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How to Make It in the Art World

The art world made it through the real-world crash relatively unscathed, but not unchanged. And even as money still courses thick and blue-chip through its veins, the system is beginning to reexamine itself. Last month during ­Armory Week, there was not just the big Establishment fair but a handful of smaller and less-Establishment fairs; a couple of anti-money, anti-Establishment fairs; and at least one anti-anti-Establishment fair, which was both a tribute to the Armory Show’s origins and a flip of the bird to its corporate values, and might also just have been one big art-punk hotel party (we’re still figuring that one out). And now, for the first time, London’s Frieze fair is coming to town; when it arrives next week, it’ll challenge incumbent kingpin Armory for supremacy in the city. Our art critic Jerry Saltz, for one, is excited by this, as he is by quite a bit of the new art he sees burbling out there, art that seems to be getting smaller rather than bigger, intimate rather than corporate, and intangible and performative rather than industrial and perfectly resolved—the stranger and more mercurial, the better. It’s a moment of weird equipoise, as the Art Death Star and the Rebel Forces are battling to the quick. To mark it, we’ve decided to present our own version of performance art: a tongue-in-cheek rulebook for how to make it in the art world now—as artist, gallerist, collector, hanger-on. Many of the case studies demonstrate this period’s impish contradictions (“Make Art That’s Difficult to Collect,” “Pretend You’re an Outsider, Even When You’re at the Center of Everything”). And many of them show how to walk a line that has become particularly well trod of late: Used to be, new galleries admired the powerhouses and young artists envied the established ones—until they deposed them. These days, the envy runs both ways. Everyone wants in, and the only way to get in is to act like you’re out. Which means nobody wants to cop to having made it already, and everyone acts like they’re overthrowing the system by thriving in it. Maybe they are.

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