Once upon a time, The Rolling Stones reminded us that we can’t always get what we want. Well, sometimes what we want just ain’t what it seemed. I want to tell you why I worked for a shockingly long time pursuing a career in the art world. I also want to tell you why I stopped. I didn’t quit. I didn’t have a change of heart. It was just that, well, when they let me peek through the door to their world, I saw things that I never thought I’d see. It was almost as if each day I’d find another dead skeleton.
I began my work in the field as a paid intern at a prominent auction house on the Upper East Side. They treated me well there. They allowed my dream to live, even thrive. And it was the first and last time I saw the green. By the end of graduate school I was fortunate enough to attain two curatorial internships with two of the world’s most prestigious museums. I was offered no money to work for a five month-long term. Why would I care? Surely after having their names and these wildly competitive internships on my resume, I’d be a highly sought-after candidate.
After graduating, I scored an interview at a super-hip gallery in the Bowery. For a secretarial job. They had narrowed the number of candidates from 1,500 to 6. For a secretarial job. During the interview I had the effrontery to ask if there was any room for mobility (I possessed a master’s degree in the field, after all). They promptly answered that I was not a good fit for their gallery. The job paid $18,000/year. On my way out I stopped to see an Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition they had on the second floor of their building, a building designed by the world-renown architect, Norman Foster, no less. Just one of those works can fetch several million dollars.
While working at museums, I would stand by as they acquired works worth upwards of $10M. Curators galavanted from the Basel Art Fair to the Venice Biennial by way of collectors’ private jets. They championed artists like Glenn Ligon and Nina Berman, both known for their incendiary imagery that casts a dark light on the gross polarization of living standards between the middle and upper classes; between the black and white race. These places, these “bastions” of American culture, evade paying their entry-level employees by calling them “interns.” Yet I never saw them bat an eye at a several million dollar acquisition. And the real salt in the wound? They have the fucking gall to plaster Ligon and Berman all over their walls.
So, Evangeline, I need you to know when it’s time to leave a dream behind you. The world will tell you to chase after your dreams with unrelenting zeal. But it should never be at all costs. You see, I love art. That’s why I can’t live in the art world. While perusing the Armory Show this past weekend, I came across the work posted above. The gallerist didn’t even offer me a steely, holier-than-thou glare when I tried to inquire about it; I was that invisible to her. I guess I forgot to wear my “daddy has google stock” tee-shirt.
Sometimes, darling, it’s harder to give up on a dream that never was than to keep pursuing one that will never be. Our minds tend to create our own version of reality. Leaving was terrifying. After spending more than a decade building skills in this one field, I was left with nothing else marketable. And my heart is still with the art. But I have chosen to not live in a world “where the dollar is sacred and power is God.”
When you were born, you inspired me to leave that world behind and start from scratch. The pure, unadulterated happiness I experience when I’m with you gives me the guts to take it all head on. The climb up is steep and I don’t have the right shoes. But after you came into my life, I knew I couldn’t stay. Because frankly, darling, it was (and is) just one big fucking metaphor for all that’s wrong with the world. And, at any cost, I want to show you how to live by all that is right.
With Great Humility,