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How to ‘Make It’ in the Art World
22 Easy Tips for Young Artists of Color (YACs)
by Guillermo Gómez-Peña
(with Anastasia “La Hungara” Herold)
If you are young, ambitious and brown, here we offer you these simple instructions to "make it" in the seductive world of limitless gallery walls in less than one month ... put/a-tension!
Uno: To look more auténtico, grow a moustache. And if you are female…también! Pero, don’t grow a huge beard unless you live in Afghanistan. If you are an Afghan woman artist, wear a burka. But please, wear a mini-skirt upon exiting the gallery. Burkas are scary in real life.
Dos: Nurture your accent. If you don’t have one…hire a voice coach!
Tres: Get a tan. ‘Tropi-loco micro-mist’ spray-on self-tanner will do.
Cuatro: Learn how to dance salsa, zumba or merengue with curators. Over do it. They love it! Señoritas: learn to shake your hips. Remember Shakira: the more you shake, the more art, money and friends you make!
Cinco: Appear only mildly intelligent. If you outsmart the critics and frighten the theorists, they won’t write about you.
Seis: Act cool, muy suave and discreet. Don’t vehemently express your political or artistic beliefs, ‘cause you may be perceived as unsophisticated. You can talk about your grandmother’s mole recipe, to be on the safe side. If you don’t know how to make mole, google it.
Siete: Don’t attend too many art openings…unless you are hungry. It’s important to only be a partial insider. If you become too visible, people get tired of you and there are always 100 younger & better looking bohemian Latinos waiting for their turn to replace you.
Ocho: Don’t walk into art openings with a big smile on your face and your portfolio under your arm.
Nueve: Don’t constantly take photos of the famous artists in the room.
Diez: Don’t show up with ten relatives to a Museum opening. The art world is definitely not family-friendly. Better to leave your familia at home. Even better, rent them a one-bedroom flat in the marginal yet bohemian/up-and-coming part of town so you can claim to be from there. If you are sharing a house with 10 other hipsters and your studio is in the kitchen, don’t ever bring a curator over.
Once: Don’t be the first one to arrive or the last one to leave a cocktail party. Once there, don’t engage for too long with one particular individual. Work the crowd. Spend 20 seconds max. with each interesting-looking person and move on. Otherwise, grab a glass of wine and stand in the corner looking like you are full of angst.
Doce: When an enthusiastic gallery owner asks you, “Hey Paco, do you know so and so the artist? He’s also Mexican!” take a deep breath and politely answer: “No, I don’t. Can you please introduce me to him? I am looking for a guitarron player for my mariachi band…or perhaps together we can start a local chapter of a Norteño gang.” If he/she does not know you are actually joking, it’s time for you to move on to the next opening down the street.
Trece: If you get muy borracho at the art opening, just speak in Spanish or esperanto. They’ll think it’s cute and will become enamored of you.
Catorce: Don’t get resentful when you discover there’s another “young artist of color” mingling at the “very exclusive party” you were invited to. Feel compassion for him. He is is probably as lost and lonely as you are. But definitely don’t mingle with him.
Quince: A caveat: You can both have your picture taken with a rich Museum Patron in between the two of you for the gallery’s next fundraising letter. You can both discreetly grab the Patron’s nalgas during the staging of the photo. They will LOVE you for that.
Dieciseis: Don’t share anecdotes of recently experienced racism or homophobia with someone you just met at an art event. No matter how hip they look, they may not be on your side of the story. Scary, pero cierto.
Diecisiete: Never upload goofy photos of yourself and artsy friends to Facebook with pretentious titles such as “Hanging out at the Bilbao Guggenheim” or “Crashing a Mathew Barney opening.” Se ve chafa!
Dieciocho: Don’t constantly upload bad videos of your informal homemade performances on YouTube. You are making it harder for other experimental artists to become legitimized by pop culture. Leave that job to Marina Abramovich or…Lady Gaga.
Diecinueve: When a really sweet but bad artist asks your opinion of his/her work, you are in an impossible situation: if you tell the truth, you will have an enemy for life. If you lie, well, you become a liar. So what to do? Just tell him/her you don’t know enough about their work to have an informed opinion and…slowly walk away…Now, if you are already in bed with them, well…you are so fucked!
Veinte: Loco, if one day, you suddenly realize that there are more anthropologists than art critics writing about your work…start to worry. You have been…taxonomized! Que catástrofe!