Talk about the twelve images you chose for your gallery?
I didn’t have more in mind than what’s not boring, what’s not contemporary, and what’s not over-stylized. I’m a little stuck in the past, I think, I’m not too keen on art that is more conceptual than visual. Looking back on the pictures I chose, it appears they all have a definite source of light. Also, the compositions aren’t too complicated. There seems to be one focal point amongst a homogeneous background in each of the pictures.
Who are some of your favorite established artists?
I really love Francis Bacon and, strangely enough, Michaelangelo. I strive to find a common ground between the two in my artwork.
And some of your favorite teen artists?
Favorite teen artists, let’s see . . . Aj Burkle, a friend of mine, is up there. An artist who was in the T.A.G. show last year named Isabelle Wheeler is one of my favorites as well.
How did T.A.G. (NYC’s Teen Art Gallery) come to be?
The idea for T.A.G. first appeared while I was in London in 9th grade. At the time, I wanted to start a gallery for my own work because I was incredibly set on being an artist and couldnt bear to wait another ten years before pursuing an artistic career. As time went on, I met several other teens who felt the same way, each wanting to begin their career as an artist, but not sure how to take the first step. I had no idea myself, but somehow, in junior year, everything began to fall into place. By chance, a company called Open Center decided to sponsor our show. With a space secured, I then formed a group of other teens who wanted to help me organize the gallery. Thus, T.A.G. was born.
Credit: Sarah Kirkham
What’s been the biggest challenge of opening your gallery? Lessons learned, anything you would do differently in hindsight?
The biggest challenge was probably the submission process. High schools in New York City are surprisingly difficult to reach. I had to sneak in fliers through kids I knew who went to various different high schools. We had to make sure that as many people knew about it as possible, so putting some extreme effort into distributing those fliers was absolutely necessary, and, not to mention, time-consuming.
Would I do anything differently? Well, there was this one guy who threw me a fundraiser in exchange for me selling tickets for him. I sold the tickets, he threw the fundraiser, and then never gave me the profits from it (he owes T.A.G. about $700). So, in hindsight, I guess I would be a little less naïve and not rely on someone else for money owed.
Have you been surprised by the attention and press you’ve received?
Yes. I remember freaking out whenever someone (even one of my own peers) blogged about us. When time came to start sending out press releases, I thought we might get at most one or two short paragraphs in the events section for families, but nothing like an article. I especially didn’t anticipate receiving a full-page spread in the New York Times, or a Critics Pick in New York Magazine.
I think a lot of the attention was due to our making sure that editors saw our press release. We contacted them again and again, by email, mail, and in person. On top of that, some of my friends had family members working for some of the publications that wrote about us and, of course, that helped as well.
What are your feelings about the label “teen art”?
I think a lot of people came to see the show because they thought it was going to be cute. It was cute, and I’m not at all condemning people who entered the gallery with that mind set, but still, all of us wanted to be taken more seriously than the word cute. I’m actually incredibly grateful for receiving somewhat of a harsh review in London’s Frieze Magazine. They said that the art was for the most part boring and brash, but the fact that they thought it important enough to comment on and compare to other art was more than we could ask for. We don’t want to be excused because we’re cute and naïve all of the time—we’re putting our work out there for both praise and criticism just like any adult artist is.
As a painter, is it difficult balancing making your own artwork and curating a gallery?
Yes, a thousand times yes. Last year, I had to split my year in half: one-half for painting and one-half for curating. However, I think this was mostly due to the additional school work, applying to colleges, SATs, and viola. My dream job is to be the owner/curator of a gallery, but still paint during the evenings or during shows. I think this is completely plausible, because, to be honest, the six hours of homework every night is really what took up most of my time.
Where do you see T.A.G. two years or even five years from now?
In two years, I see T.A.G. continuing in New York under new supervision (a new member of T.A.G. from the younger generation who has expressed interest in taking over once I go to college). In two years, the T.A.G. branches in Florence, Germany, L.A. and Florida, should also be well under way, possibly with their first shows open. I’ll have just started a T.A.G. in London, too (that’s where I plan on going for college).
In five years, I think by that point, there will be many more branches. T.A.G. may be a well-known international organization by then. Each branch will operate independently under their own supervision, but still remain under the same guidelines that makes T.A.G. a T.A.G. (artists must be ages 12-19, the director of each branch must be 19 years and younger). Each branch will watch over and communicate with other branches under one super-force of teen artists. In five years, I am hoping that T.A.G. will also team up with some other organizations in order to contribute to charities. I, unfortunately, won’t be able to directly organize a show (I will be older than 19), but I hope to keep the organization under close watch and maintain the position as a head advisor for new directors.
Aside from that, I am hoping that somehow T.A.G. will shift some of the art world’s focus to the younger artists. I know of a couple of other new organizations created by my peers that are geared to artistic youth empowerment. There has been much talk about the organizations becoming heavily affiliated with each other. If all of us, as promoters of young artists, work together, I truly believe that the younger artists of our generation could become a force to be reckoned with. All of this is more based on hopes and dreams, rather than fact, so I hope you won’t take this answer too seriously.
Credit: Michal Pudelka
Curator’s links: T.A.G., Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter
Note: All guest curators select images from Saccades Project’s Flickr pool, and a permanent gallery of these twelve photographs, Gallery 7, will be online soon. Special thanks to Audrey Banks, of course, and all the artists who have so kindly allowed us to share their work.