With a world in crisis and an art market spinning out of control, seasoned creative consultants bring hard truths to our readers.

Sales-wise, I had a great year, which means my gallery did, too. They made a lot of money off me. When the holidays come around, I always give them a thoughtful gift because I like expressing gratitude to people in my life. The gallery always phones it in with a cheap Harry & David basket, and I’m allergic to half the stuff in it, which they should know by now. Lo and behold, the mail arrived today and I received the exact same basket. Should I be insulted and say something or let it slide for another year?

It’s easy for an artist to go nuts when they get an allergenic gift basket as a seasonal thank you for all the money they earned for their gallery. When it comes to showing appreciation, yogurt-covered raisins and honey-roasted snacks fail to express what words communicate so much better. And small acts of kindness are far more meaningful than glittery holiday cards that you probably can’t recycle. Smart gallerists know that keeping artists happy takes more than giving them 50 percent of sales. There is a certain attentiveness and cradling involved, because the artist’s happiness and security are what make the relationship stick. Gallerists are so good at playing up to collectors, so why do artists, the actual source of their revenue, get stuck with dried apricots? Perhaps they should have given you a watch because then you could have told them that it’s time to reevaluate your relationship.

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Illustration by Mario Wagner.

Before going full grinch, ask yourself why you are getting bent out of shape by an oversize Moose Munch® popcorn tin and un-regiftable white chocolate. You don’t have to keep the basket, but this burning resentment could say more about your larger problems with the gallery than than it does about your enmity toward Harry & David. If you are definitely allergic, then you need to tell them to stop trying to kill you with holiday cheer. But, if this dumb basket is really your biggest beef with them, then it is a secret you should keep, like the way we hide the truth about Santa from children.

Usually, December is insanely busy with wrapping things up at work and dozens of holiday parties. This year I’m jobless and was only invited to one gathering. I am hurt and pissed. I made my name at a number of institutions and by curating major international exhibitions. Unfortunately, things went down poorly at my last position, and I voluntarily resigned to save everyone a lot of trouble. And now I’m out here today, dealing with my problems and trying to be my best me, while at the same time wearing a giant scarlet A, feeling like a pariah. What people don’t know and won’t let me show them is that I’m a different person now. Spending considerable time doing yoga and building fretted instruments has helped me to deal with a lot of my issues. It sounds unbelievable, but if people could hear my music and see me today they’d know that I’ve changed. Artists whose careers I kickstarted aren’t getting back to me when I reach out for studio visits, and I also got stood up the other day by one of my art professor mentors. That wrecked me. The art world is the worst high school in the world. The fighter in me says to stand up for a comeback round, and the lover in me says to go pursue my other passions. People are such dicks, and I’m thinking all this is a sign that I should walk. What do you think?

Cool story, bro, but we are not buying it. You’ve gone from a career shuffling between major institutions to a sofa where you sleep most of the day. Your life has pretty much tanked. You feel like everyone you helped turned their back on you, but that is usually the defense real dicks present when confronted with their own culpability. Your victimspeak is not a good look, considering what you must have done to get booted out of the bootlicking art world. You didn’t mention your infraction in your letter, but whatever it was, you should face up to it. One thing to keep in mind is that you can’t force people to give you a second chance, no matter how deep your songs might be. Accepting responsibility and staging a comeback after such a stunning defeat won’t make you a hero. At this point it makes sense to give up on breaking back in and start trying to break out on Bandcamp as a singer/songwriter. You got troubles, sure, but do you really have the blues?

Your queries for Chen & Lampert can be submitted to hardtruths@artinamericamag.com



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