35 Years of Championing New Talent–Art In General's Director Anne Barlow
Since 1981, Art in General has been dedicated to providing exhibition space and resources to artists from around the world. This year’s Visionary Awards Gala honors Teresita Fernandéz, Marianne Boesky, and Ruby Lerner, while celebrating the organization’s 35th Anniversary. In anticipation of the Gala and Benefit Auction on Monday, April 11th, we spoke with Art in General's Director Anne Barlow on their history, some standout projects, the organization’s future, and more.
Collin Munn: As you celebrate your 35th anniversary, can you provide us with some of the history of how Art in General was founded? How did you first become involved with the organization?
Anne Barlow: I was first drawn to Art in General for its deep commitment to understanding and addressing the needs, interests, and challenges of working artists. From its inception in 1981, it has served as a space for artists to meet and exhibit their work. Today, Art in General helps artists in New York and across the world to produce and present new works through the New Commissions Program and through opportunities presented by our international partners, as part of the International Collaborations Program.
In addition to providing financial support, Art in General also offers in-depth curatorial and logistical assistance. This allows artists to take their practice to a new level, and explore areas of their work that might otherwise not be possible to present in a commercial or museum setting. Our engagement across these important and interrelated areas fosters long-term involvement and meaningful connection with our artists, which distinguishes Art in General and its work.
We are excited to celebrate our 35th anniversary, and look forward to developing new ways of supporting the next generation of artists.
CM: With a long history of working with now iconic artists at the start of their careers, can you describe your process for selecting the artists you work with and the commissions you fund? What are some of the key factors you look for in a successful collaboration?
AB: Many artists who were supported by Art in General early in their careers, such as Glenn Ligon in 1991, Marina Abramović in 1993, and Gabriel Orozco in 1994, have gone on to achieve great critical recognition, and the same is true for New Commissions artists in recent years, with many being included in museum exhibitions and biennials. As part of our selection process today, we spend significant time visiting artist studios and speaking with other curators and arts professionals in and beyond New York. We focus in particular on artists who are at a pivotal stage in their development, and for whom a new commission would enhance their practice in a significant way. A good example is Alison O’Daniel, whose new Commission we are currently presenting at Knockdown Center. The installation, Room Tone, builds on Alison’s previous experimentations and projects, and presents a unique environment in which experimental and documentary film collapse and coincide with sculpture and installation.
CM: What are some of the Art in General commissions or exhibitions that particularly stand out to you? What about the artist or work is intriguing?
AB: Looking back at Art in General’s history, certain exhibitions stand out in terms of their timeliness and resonance. From the 1990s, exhibitions such as “Positions of Authority” (1991) that challenged hierarchies of class, race, and gender; and “Remember Yugoslavia” (1993) that confronted the violent displacement and irrevocable loss that arose in relation to the breakup of former Yugoslavia; and from the 2000s, exhibitions such as “Art in General on Canal Parts I and II” (2001-2003) that took place in public sites on and around Canal Street; and “Explosion LTTR: Practice More Failure” (2004) that brought together a community of queer and feminist artists, writers and cultural producers through talks, workshops, screenings and performances.
With the more recent New Commissions Program, it is hard to single out individual projects as our relationship with these artists is ongoing, and the range of projects is so diverse—from Ohad Meromi’s commission “Rehearsal Sculpture” that used Art in General’s galleries as a combined theatrical stage, architectural installation, and site for performance, to Jill Magid’s “Woman With Sombrero,” a multifaceted project that investigated what it means for a corporation to own an artist’s legacy, in this case the architect Luis Barragán (1902–1988).
CM: Many of the artists featured in your benefit auction have done projects with your organization in the past—can you select a few that especially stand out to you and describe how Art in General first collaborated with the artist?
AB: Two recently commissioned artists with works in the auction are Matt Lipps and Basim Magdy. Lipps generously donated a piece through his gallery Jessica Silverman in San Francisco, titled Perspective which continues his practice of exploring the relationship of photography and sculpture. His work was first shown at Art in General as a New Commission in March 2015.
Another special work is The Annual Migration of the Lonesome and the Regretful by Basim Magdy. Magdy created this Art in General limited edition alongside his 2014 New Commission project that included similar photographic works in The Hollow Desire to Populate Imaginary Cities, that went on to be featured in the MoMA exhibition “Ocean of Images: New Photography 2015”.
CM: With your recent move to DUMBO from your long-standing Soho home, are there any differences in the kinds of projects you realize and the audiences you engage with?
AB: As part of our support for artists, we also support growing creative communities. In recent years, DUMBO has become the home of many arts organizations and artists. It’s a vibrant and growing community, and it feels very good to be part of it. With our new ground floor gallery on Plymouth Street, we have seen a high visitor turnout for exhibition openings, talks, and daily walk-ins. The move has also opened up new collaborative possibilities with arts partners and venues across the boroughs, deepening our engagement with New York City and allowing us to reach a broader and more diverse audience for our artists and programs. Our latest New Commission, “Alison O’Daniel: Room Tone,” presented in collaboration with Knockdown Center and that opened concurrently with a show in our DUMBO space, is an example of this expanded vision for our programs.
CM: Can you tell us about this year’s Visionary Award recipients? What was the selection criteria? What about their work aligns with your mission?
AB: The Visionary Awards are an opportunity to recognize artists, arts professionals, philanthropists, collectors, and leaders who have demonstrated an enduring commitment to extending the dialogue on the arts and supporting community engagement with art and artists from a diversity of disciplines. Each year, we look for individuals who are both advocates and innovators. This year, we are honoring three extraordinary women, all of whom have shown their dedication to bringing new ideas to the forefront and providing new opportunities for others to be part of the conversation on the importance of art to our lives.
CM: Are there any forthcoming projects that you are especially looking forward to and can tell us about?
AB: I very much look forward to the 2016 edition of Art in General’s “What Now?” symposium, presented in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics in late May, working with a wonderful group of artists for our New Commissions Program in the fall, and curating projects by New York based artists that will be exhibited towards the end of the year at one of our international partner sites—Contemporary Art Centre in Riga, Latvia.