Gen Art Sucks

Last week I was forwarded an email about GEN ART's poor reputation and practices in the arts community. The email directed me to a Website:

I was happy to see that a group (unfortunately anonymous) of artists have collectively banded together to shed some light on GEN ART, which exploits artists and contrary to its claims, has such high disregard for the very community (or rather commodity) that it supposedly supports (supports it).

GEN ART describes itself as:

"the leading arts and entertainment organization dedicated to showcasing emerging fashion designers, filmmakers, musicians and visual artists. With offices in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and Chicago Gen Art produces over 100 events annually ranging from a week-long film festival to massive star-studded fashion shows, DJ competitions, art exhibitions, multi-media events and much, much more.

Gen Art strives to provide access to the film, fashion, art and music worlds for those that are interested in these areas, but often are intimidated and made to feel unwelcomed by the exclusive nature of these art / entertainment realms.

Gen Art is closely supported by the peer group of the artistic talent it showcases. It has cultivated a loyal following of 21-39 year olds who want to keep in touch with new developments in the arts and who strive to be in-the-know about new happenings in their city. They enjoy life to the fullest.

Gen Art consists of three companies. Gen Art and Gen Art Media which are for-profit entities and the Gen Art Foundation which is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charity. The mission of the Gen Art Foundation is to provide support and services to emerging talent. Each year it supplies grants/awards to such talent. Gen Art is a production company which seeks out corporate partners and produces the events for the Gen Art Foundation, as well as other events. All of the ticket fees raised through such Gen Art branded events go to the Gen Art Foundation."

The truth is (from the genart stories Website):
GEN ART constantly promotes itself as a nonprofit organization providing opportunities for artists, but the reality of their shows is much closer to a self-promotional party designed to fill the coffers of GEN ART using artists and their work as decoration.

The genart stories Webite includes a great deal more information, including the sketchy financial practices of GEN ART.

The genart stories Webiste also provides an opportunity for the arts (and greater) community to post their stories, comments, and thoughts about GEN ART.

Here are the posts to date (a strong testament to: GEN ART SUCKS!!):
My post:

Megan Wilson
// Sep 5th 2007 at 4:13 pm
I too have had at least several friends who have participated in the Gen Art "Emerge" exhibitions. All of them have had the same experiences as expressed here. I applied for "Emerge" the 2nd year of its existence and in retrospect was very happy not to have been selected. I made it to the final round and following the studio visit by the selection committee, I was so completely turned off by the whole organization. My studio at the time was housed in the Redstone building on 16th and Capp Streets (the building that The Lab is in) and several of the jurors were so freaked out by the homeless people outside of the building, they made it a point to warn me about them.

I do think Gen Art's Website speaks for itself with regard to its real agenda: 1) the only "album" that they have for their Emerge exhibition is from 2004 and they don't even credit the artists with the work shown; the album is also lame in that there are a number of links that don't work; 2) the images they LOVE to highlight are their own hispster scensters; yes while it is important to acknowledge the folks who support artists through their purchases, PLEASE, the least Gen Art could do is actually feature its artists - who are the backbone of their own existence.

As far as their status as a legitimate non-profit, all you have to do is ask to see their 501 c 3 tax-exempt status letter - they're obligated to show this if asked, if in fact they are a non-profit.

Finally, I really appreciate your efforts to bring attention to this LAME organization (corporation?); however, I think it would much better serve the arts community (as well as your own integrity) if you came forward, rather than being anonymous. I have no problem identifying myself with regards to this because I believe it's important to stand behind what you believe in and in fact, people (even if they don't necessarily agree with you) have more respect for you. Let your work and its integrity speak for itself rather than letting fear drive you.

// Sep 8th 2007 at 11:13 am
At the genart show I was in there were people literally rolling on the floor of one woman's installation and taking pictures of themselves in the process. Another artist had to tape off a section so people wouldn't destroy her work, and another kept having to move people's drinks which they were placing on her work. Nearly every event seems to produce some report of lost, damaged or stolen work-or in general the disrespect shown by the attendees who only seem interested in getting wasted and finding a good piece of art to sit on.

local artist
// Sep 8th 2007 at 11:08 am
I have a story, sure:
In a recent Gen Art show, I was aware that there had been thefts and damaged work at previous shows, and that Gen Art had a horrible reputation, so I took the precaution of securing all of my work to the walls with steel cable behind the frames and anchoring them into the concrete wall. For the same reasons of this history I avoided putting irreplaceable original pieces in the show, although printing and framing photos is not cheap. And you're correct, they did make us sign a form stating there would be 24-hours security and no insurance would be available or necessary because of the security.

