Wash Post: A Collector Visits Washington’s Isolated Artists

Written by Jessica Dawson in the Washington Post Friday, December 18, 2009. A few excerpts of the whole piece: Last Saturday at 5 a.m., while the rest of us slept, megacollector Mera Rubell walked among us, hunting local art. She did it for the Washington Project for the Arts, the city’s beleaguered but still humming arts group. She offered to pick 12 artists whose works would be among those that would hang in Cream a WPA benefit auction exhibition opening at American University’s Katzen Arts Center on Jan. 30. A lottery system determined the 36 studio stops. Mera came away with some stark impressions, impressions Washington art insiders already know but are loath to discuss. “The gallery audience is very suspicious,” Mera says as she moves toward the cab idling at the corner. “They think art is some kind of product. If only the audience could see the commitment behind the work. Artists really share something intimate.” A few minutes later, taking cover under Liotta’s doorway before venturing into the cold rain, Mera considers the peculiar situation that is the Washington art world. “The pecking order is so vague here, so nebulous,” the collector says. In New York, top artists become untouchable. For them, it’s a badge of achievement to pull up younger ones, to mentor them. Not so in Washington, where no one knows who’s on top and everyone is on the defensive.


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