Refusing the salon of the refused


This week is the 150th anniversary of the most important failed art exhibit of all time.

It was organized by and featured artists who weren’t even among those that had a slot at the runner’s up exhibit for artists who weren’t featured in the real Salon in Paris. Manet didn’t have the guts to join them, so he participated in the ‘Refused’ exhibit. The others understood that a real change was possible.

Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Degas, Berthe Morisot, Pissarro, Béliard, Guillaumin, Lepic, Levert, and Rourt all participated. They not only put their art in the show, they organized and paid for it.

A few lessons worth taking away:

The first exhibit was a financial and critical failure. The show received fewer than 1% of the number of visitors that the mainstream salon benefitted from, and there were few reviews, most of them negative.

They knew someone who had a building, and the empty space he offered them was enough of an instigator that it turned some maybes into yesses. Use it or lose it.

One of the most positive things to come from the exhibit was a scathing satirical piece, the one that gave the impressionists their name. The insecure critics came to regret their inability to see what was possible.

And yet, the artists persisted. Year after year, eight times, gaining momentum each time, they returned, working their way from outsiders to become the dominant form of artistic expression of their time.

But most of all, so much easier today than in Paris 150 years ago, these individual painters did two things: They picked themselves and they did it together.

Everyone wants to be picked, but no one wants to organize the collective ‘we’.

It’s the ‘we’ that creates a school of thought, a movement, a network, a culture.

Curate, connect, organize and lead. Who better than you?

PS launched yesterday, a GOODBIDS auction for a very rare signed first edition of a nationwide bestseller.

A rare signed first edition of Remarkably Bright Creatures. A beloved bestseller, this one is signed by the author with a doodle of the novel’s star.

And new auctions coming later today.


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