in other words

Everything you ever wanted to know about the art market but didn't know who to ask
Special Issue: Secrets of the LA Art World

Part II: Do You Think Art Can Change the World?

BY Charlotte Burns
executive editor of In Other Words

WITH Tim Blum
co-founder, Blum & Poe

In Films

“You wonder how much has really changed; how much improvement is there?” In this episode, Blum discusses issues from #MeToo and race in America to “filling in the gaps” of overlooked art histories as he drives around LA with Burns.


Scene 1

[Tim and Charlotte drive through Hollywood, hitting the usual Los Angeles traffic along the way.]

Charlotte Burns: The market has been going through a kind of revisionist mode and so have institutions. Do you think we’re still in that mode? Or are people—

Tim Blum: Yeah, a bit. Sure.

Charlotte Burns:—kind of “correctionist”?

Tim Blum: You mean looking at history?

Charlotte Burns: Yeah, like looking at overlooked history specifically.

Tim Blum: Yeah.

Charlotte Burns: Even if that’s well-known artists. Work that they made that maybe wasn’t so appreciated, or entire movements that we didn’t pay attention to before.

Tim Blum: All of that is valid. There are a lot of people that poo-poo it, like: “Oh, let’s work with only what’s happening now. Let’s not get too wrapped up in what’s happened in the past.”

But I think that’s shortsighted; I think that there are a lot of things from the past that, like you said, have either been overlooked or not even looked at, for various reasons. And, you know, it’s interesting to fill in gaps. And important, too.

Charlotte Burns: Mhm.

Tim Blum: And, you know in our case—and in most, I think, cases—you strike a balance. We still work with younger artists, sort of emerging in a way, all the way through to estates. We’ve just taken on the Robert Colescott estate. This is an artist who was extremely well known throughout his lifetime but hasn’t really had much attention for quite a while.

Charlotte Burns: What made you want to work with the estate?

Tim Blum: We’ve been looking, like so many have, at different histories and we’re very involved with… I mean of course we do the Japanese, we do the Post-War Korean, we do Post-War Europe with CoBrA and we’re also quite involved with African-American work here. And we’re socially aware, work that deals with social justice issues and things of this nature.

Charlotte Burns: Has that has that become more important to you recently?

Tim Blum: Absolutely. Yeah, for sure.

Charlotte Burns: Because of the—

Tim Blum: Because it’s like, you know, we’ve been doing this for 25 years, 24 years, and you move through these different… you build something, you move through different movements and evolution in your own life and in a gallery’s life or in a professional life.

And, at this point, I think that if you’re not cognizant or aware of what’s happening in the world and globally, and specifically with America, and politically, socio-politically, culturally. I mean, it’s like: this is it. This is the time. Like this is the key moment. We’ve all been sort of entitled to a certain way of being and—

Charlotte Burns: What do you mean by that?

Tim Blum: Well the last, you know, how many years have we had this… I hate the word, but it’s a sort of bubble with a facade of equal justice in America, you know, where things felt to be more socially and equally just.

Charlotte Burns: Right.

Tim Blum: Whether it’s with gender issues, or sexuality issues, or racial issues or all these things. It I think people actually… at least in in the art world, it seemed like that’s what people felt. We had Obama as president, you know.

Charlotte Burns: Yeah.

Tim Blum: The economy was booming, people were making a ton of money in the art world, it’s like everything felt ever-expansive and ever so utopic.

Charlotte Burns: Yes.

Tim Blum: And then ping! Pop! And that veil’s been pierced, clearly, and the truth of where we are in America and the globe is now revealed. If you go back and watch the Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam and see some of the footage of the ‘60s that’s in that film, you wonder how much has really changed.

Charlotte Burns: Yeah.

Tim Blum: In fact. How much improvement is there, you know? And you look at, you know, pick a topic: whether it’s Me Too; or Time’s Up; or Colin Kaepernick; or Philando Castile; or Trayvon Martin or any of this stuff.

So, a lot of the art that we work with is actually dealing with allot of these issues in a very direct manner, whether it’s Sam Durant and the Lakota tribe up in Minneapolis last year at the Walker Art Center, which had such a tumultuous experience, or showing his sign in Miami that says End White Supremacy, or Henry Taylor at the Whitney Biennial showing paintings of the shootings of Philando Castile.

Charlotte Burns: Right.

Tim Blum: So, yes it’s a very important component.

Charlotte Burns: What’s the aim, or what’s the anticipated outcome of that? Do you think art can change the world?

Tim Blum: Well I mean, yeah sure. Why not? I mean, changing the world can happen in a minute, and that means just your world.

Charlotte Burns: Yeah.

Tim Blum: Right, you can’t change the world in a macro manner, but you can certainly have an impact on it in your own way, which can then ripple out.

Charlotte Burns: And are many art collectors buying work that’s incredibly direct about social justice? Is there is there a market for that?

Tim Blum: Well yeah, there is. I mean, I think that a great Henry Taylor painting is a great Henry Taylor. And if it’s got that meat, that social justice meat in it, it’s certainly not going turn anybody away.

 Charlotte Burns: Ok.

Tim Blum: Some of it can be a little bit too much of a reality check, I think, for people.

Charlotte Burns: Well because—

Tim Blum: Some people want to just simply escape, and that’s ok, too. Escaping is fine. But again, I think there should a balance of both, which is why we like, you know—

Charlotte Burns: You like to have balance

Tim Blum: It’s not just from Kanye to institutional critique, it’s from Henry Taylor to Dansaekhwa. I mean, you’re going from a shooting of Philando Castile in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to a highly reductive monochromatic painting from Seoul. So, I’m cool with—

Charlotte Burns: With all of it.

Tim Blum: —having all of it. You know, it’s all fantastic and valid.

[End scene]

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