Friday, November 12, 2010
How does an art project like the Central Park Portrait Exchange come into being?
Mostly through non-monetary exchange.
Trades, favors, apples for oranges, my labor given for your labor.
For example, each artist – professionals like Wei Chen, Dario Zapata or Artashes Karslian who regularly work in Central Park – has contributed a drawing and sat for another, but no money has changed hands (at least not yet). What do they get out of the deal and what do I, Peter Walsh, as organizer of the Portrait Exchange get out of this “non-monetary exchange”?
Well first, as the project organizer I have temporary physical possession of the drawings, which I hope to be able to exhibit down the road as a group exhibition. Maybe the work will be sold. Or not. At some point, if the drawings are not sold, the physical portrait exchange will be completed. I will receive all the drawings of myself and each artist will receive the portrait that I drew of them.
As the exchange organizer I get the added value of helping to create a group artwork which, outside of its considerable value as a meaningful artwork, has the potential to provide me with other opportunities in the art world and theoretically helps to build my career.
For the artists working in Central Park who have chosen to participate in the exchange, there’s been a savvy calculation that doing so will result in publicity and other intangibles that may help in their fight against New York City’s new rules restricting their ability to work in the park. That gambit has already paid off in articles such as journalist Leslie Koch's article "Artists sue Mayor Bloomberg, NYC Parks Department over new regulations", ongoing blog posts on this site and even in courtroom testimony on their behalf.
On September 13, 2010 I testified in New York State court to the veracity of video footage that I had shot because I’ve been working regularly on the exchange in Central Park. That video, which showed artists being forced by the city to run a footrace every morning in order to work, is part of a body of evidence that has kept in place a Temporary Restraining Order against the city’s new rules – and has given several months’ relief for the artists from the new regulations. How much of that is connected to the portrait exchange is one of those difficult to measure “intangibles,” but the gain is real and has kept work and money coming the artists’ way.
So far, the gamble of participating in the Central Park Portrait Exchange appears to be paying off for everyone.