Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bad news from New Langston Arts

In the last few months, I have noticed more and more gallery closings - Bucheon, Reeves and Lincart have closed in the Hayes Valley and I don't know how many other small or independent galleries have closed in other neighborhoods. I haven't had the heart to do a count. Now, via the SF MOMA blog comes more bad news:

Posted on July 29, 2009 by Julian Myers

“One of the country’s longest-running nonprofit arts centers has just announced that its “continued existence is in serious financial jeopardy.” While dispiriting announcements like this are common enough during the current economic recession, this loss promises to be particularly devastating. Founded in 1974, the organization has been a center of the San Francisco arts scene for the last three decades and more; it has served in that time as a vital laboratory for conceptual art, poetry, installation and performance – which practices found little purchase in mainstream institutions in the Bay Area in the Seventies and Eighties – as well as a crucial point of contact with the national and international artists who were shown there.”

“Recent years haven’t been easy. In a review I published in Frieze in late 2007, of an exhibition at Langton by the Mexican artist-collective Tercerunquinto (an interview by curator María del Carmen Carríon here, another review here), I put forward the idea that the institution was then already at a decisive moment. I wrote,”

‘For non-profit organizations such as New Langton, ‘economic uncertainty’ is inevitable. Founded in the 1970s to capitalize on new forms of federal funding in the USA, these institutions found themselves in trouble when that funding largely dried up around 1990. There are other kinds of uncertainty too: New Langton’s founding purpose was to foster forms of art practice not then supported by museums: performance art, Conceptual art, video, installation, improvised and electronic music, poetry and so on. Now these forms have faded from view or been incorporated into the larger and more established museums, leaving the non-profit just one exhibition space among many. In the present New Langton must do more than support itself – it must figure out why it should survive.’

"I hoped then that the board, and director Sandra Percival, might see Tercerunquinto’s project (and my review) as a kind of challenge: not only to raise money, but to re-imagine Langton’s role in the arts community, to locate and support forms of practice not addressed or exhibited adequately by larger institutions like SFMOMA and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and to pursue new audiences and new roles for itself. It doesn’t seem from outside that these questions were engaged within the institution; certainly they were not engaged effectively enough. Indeed it sometimes seemed as if the institution was moving in a conservative direction, considering its history (less poetry, less community, less chaos). And by largely showing artists who had been recognized and legitimated by institutions elsewhere, Langton lived problematically in those institutions’ shadow."

Anuradha Vikram Says:

"It’s devastating to see such an important local institution in this state. Still, I can’t help feeling that the first step down this hazardous path was the decision to import a director from outside the Bay Area, with a shift in focus from the regional to the international. The Bay Area has fewer and fewer spaces that support experimentation and innovation on the local level. There’s a misconception that turning outward, toward more market-supported art, is going to result in better revenues for these small organizations. These sad circumstances at Langton demonstrate why that’s not necessarily a solution. Hot Magazine)."

Photo: New Langton Arts, San Francisco, Photo by Jennifer Leighton (Borrowed from White


Zoomie said...

I haven't been there in many years but the last time I was, it was already dead-seeming. I hope it finds a better direction - it was resting on its laurels then, and that's never good for an arts organization.

namastenancy said...

It's worth taking the time to read the discussion at the website- very astute and informed comments: