I take some pride in my modest art collection, which consists mostly of works bought when the artists' prices were very, very low. When it comes to actually possessing the work of the great self-taught artists, I often rue missing the boat on Bill Traylor. Like many recovering formalists in the early 1980s, I had the rug pulled out from under me by the landmark "Black Folk Art" show, curated by John Beardsley and Jane Livingston, when it came to the Brooklyn Museum in 1982. Among that group, I quickly gravitated toward Traylor. And while I managed in a small way to hitch my wagon to Traylor's rising star by publishing an article on him in Arts Magazine and putting him in an international contemporary art survey exhibition (in Malmö, to boot) before the 1980s were out, it never occurred to me to acquire one until it was far too late. Works that his SoHo dealer, Luise Ross, had offered me for $1200 were selling at a hundred times that amount just a few years later.
Traveling from New Orleans to Marfa, Texas, as I did at the beginning of the week, offers one of the most dramatic studies in contrast that the art world currently offers. On the surface there is, in New Orleans, the obvious clash of pageantry—on display in abundance during Mardi Gras—and poverty, the factor that seems to prevent New Orleans' art scene from developing traction. Despite its reputation as a hotbed of creativity, the city has no money for culture: most not-for-profits are hanging on for dear life, and the near-absence of serious collectors means that local artists have no way of gauging how they're doing, except in the eyes of their peers.
Having thoroughly scoured Miami three months ago and the Armory a year before that, I decided to forego the Big Top this time around, and focused instead on a couple of mini-fairs (Volta, The Independent) and on the galleries in Chelsea. This was not exactly a "smaller is better" expedition; it was an effort to come to terms with New York galleries' efforts to put on some of their best exhibitions at a moment during the year when all the hype seems to be about a what is essentially a trade fair.
Currently on view in the group show "Redux" at New York's Cristin Tierney Gallery (through Feb. 4) are two works by Joe Fig, both related to his 200