I Break My Weed Up to Purple Rain: A Reply to “Help! I’m a Gallerina New to New York!”

After reading your letter, I have several questions for the Gallerina New to New York:

Why do you call yourself a gallerina, a pejorative and near derogatory term? It’s just a gendered description of a position in a field that has too long favored the detached debutante or backbiting opportunist over the ecstatic, generous laborer.

Why is your ultimate dream, meaning your final destination, the pinnacle of success? To work in a gallery in NYC? Are you aware that the scene is fossilized and that the work you seek is on the edge of extinction? Are you lollin yet?

And why do you need to belong to a gallery? If you’re so qualified and so at the edge, why aren’t you doing independent consulting and making your own moves as far as starting your own gallery? If you have been so diligently working, surely your rolodex is bangin and you could, with a swift couple of texts, have a kick-ass show at some Bushwick warehouse with hella cred in like, an hour.

I’m in full agreement with The Gallerina with a Heart of Gold re: starting over. You’ve built up a social/professional empire in other cities, but yeah, that currency isn’t accepted, unless of course, you use some of those connex you’ve got to get you connected. NYC is (duh) overrated and just as many people who have left for NY have just the same left NY for other cities with much more reasonable costs of living. The smartest of the latter pack have kept their connex intact and are probably welcome back—meaning, you def know some people who know some people.

Be a little more creative. I shouldn’t have to tell you that as you work in a creative field, but lord knows I’ve told lots of people who spend an hour in front of a mirror in the morning and 8 hours behind the desk of a fucking contemporary art gallery that they need to like, “BE CREATIVE,” as if that could never have occurred to them—it’s bananas.

This line made me puke: “Face it; you’re a gallerina. You need to be kind of hot—or at least thin—and definitely wily enough to deal with demanding and uptight clients.”

Lezbehonest: most communication happens over the phone or over email so like, you can and should be cordial, be nice, and just as charming over these lines as in person. Make eye contact and be confident. That prettiness shit is true amongst a very particularly douchey world of clientele, but like, what’s your interest in perpetuating that stereotype? Smart people don’t trust people who have enough time/energy to devote to like make up and shopping for heels. Smart people devote those weekly/daily hours to like, pursuing intelligent and creative endeavors. Fuck all the haters—lots of bigger girls can run mad game over some of these bony-ass stuck-up looking babes.

This line is straight up rude: “If being a gallerina doesn’t work out for you in the city, you can always become an artist.”

If you live each day looking at artists as the products/producers/hardlaborers, you’ll kinda get fucked. Artists are much more wily. Many (though not those with trustfunds—spare me the hate mail you know it’s tru) are used to adapting their standards of living. Perhaps you should start brewing coffee at home, perhaps you don’t need a 9 dollar salad twice a day, and perhaps you could start biking and shopping at thrift stores instead of vintage boutiques.Get by first. Stop selling what you don’t need to. I mean, you didn’t need a car in NYC anyway unless you live way out in queens or some shit so like, don’t gripe. Read Tom Hodgkinson’s “How To Be Idle”, date someone for their intellect instead of their looks, be fucking friendly and nice to people who don’t seem “important” cuz there’s lots of clever people getting by in really interesting ways. If you set your sights to such a specific idea of being a gallerina, you’re sure to get bored in a couple of years if not months, be stuck having boring sex with some douchey dude in a Gucci suit and wondering why you aren’t more excited about your life.

And for fuck’s sake, stop saying gallerina. It makes you sound despicable. Don’t call yourself anything. Burn your resume. Make art not out of an act of desperation but because you actually have something of value to say/show, even just to yourself. Read Chris Kraus, do more psychedelics, listen to R. Kelly unironically, and loosen the fuck up. And don’t think of yourself as above anything or anyone.  Gallerina makes you sound frail and frankly a little bitchy, so like, read up on alternative spaces, subscribe to e-Flux and think about moving around your very limited scope instead of plowing your frail and bony ass right through the middle—you’re liable to get stepped on.

And if you want to sip on some of this haterade sometime and do some fun free shit, text me—just don’t put my name as “Patrick DirtyArtist” in your phone or I’ll flush that shit into the Gowanus and egg your house. And please don’t write this off as the condescending ranting of an out-of-control hater—I break my weed up over a worn-out copy of Purple Rain just like everybody else.

