Since 1980, the Bronx Museum’s “Artists in the Marketplace” program has been teaching artists how to function, and even thrive, in the world beyond the studio. Only artists without gallery representation are eligible for the program, which has launched the careers of Glenn Ligon, Byron Kim, and Fabian Marcaccio, to name a few luminaries. This year’s group is typically diverse, including artists from Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Poland, Vietnam, Germany, and Japan. Roughly two-thirds hold M.F.A. degrees, although graduate work is by no means a prerequisite.
As a professional development program, AIM is unique; unlike the Whitney’s Independent Study Program or the P.S.1 Studio Program, for example, it emphasizes practical success strategies over aesthetic-critical debate. Jackie Battenfield, who has directed the program for the past 11 years, describes the core AIM experience as “artists getting together and talking about the art world as it exists today, not some mythological path that they learned in school.”
During two 12-week series of seminars, 36 artists are introduced to galleries, critics, curators, museum administrators, lawyers, and publicists. They learn to set themselves up as small businesses, mastering tricks of the trade from the glamorous to the nitty-gritty: building portfolios and liaising with curators, but also writing grant proposals, negotiating contracts, and dealing with income taxes. So far, 750 artists have participated, many of whom have since found their way back to the Bronx Museum as educators or exhibitors.
Business-minded as it is, the program is intrinsically linked to the ups and downs of the art market—which, at the moment, is not such a bad thing. “For the AIM artist, it’s a wonderful time,” says Battenfield. “This time reminds me so much of the East Village days, when things were very fluid and very possible.”
Karen Rosenberg’s review of the Bronx Museum’s “Artists in the Marketplace“