Learning and Reporting from Art World Conference 2019
This past weekend, the Art World Conference had its inaugural launch. Founded by curator Dexter Wimberly with creative direction from Art/Work author, Heather Bhandari, the conference was plugged as a professional practices symposium and did not fail to deliver. I attended as a painter hoping to learn new things to improve my practice, as well as a journalist planning to dutifully report back to my colleagues on the experience.
The conference took place over two days, Friday, April 26th. and Saturday, April 27th, at the New York Law School in Tribeca. Attesting to his reputation in the art community and the importance of the conference's intent, every presenter that Dexter reached out to accepted his invitation to participate.
Friday was the main event, with a full day of six star-studded panels, which included artist extraordinaire Mickalene Thomas, the founder of Hyperallergic, Hrag Vartanian, and the head of Cultural Initiatives at Google, Hillary Nève, to name just a few. The panel conversations, each about 50 minutes long, covered topics such as storytelling, goal orientation, real estate, artists rights, and long term sustainability.
These Friday conversations were spaced intermittently with 'interventions' - movement and breathing exercises lead by choreographer Brendan Fernandes and dancer Charles Gowin. The audience really seemed to get into these as they were designed to make us feel good and switched on. Conference attendees also used a web-based platform to digitally send their questions to the panel moderator via a tablet. These inquiries could then be seamlessly spliced into the conversation without the awkward need for a Q&A.
The selection of topics and speakers was geared to both artists and art organizations. They were in a sense the next level course following Bhandari's resource book, Art/Work, enlightening attendees with up to date information regarding the most pressing contemporary concerns. Deana Haggag, President/CEO of United States Artists, was the keynote speaker and she helped set the tone of cooperation and community which was the strong thread throughout the conference. The auditorium was filled with an incredible amount of experience and wisdom which was shared openly with the view that everything gets better when we start helping one another.
The following day the conference moved onto the fourth floor of the Law School and divided into four different simultaneously active presentation rooms. I found it difficult to decide which one to attend based on the text descriptions. I couldn't help but feel some serious FOMO in regard to several of the sessions that I missed. I regretted not attending Karen DeTemple and Nicole Polletta's presentation on Superconnectors during the session just before lunch. I also felt conflicted about the 2:40 - 4 pm session, and I wished I was able to clone myself three times and attend all four talks. I was however happy with my choice to hear Amani Olu give his brilliant and entertaining presentation on how to launch a successful PR campaign. Knowing a few of the other artists present at the conference, I had a high school flashback impulse of wanting to copy the notes from the sessions I missed. Luckily, many of the presenters were open to being in touch with attendees in regards to follow up questions. For example, feeling bummed that I did not attend his presentation, I contacted Ben Fino-Radin through his digital archiving company, Small Data Industries, and he graciously filled me in on what I missed.
My main takeaway from the conference is that I have made a pact with myself, and I have made a plan for how I can operate better on the road ahead as a sole proprietor, a self-employed, living-working creative in the contemporary landscape. This information is invaluable to artists and the conference offers the most current conversation from the leading experts in these different disciplines. With plans to return again next year, I see a bright future for this conference and believe it is a worthwhile investment for those who attend.––David Molesky
Photography by Alexa Hoyer.