10 Responses to “I Break My Weed Up to Purple Rain: A Reply to “Help! I’m a Gallerina New to New York!””
  1. Corinna says:

    I’m an opinionated person. It’s made me get into trouble in some of the more polite spheres of the art world, i.e. museums. I’m always supportive of anyone else who’s opinionated in the art scene because being shy or ambivalent doesn’t add up to being a successful artist, curator, or even gallery assistant. Any discourse about art and the art scene is better than none. It’s why having a bad review written about your exhibition is better than having none at all; at least you’re on someone’s relevancy radar.

    Anyways, I agree with you: “gallerina” can be pejorative and sexist. Sexism’s rampant in the arts, but working at a gallery does allow for power, however limited. Gallery assistants/associates/gallerinas can manage exhibitions and stay current about the art scene. And it’s one of the few full-time jobs in the arts; your paid labor doesn’t need to be separate from your desires. And no, being a gallery associate is never anyone’s final stop on the career ladder; that’s what being a dealer or director is about.

    If we’re dropping the “labor” label, then that’s fine. It’s hard to create a relevant life post-grad when you can’t find a job or get paid to be curating, writing, or making whatevs else you’d been doing. Or maybe you’ll move to a small-town to be a curator where you’ll be asked to put on an exhibition for a “famous” glass artist. I don’t really, really, want to be a gallerina, but given my other options, it’s not a bad possibility.

    I stand by my comments about the physical qualities necessary for working at an A-list gallery. I want to sleep with almost everyone I see in Chelsea; they’re just that good looking. 

    As for Bushwick galleries, none of them have “hella cred,” as you mentioned. I ran an apartment gallery, so I know where you’re coming Running a Bushwick gallery means that your cred is only going to extend to other artists, creating a hermetic environment that extends only as far as the L to the G. Unless you’re selling work or making the rounds with other galleries, you’re Ziplocking yourself.

    And the NYC isn’t fossilized, please. There’s too much art going on in the city. Aristotle—not the hippest philosopher to name drop in art, I know—regards happiness as living a life that fulfills a human’s capacity for all possible experience. You can do that anywhere, but I think NYC is one of the best places for getting as much out of the art world as possible.

    That’s my response, not the Gallerina With A Heart of Gold’s.

  2. Biobebop says:

    I think the thrust of grimy artist Patrick’s response is correct–this lady should work the streets and parties hard and lay off the resume campaign. But after paying lip service to the pejorative and sexist nature of the term gallerina, he pretty much disparages the letter writer with gendered terms, albeit with a nice invitation at the end. So what’s up with that? I found the idea that she’s a stone’s throw away from fucking Patrick Bateman amusing though.
    I highly doubt that this woman is unaware of physical expectations–after all, she’s coming from cities with far more pervasive beauty standards than NYC.
    Don’t know about the purple rain for breaking up weed; I’ve personally been using a library copy of John Williams plays Barrios for the past couple of weeks to much success. We’re all human here.
    And I am kind of unsure of whether the letter writer was being totally serious in calling herself a gallerina; more likely following the cheeky tone of the Gallerina with a Heart of Gold. Although I too find it puzzling that she could be in the industry for years in other markets and sound so clueless about NYC or needing connections, but it might just be exasperation at starting over in a saturated labor market.
    BTW, what is up with artists abusing the word labor. If you’re working at anything, you are by definition laboring. Attaching the word forcefully to art-making has this unappealing aspirational quality that suggests, on the one hand, a yearning for proletarian authenticity, and on the other, a yearning for remuneration as validation. (I’m always sensing that artists think they should be earning money just because they are producing and showing, as if there aren’t other variables involved.)
    Finally, this woman has more choices than eating baby food on the way to work in A-list Chelsea or changing a tire on her fixie in a thrifted onesie outside the pop-up show in a warehouse to be followed by an ambient/experimental rave. Nothing in her letter suggested that she wouldn’t be ok pushing late-Miro lithographs in an Upper East Side secondary-market gallery. And I don’t think there is really anything wrong with that.

  3. Ello Diahr says:

    First of all, who is talking and who is replying to whom? I don’t understand this thread.

    Anyway, this blogger’s full of shit. Show me the creds and the accolades (Bravo asking you to be on a reality TV show doesn’t count, unless you think Abdi is a great artist and Adrienne Curry is a top model) and I will listen to what you has to say about the art world, but frankly, sounds like an outsider’s POV rather than an insider’s.

    An apartment gallery in Chicago is not really “insight” into the art world, and being an O’Brien Curatorial Fellow at the Weisman is not really being a curator (http://blog.lib.umn.edu/amstdy/main/O'BRIEN_announce_0309.doc).

    But I guess that’s at the heart of the advice to Goldilocks: lie, inflate your resume along with the ego, while at the same time demeaning yourself and your talents, and aiming low, low, low.

