Published: February 5, 2014
Last week, occasional CP contributor Cara Ober threw Baltimore’s art world into something of a tizzy with a post on her generally authoritative blog, Bmoreart, about the insularity of the black-clad art scene and the lack of buyers. She painted a picture of the opening of an unnamed show at an unnamed gallery populated by artists wearing black and gray who ignored a couple because “she was wearing a brightly colored floral dress and heels and he wore a melon colored polo shirt with the collar turned up. Both had haircuts that looked like they were professionally done, unlike anyone else at the reception.”
Ober continued, noting that “it was obvious that they didn’t belong there and their presence wasn’t welcome at the event. In an attempt to save face, they furtively looked around at a few pieces of art in the room and then, within a few minutes, were gone. At which point the crowd became a homogenous mix of black and gray clothing, messy hair, and zero art sales.”
Another erstwhile CP contributor Alex Ebstein responded in a comment on the blog, calling Ober’s piece “derisive, presumptuous and irresponsible.” Ebstein goes on to call the piece “speculative and embellished,” pointing out that the gallerist was wearing fuchsia sweater and all but accusing Ober of fabrication.
Ebstein may have been in a position to notice these details since Ober was likely writing about Ebstein’s partner Seth Adelsberger’s show at the Springsteen Gallery, in the Copycat Building in “a not-completely-safe part of town [where] you had to climb several sets of dark and smelly stairs, full of spiders and cigarette butts,” according to Ober.
What makes all of this more interesting is that the day after Ebstein’s response to Ober, Bmoreart sent out a press release announcing that Ebstein was joining the staff of Bmoreart as an editor (along with Lu Zhang), which means that one of Bmoreart’s editors has accused another—the editor-in-chief—of being less than honest, an accusation which could call the credibility of the site, which Ebstein now works for, into question.
For what it’s worth, we think the art scene can be a bit cliquish. But we, for instance, don’t own a single piece of black clothing (well, one suit for funerals and a couple T-shirts), and people are generally nice to us. Perhaps that goes to what really disturbed us about Ober’s piece, aside from the alleged playing fast and loose with facts. Maybe people are only nice to us because they want us to write a good review of their show. After all, the moral of Ober’s story is: Be nice to people who might help you in some way. We would rather simply see people being nice. On the other hand, the fact that Ober and Ebstein can disagree and still work together is a positve sign.
As for why people don’t buy art in Baltimore, it is an important question and we’re glad Ober started the conversation. But it is hard to imagine a different outcome to Ober’s fable where everyone fawns on the polo-wearing people and they pull out their checkbooks and suddenly feel like part of the scene. The story was condescending to all involved. And perhaps that says as much as anything about why people don’t buy art.
Visit the Bmoreart blog at bmoreart.com.
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