Incredibly Layered

Galleries usually just send you their press releases, but sometimes you get them from a whole PR firm.
I’m on this firm’s list now, and they’re very tenacious:

Hi Zak: I have a really exciting new exhibit to tell you about…
Hi Zak: I wanted to follow up yesterday’s email with another innovative art showcase…
Hi Zak: There is an incredibly layered new art exhibit by…

I like “incredibly layered.” I usually go for “exquisitely intricate” but then I’m a literalist. But I think “incredibly layered” has legs—I can see “incredibly layered” getting a lot of work in future press releases.

I didn’t check to see if the work was incredibly layered. I did accidentally open one of their PDFs and I respect you all too much to describe what then lay sprawled and glowing across my pixeled screen.

A PR guy told me it wasn’t just galleries who hired publicists these days, it was individual artists. Did he, I wanted to know, have an example of a fine artist who hired a PR firm and it worked out? He was not at liberty to say.

I asked what the rates were, he gave an 80-word answer with no numbers in it that ended with:

In general, however, stay focused on creating amazing work that you actually care about.

I asked again and he gave me a ballpark: from $500 a month up to five figures a month.

I also wanted to know when all this started—he didn’t know exactly, but his answer was three paragraphs long and ended with:

People want to see beauty, they want to be moved, they want to feel. We truly value the things that help us do that now, so the money flows accordingly, creating a growing market and a pseudo-industry.


It might not be a pseudo-industry, it might just be an industry.

If you ask people at art organizations if they look at spam press releases they’re usually like “No, lol.”

But if you keep on: “Then why do they do it? I mean, at a certain point they’ve got to run out of money, right? And realize none of these columnists or critics or bloggers are gonna write about them just because they told them to?”

They allow that some people do. Sometimes.

“Including you?” I ask.

Well fuck. It’s like finding out there are people that really do have a moment to have a conversation about Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.PR sees the blood now, and has a taste for it

But then, I used to work at Taco Bell, which really was basically 14-year-old me helping a global Fortune 500 company slowly kill people for money. So I won’t judge him for finding work providing a product that, apparently, once in a while, for some people, under some circumstances, does what it says its supposed to do—even though it transparently helps make the poor poorer and the rich richer and everything worse.

I can judge him for not reading my column though—I mean, everybody should read my column, but especially people who are pitching me every week about who I should put in it.
So, on the greater injustice, I can do some little thing. Here goes:

Are you an artist? Are you grotesquely neglected? Does the idea of hiring a PR firm make you shake with a laughter you can’t afford lest it shake loose your remaining teeth? Are you utterly bereft of representation? Have you been rejected from every gallery, museum, group show, competition and/or biennial you’ve ever tried to get into? Is your work small, not red, and inexpensive to manufacture? Are you tired, hungry, poor, huddled and yearning to be free? Have you read this far? Are you in Los Angeles County? Email me. Send me some jpegs.

You’re probably terrible—not because no one cares about you, but just because most artists are—but I’ll give you a shot. Send your work along with evidence of a monumental lack of appreciation and long years of toil to zakzsmith@ Acceptable forms of proof include but are not limited to: rejection letters from prestigious graduate programs, lack of Google hits, bad reviews, photographs of garage cabinets creaking under the weight of unsold work, ignored submissions to award committees and grant-dispensing entities. Photographs of dead relatives and pets. I will look at them all, and, from among the most despised entrants I shall select one and do a studio visit and write about them and publish that writing here.

I have no idea what I’ll say and can’t promise to be kind; I am finicky and hateful, but I am, technically, press. At the very least your total irrelevance will illustrate something about the concept of relevance. Someone has to try something new and you cannot possibly be worse than what lies even now, unloved and lurking, attached in my inbox.