What’s a manager?
As an artist I still feel a flush of excitement and gratification each time I sell a work. Luckily I have Gallery Gmurzynska in Zürich, and in Helsinki, Tuomas, my right-hand-man, to get between me and my goodwill and the paying ‘customer’. He’s the one that does all the negotiating and manages all the finances and the practicalities, ostensibly so I have time to think, paint and do my artist thing. The truth is that a big part of me feels guilty that I make money.
I wonder about where my art goes when it’s bought by collectors. Do people actually see it, think about it, and go off and change the world accordingly, or does it just go into a vault somewhere to be stored so that one day it will be worth more money?
My concession to my own guilt is that I do often use the money I’ve made to make sure that there is some art that does get out there. This might be in the form of a high publicity operation that has a lot of costs and no returns except, hopefully, political, moral or emotional ones.
I was thinking of all this because I was trying to book some renowned and very cool Finnish entertainers for an amazing exhibition on Finnish Contemporary Culture that we’re running for a museum in Shanghai. I spoke to their manager who was basically only interested in how much cash was in it for them. I must say I felt a little disappointed and disillusioned. I thought these guys were cool and fun and that therefore they would jump at the chance to do something this cool and fun with me.
But then I wondered, would the artists have been as unexcited as their manager if I’d talked to them directly? Is it just the role of a good artistic manager to be a hard-ass and make sure the goodwill of us soft-hearted arty types isn’t exploited? I often get mails from people with really cool project proposals saying they had first approached my gallery in Switzerland but they never replied.