provides artists opportunities with space or more space to show their work, and ways to get involved in collaborations and be active in their broader communities. It is a good place for people to meet cohorts, engage in inter-generational platforms, and expand cultural horizons. Artist-run initiatives can also be important for artists as a place to see emerging ideas, exchange information–something real or personal, unfiltered, something that is not over-polished yet or widely marketed, or perhaps more from the heart. It is also an opportunity for lesser-known or unknown talent to have a forum. Through artist-run initiatives, artists help each other in a good community spirit way of working, while pursuing their independent threads of thought and intuition. Artists select space, context and audience, and organizing the work and the event or the show, just like working with colors and shapes, can be interactive and social too.
Tussie Mussie by Collective Show from bottom left: (clockwise) Jay Henderson, Patrick Meagher, Yunhee Min, David Schafer, Alexander Dawson, Kerry Hassler & Hal Hirshhorn
What do you think about the artist-run initiatives in New York?

There are many high-quality artist-run initiatives and independent curatorial art projects in New York City. The artist-run initiatives is great for art. It takes some pressure off both artists and galleries and provides opportunities for artists and curators, as well as friends who are interested in art and work in other areas. It also focuses discussion back on art, philosophy, experimentation and conceptual directions, whereas in times of market booms, the conversations invariably start to center around markets and art leaders across the spectrum. There is an abundance of artist-run initiatives in New York, so there are lots of options, some of which are already very developed. But it’s key to not be overly distracted by the seductive panoply that New York offers, outside of one’s focus. There are many artists in the city and through artist-run initiatives, curators can find interesting artists at a grass roots level, that might be otherwise hard to find. Collective Show is a good example of that type of platform. Collective Show is very diverse, exhibiting many different styles and a broader range of work than most shows. It strives to be selective while being inclusive; it is broadly representative without attempting to be exhaustively comprehensive. It is a real cross-section of what’s happening in the overlapping and conversing communities in big cities like New York or LA.

How do you see the art market in New York?

Obviously, New York is exceptionally and particularly interesting as a market and city with its diverse population and creative spectrum; people come from everywhere and do their thing, and because New York is so open to new things and cultural perspectives, it becomes a hybridized market that has many different facets and audiences. New York attracts great talents and many artists gravitate to the city, so there is a lot of flotsam and jetsam careerwise, but if 10% of the art is of a certain excellence or cultivation, that is already a few hundred galleries and thousands of artists to see. New York’s strong financial base and capital flow support this, and there are many overlapping art circles that can co-exist both in communication with one another and on their respective wavelengths. How the market in New York works is amazing when you compare it to more homogenized cities. But almost all cities are becoming diversified and globalized in many ways now. I am curious to know how the markets in other cities work and how these differences affect artists, and the potential for interaction with Collective Shows.
 Tussie Mussie by Ronni Kimm, left (clockwise): Jamison Ogg (also far right), Alyssa Gorelick (sculptural works in middle), Jeff Degolier (top) & Katy Fischer (bottom)
Will you have any future collaboration with artists in other cities?

We plan to launch Collective Show collaborations in London, Zurich and Tokyo in the coming years, and do more collaborative shows, like the one Yunhee Min and I are doing with Miles Coolidge, as a three-way collaboration at Night Gallery in LA. Silvershed is open to working with other groups and often exchanges shows with other spaces and groups, and gathers diverse kinds of groups in one space. Silvershed is not branded or limited in the sense of a particular type of work, and when we invite other artists and groups to do shows, letting go of further curatorial decisions often makes the evolving program more interesting in open-ended ways.

Do you think it is good for artists to manage their own careers?

Entrepreneur types and some more independent artists would do it themselves anyways, and all artists have to pay attention to ‘externalities’ around their work, but most artists don’t want to have to bother with yet another business aspect of the life of being an artist. Ideally, most artists would be happy to find someone–a gallery and/or partner or manager that they trust to work with–who has the perspective, resources and connections to support and help elevate the work to a broader or deeper level of communication. There are many resources for artists to turn to, some artists work more directly with dealers, some engage more with museums directly, some have more academic trajectories with public discourse and printed dialogue, and some stay out of these folds altogether, but may have major impact in their communities, and be recognized later in other professional fields or time periods. Of course, art is still a specialized audience and this requires bridging, and, through their work, particularly committed curators, art dealers and art consultants are admirable professionals, impresarios or artists in their own right.

Additionally, artist-run initiatives can inspire young art enthusiasts, connecting supporters who otherwise might not collect art and expanding the base of potential patrons. Seeing all the different aspects of the art world is good for artists gain a better understanding of the art world, too. All artists are involved in managing their careers to some degree, but it takes more than acumen to get to a broader global exposure. Christo and Jean-Claude are an exception; their largely proposal-based practice makes that independent way of working more viable. In most cases, artists are much better off if they can have a meeting-of-minds with someone who has similar talent and vision on the business and management side of bridging art out of the studio.

How do you see the arts in the current economic situation?

When the economy is not booming and things are slow it’s a good time to re-evaluate things and re-assess priorities and values. Good changes are happening in the arts in recent years, there are new media and forums that can reach the public and art world in different ways, namely digitally-distributed media. Things are picking up sales-wise in New York and there are some major new shows. Global, national and local artists, as well as artists, who are in teaching, DIY and non-profit, are all in conversation now in some way on the web. There is a treasure-trove of information and art on the web now, and this will bolster many things for art in the near future.

Meg Kaizu

Meg Kaizu. Meg studied Art and Arts Management in Eugene Oregon. In addition to New York Art Beat, her articles have appeared in magazines such as Tokyo Art Beat, Being A Broad, Metropolis, PingMag and Whitehot Magazine. You can contact her at: mkaizu [at] gmail [dot] com » See other writings

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