My securing the work to the wall didn't stop somebody from stealing six large framed photographs, literally ripping them out of the concrete and cutting the cables. The artist next to me had almost all of his own audio and video equipment stolen. This was just a few hours after the opening. I was left with half a show and he was left with no show. The police were called. Now, the thing is, despite Gen Art claiming the building would be protected around the clock, their crack security team didn't notice that all of this work had been stolen the next day, or the next day, or the next day, or the next day. One of the other artists happened to be walking through during the week and discovered the theft. This is in a room with a bunch of blank spots on three walls and snipped steel cables hanging out, and nothing unusual was noticed after four days. Based on security tapes he police estimated that the thief acted alone without a vehicle and must have taken hours and several trips up and down to complete the theft.

The other artist's equipment and work was never recovered, all of it was fenced immediately by the thief. Half of my work was never recovered and the rest was recovered so badly damaged as to be not even worth picking up from the police evidence room. The total value of the work lost was about $7,000. Some of these were also some of my favorite works, and the other artist's installation lost was some of the best work in the show. Beyond the retail value is the missed career opportunities that might have happened if a curator or collector actually saw your work instead of an empty room, which is not insignificant.

Gen Art never reimbursed us for the loss or felt it was their responsibility to protect their reputation by offering to do so. That was two years ago. If they ever reimburse us I'll be happy to post a new comment.

bobby g. // Sep 5th 2007 at 6:23 am
Finally people are doing something about this. We've heard so many complaints about how artists are treated in these shows. (We're a local nonprofit gallery.) Each event it's the same story just as you describe. Artists there's a ton of shows to apply to it's true that you don't need to support these people til they clean up their act. To make all this money at these high-priced events on the backs of artists, charge artists a huge commission percentage (considering they are not representing the artists as a gallery would) and not pay taxes back to the community? Shameful.

rick50 // Sep 4th 2007 at 11:51 pm
just to add-I attended the show of a friend, I wasn't part of it, but she didn't seem to happy with her treatment.

rick50 // Sep 4th 2007 at 11:50 pm
Very much agree with you guys/girls on this, this has gone on too long without the public, or the art writers, being aware of the nuisance being caused during these shows. Nauseating crowd, yech. Do the sponsors know of all this?

GORdon Winiemko // Sep 6th 2007 at 12:13 pm
i am completely in accord with this campaign - note to all: it's not a "movement," it's a campaign. to quote genesis p. orridge - "it's a campaign, it has nothing to do with art."

cf. genart. the thing is, though, the way genart exploits artists can be seen as the apotheosis of how artists are exploited by the art machine on a regular basis - out of the complex of curators, collectors, programmers, etc - artists are definitely the low person on the totem pole.

and it's a totem pole we probably designed and built.

so let's make this the beginning of a REAL CAMPAIGN to STOP THE EXPLOITATION OF THE ARTIST.

- a campaign to which i willingly (enjoythe)sign my own name - something that, as prominent bay area art figures like megan wilson and sarah lockhart (check the aphabetizing there, ladies) are urging, you folks who have starting this campaign should do too.

that is to say, genart bashers, SIGN YOUR OWN NAMES ALONG WITH US, and indeed add credibility to *our* campaign.

Joshua Pieper // Sep 6th 2007 at 11:53 am
Is GENART really even worth this forum? Who cares about this organization anyway?

Norman W Long // Sep 5th 2007 at 6:58 pm
I appreciate this forum. I would have to say that one of the reasons why I'm NOT in the Bay Area anymore is because of my experience with GENART in 2003. Working 5o hours a week and having to install an a sound piece unassisted in that same week is a daunting task. But it also gets compounded by mismanagement by the staff/organizers and verbal abuse leveled at me by the owner of the BIG HOUSE where the exhibition was held.

kg // Sep 4th 2007 at 10:31 pm
Thanks for posting this y'all. From what I've gathered from friends a lot of this is going on behind the scenes at these events... it seems a lot of people won't even apply to these anymore. maybe they'll shape up. lots of ofther shows to apply to!

carl // Sep 4th 2007 at 10:38 pm
anyone know who the jurors are this year? too late for them to back out now! .c

Anonymous // Sep 4th 2007 at 11:40 pm
It's like a broken record with these folks, every year it's the same story, tons of cash is made and the artists leave exhausted and outraged-and yet people still apply to these things. Not me. Yeah where does that money go anyway?

