Josh Baer, art insider, journalist, reporter, many roles – much savvy
JOSH BAER WAS A CHILD OF THE ART WORLD, THANKS TO HIS MOTHER, PAINTER JO BAER. LUCKILY FOR US, JOSH DECIDED AS AN ADULT TO PLANT HIS FEET FIRMLY AND PERMANENTLY IN ITS TERRAIN. AS DIRECTOR OF WHITE COLUMNS, THE LANDMARK FIRST ALTERNATIVE SPACE, JOSH WORKED TO RAISE FUNDS, EXHIBIT ARTISTS AND GIVE THEM A VISUAL AND HISTORICAL PRESENCE IN THE ART WORLD. HIS NEXT ACCOMPLISHMENT WAS AS GALLERY OWNER AND HE IS, OF COURSE, MOST WELL-KNOWN FOR HIS CURRENT PUBLICATION OF THE BAER FAXT, A TERRIFIC INSIDER ART NEWSLETTER, http://www.baerfaxt.com/, WHICH KEEPS PACE WITH OUR DEMAND FOR INSTANT INFO, CULLING THE MOST IMPORTANT ART WORLD BREAKING NEWS AND DATA ON AUCTION SALES AND GALLERY ACTIVITY.
IN TODAY’S BLOG, JOSH WILL SHARE HIS ASTUTE PERSPECTIVE ON THE GALLERY WORLD, WHAT MOTIVATED HIM TO OPEN AND THE IMPRESSIVE ROSTER OF ARTISTS HE EXHIBITED.
JOSH, THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO RESPOND TO MY QUESTIONS AND PARTICIPATE IN THE BLOG.
AFTER YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THE NON-PROFIT WORLD, WHAT WAS YOUR NEXT PROFESSIONAL VENTURE? I ASSUME IT WAS THE OPENING OF YOUR GALLERY, AND IF THAT IS THE CASE, WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO OPEN A COMMERCIAL SPACE AFTER A STINT IN THE NON-PROFIT SECTOR?
After that I published a magazine from London called ZG and had a record company called Neutral Records. I couldn’t get a job, was almost broke so I opened a gallery on a shoestring in 1985. I knew maybe 1 or 2 collectors, so maybe a naïve idea.
WHO WERE SOME OF THE ARTISTS YOU REPRESENTED AND WHAT WAS THE GALLERY SCENE LIKE WHEN YOU FIRST OPENED? WHAT ARTISTS CAPTURED YOUR INTEREST AT THE TIME? WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE THE WORK AS A PARTICULAR “ISM”? WHAT WAS THE BASIS FOR YOUR SELECTION OF ARTISTS TO REPRESENT IN THE GALLERY?
I represented many women artists and also artists from many generations including: Chris Burden, Leon Golub, Nancy Spero, Annette Messager, Lorna Simpson to mention some of the better known ones. I opened in Soho when the East Village was still a strong scene to have better more professional space.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE OUTSTANDING EXHIBITIONS THAT YOU RECALL AND WHY ARE THESE AMONGST YOUR FAVORITE? WHAT SIGNIFICANCE DO YOU FEEL THESE EXHIBITIONS HAD IN ENRICHING OUR UNDERSTANDING OF CONTEMPORARY ART AT THE TIME?
80’s artists were really, really good. I remember seeing older work in Europe in the early 80’s by Richter and Polke and going wow also.
HOW DO YOU SELECT ARTISTS THAT ARE DOING INTERESTING WORK AND WHAT ARE THE PRESCIENT SKILLS NECESSARY TO ANTICIPATE THEIR ON-GOING SIGNIFICANCE AND COMMITMENT TO THEIR WORK?
I just choose work I liked and figured people would catch up to my taste – sometimes it took, 20 years like with Gordon Matta Clark who I showed but no one even asked the price of in a 6 week show.
YOU REALLY HAD A PIONEER SPIRIT AND DEDICATION AND IT IS IMPRESSIVE TO LOOK AT THE STATURE AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE ARTISTS YOU REPRESENTED AT THAT TIME AND SUPPORTED. IT’S ALWAYS INTERESTING TO ME TO SEE A PARTICULAR, INDIVIDUAL VISION GAIN RESPECT AND RECOGNITION – THE VISION IS THE FIRST STEP BUT, IN MY VIEW, THE DEDICATION AND DRIVE TO KEEP GOING IS WHAT CREATES SOMETHING OF PERMANENCE AND VALUE.
ONE OF THE MOST INVENTIVE IDEAS THAT YOU INITIATED IS THE BAER FAXT, A NEWSLETTER FOUNDED IN 1995 PROVIDING INSIDER NEWS AND INFORMATION ON ART AND AUCTION WORLD ACTIVITY. THE NEWSLETTER IS NOW ALMOST 20 YEARS OLD, AND HAS AN INTERNATIONAL PRESENCE. YOU STARTED WITH A FAX MACHINE AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO LEARNING ABOUT THE FORMATION AND GROWTH OF THE BAER FAXT NEXT TIME WE SPEAK.