    Sorry, it’s pathetic, and it’s the reason why as much as I love NYC, the thing that keeps me away is fear of being surrounded by these hideous hollow LA-esque souls.

    You are the Chase Bank, the Duane Reade, the thing that will continually push New York into a highly stylized (or stylish) soulless monotone. It’s nothing new, it’s always been there, but subservient conformity shouldn’t be so baldly encouraged.

    • I’m sorry that you feel like I’m underqualified. You can post that flimsy Weisman announcement if you’d like, even though that doesn’t include what I did there at all. I don’t post my CV online. Is yours online? Have you curated museum exhibitions? What’s your CV like? I don’t know, but I also don’t care. I care if you’re smart and have something meaningful to say. Also, do you use sarcasm much?

  4. Ello Diahr says:

    No, it’s no cool. I’m a dickhead. I’m sorry for being a dickhead.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Dear Mr. Bobilin,

    Initially it was to be facetious to use the term “gallerina” to address myself to a colleague whom I trusted would recognize the adorable irony more than anyone else. Your apparent loathing of the word, and quite possibly of those who define it, got me thinking about who exactly finds it derogatory and pejorative.

    I like the word gallerina. It rhymes with ballerina and I used to be a ballerina. I like the way it sounds. Urban Dictionary describes such scenesters as “waif-like girls in opaque tights who rule the art galleries of Chelsea and other districts…can come off as cold”. I cannot deny the fact that this is a fleeting description of myself. You say it makes me sound frail and bitchy (as frail and bitchy as you sound in your undeniably condescending rant?). Well I suppose I am, to an extent. In fact, after over six years working my way up the treacherous hierarchy of art administration, I feel I’ve earned the title. I was at the beck and call of eccentric artists and their dealers long before the term was coined by Danielle Ganek in “Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him”. To be called a gallerina does not insult me. I own it as most of my fellow gallery drones do. For the sake of your unbiased interpretation of my reply, I’ll from now on refer to myself as a gallery administrator.

    Ok, maybe the Deitch girls from the 90’s might think that this is a dwindling and fossilized field but it pains my heart that an artist such as yourself would so boldly claim this as a fact. Art galleries will never go away. Especially here in NYC. Especially because of girls like me who live their lives being overworked and underpaid in a world that certainly caters to the “debutantes and backbiting opportunists over the ecstatic generous laborer” just to be stereotyped by the artists whose careers they so vehemently support. There are four times as many galleries here than anywhere in the US. An arts administrator in NYC makes 20% more than in any other city. My family is on the East coast. This is why NYC is my personal pinnacle.

    Why don’t I open my own gallery? Being an actual art dealer is completely different from being an arts administrator. I am not a sales person. I simply enjoy being confined by four Meier White walls adorning the works of contemporary masters that encompass 2000 sq. ft. of polished concrete or vintage hardwood. I love prying open a birch wood crate and sifting through popcorn foam to find a framed Chagall canvas purchased from a Philips de Pury auction. You better believe that I run my naked fingertips gingerly across the texture of each individual brush stroke. I love hanging art and I’ve been known to hang an entire exhibition of ridiculous installation pieces, all by myself, in ten hours. I love putting six weeks of rigorous campaign into a three hour opening reception where I discuss the latest with connoisseurs and make sure they have plenty of free cheese and bad wine. I love having my press releases published. Having to tag along a lunch meeting with Jonathan Borofsky is delightful. I love stretching a canvas for it’s first time. I’m not sure why the other girls do it; perhaps its so they can invest their trust fund into their own gallery one day. I’m the daughter of a fledgling artist and my salary only allows me an embarrassing percentage towards buying the smallest piece from my favorite local up and coming artist. I am compensated by pleasure. Who knows where this career can take me; right now I love going to work in the morning.

    If things don’t work out for me here (but they will), becoming an artist is not an option. Before I changed my major from Fine Arts to Art History, I realized that just because I had the ability to draw and paint does not suffice to credit myself as an artist. I lack the patience and passion a true artist owns. Dad once told me of the physical withdrawal symptoms he experienced when he is deprived from his brushes. It fascinates me like so many traits of a true artist does. So this is why I’m here; in this over-rated, over-priced, shit show of urban sprawl and I’m a happy pig who will gladly take your redundant advice and Network, Network, Network, if that is what it takes.

    You asked,


    • Thanks, M.C. As I mentioned in an earlier comment to this post, “If you’re not opinionated, you don’t care enough.” Feistiness: it’s one reason why I’m somehow optimistic about art.

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