Sarah Lockhart // Sep 5th 2007 at 1:00 am
re: donations
I'm afraid your section on the Foundation and donations is inaccurate. Non-profits can charge admission fees for events, merchandise, services, etc. However, if that fee is over $75, in order to characterize the admission fee one pays to attend a Gen Art event as a donation, Gen Art would need to spell out how much is considered a charitable donation and how much is a fee for service.

I do find it strange that the Gen Art Foundation doesn't appear on guidestar, and that on the genart info pages there is no information about the staff/board of directors of said foundation, and the foundation doesn't have a site of its own.

G.A.S. // Sep 5th 2007 at 6:16 am
Interesting. So... why don't these other nonprofits just do that? We recently were part of a nonprofit fundraiser and it was made clear to everyone that the admissions booth had to label everything as "suggested donation" only-even wine and beer sales, but that they legally had to let people in for free if they insisted and have free drinks if they insisted as well. Of course, being a crowd that wants to support the arts, nobody refuses to pay. What we're really getting at is that GA's behavior is out of step with what art-show attenders are used to and that it is misleading people about its intentions how the money's raised and where it goes.

Nina Hubbs Zurier // Sep 5th 2007 at 7:51 am
This "call to artists" would be more credible if the writer(s) were not anonymous. Without a signature it comes across as the digruntled rantings of someone who has been rejected by GenArt.

genartstories // Sep 5th 2007 at 7:58 am
You're right... can't avoid the anonymity at the moment. Again we've all been directly involved with these events; none of us falls into the rejected category.

Sarah Lockhart // Sep 5th 2007 at 12:00 pm
re: G.A.S.
I'm not sure what other non-profits you are comparing Gen Art to ... SF MoMA and YBCA certainly don't make the admission fee to their exhibitions and receptions "optional" or call it a donation.

Offical fundraising events are a slightly different ball of wax than a standard reception. There are specific tax reporting requirements involved. There are various reasons why a non-profit would decide to label everything "suggested donation" - but there's nothing in the laws that govern non-profits that mandate this.

Here are a few reasons off the top of my head why the non-profit you mentioned might have conducted their fundraiser the way they did (as opposed to the way Gen Art does theirs).

1. bookkeeping headaches - in tallying up the funds made at the admissions booth and from drinks they don't have to separate out earned and contributed income - all is a donation. If the drinks are available for donation only (and not a fixed price) they can avoid paying sales tax on the alcohol sales.

2. budgetary goals - they want to show more contributed income on their financial statements or report a larger number of individual donors.

3. City business licensing and permit issues - they might not be permitted to have public events with an admission charge or sell alcohol, or if they wanted to, they might have to pay extra for said licenses and permits.

The main reason I'm commenting on this, is that the rest of your arguments against Gen Art are solid and convincing, and this bit about donations weakens this, to me, as a non-profit arts administrator.

Mel Davis // Sep 5th 2007 at 1:39 pm
Your anonymity doesn't really inspire confidence for your message. Not exactly the avant-garde movement of days yonder. As artists we really shouldn't be scared of market trends and popularity contests. It's not exactly what I signed on for. What ever happened to the artist as role model?

I respect your movement, though and as someone who was a selected "Gen Art" artist I was shocked by the lack of integrity on the part of Gen Art. The gratification of being accepted very soon withered by an organizational mess, damaged/ stolen work which led to low morale on the part of the participants.

The best part of the Gen Art experience was the studio visit by the judges which proved to be challenging, thoughtful and whose comments remain valuable to my creative process. Studio visits made by persons of such high stature in this art community are few and far between, at least for me they are.

kmc // Sep 5th 2007 at 1:46 pm
It does state the not-for-profit status on the Web site. Read the following:
Gen Art consists of three companies. Gen Art and Gen Art Media which are for-profit entities and the Gen Art Foundation which is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charity. The mission of the Gen Art Foundation is to provide support and services to emerging talent. Each year it supplies grants/awards to such talent. Gen Art is a production company which seeks out corporate partners and produces the events for the Gen Art Foundation, as well as other events. All of the ticket fees raised through such Gen Art branded events go to the Gen Art Foundation.

Elio // Sep 4th 2007 at 10:34 pm
it true that lately it seems they've been having to look further and further for jurors... doesn't seem like a lot of people trust this organization.

i've never been-can't afford it! (local curator) how can they charge that much for an art show?

when i look up the names of the artists they are one's you'd see around town anyway. good names but not like you can't see their work somewhere else.

JP // Sep 4th 2007 at 10:37 pm
Yeah Elia's right while GA seems to be getting press there are more and more artists who refuse to consider working with them because of having their work trashed at the shows, the attitude of the crowd and such. I would hope that serious curators would be finding artists outside of these events..