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Tuesday, July 17, 2018
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RI Archives: Arts

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Katharine T. Carter Makes The Art Go Around

Katharine T. Carter with Hugo T. Poodle. Photo: Michelle Barclay.

By Jamie Larson As patrons and appreciators of the fine arts that fill the institutions and galleries across our region, most of us spend little time contemplating how the art got there. The complex mechanisms, bureaucracy and caprice that fill the chasm between struggling artists and their due is invisible to the audience but can be a real slog for even the most visionary artist. This is where Katharine T. Carter & Associates come in. For nearly 33 years, Carter, with the help of a current team of 21 critics, publicists and curators in New York and Los Angeles, has helped artists ascend in stature by getting their work out of the studio and into museums and other nonprofit institutions. What’s novel about Carter’s model is she manages to assist in every part of the process. She kind of lubricates the art world machine so artists and curators can spend more time focusing on art and less on the minutiae. And she’s doing it all out of her quiet home in Kinderhook, New York. “The business has become so competitive that it can be hard for an artist who is focusing on his or her work to navigate the things you have to do to get shown,” Carter said. “There’s nobody that’s doing what we do.” While she may be well connected from years of experience, Carter isn’t hoarding any of her industry secrets. Her book, Accelerating on the Curves: The Artist’s Roadmap to Success, which she wrote with her associates, was just released in its second edition. “An artist comes to us and we decide how best to represent them,” said Carter. “We put together all the marketing material for them and the written support for their work, from reviews to the display materials. We send a catalog of an artist’s work, where we’ve essentially curated what an exhibit of an artist’s work would look like, to museums across the country. It’s a unique business model in the art world. The artists, the critics and the curators all get involved. That’s the reason the company has been successful.” Before she began the business, Carter was a successful artist in New York for 10 years. She was getting shown often and began a national speaking circuit. Then, in the mid ‘80s, she got in a car wreck. “I was a hard-edge painter and after the accident I tried everything, special chairs… I just knew it was over. Then I thought, what in the world am I going to do?”

Photograph by Sparky Campanella, now on display at Joyce Goldstein Gallery in Chatham.

She continued traveling on the lecture circuit, giving over a thousand talks on art and management, into the mid ‘90s. But she also had begun helping artists she knew make catalogs, as well as introducing them to contacts she’d made as an artist and a speaker.

“I wanted to help artists and I had contacts. I started to realize artists didn’t know how to get into the places they deserved to go.”

In the ‘90s she started working with the New York Times critic William Zimmer, who helped open the door so that her artists could get the critiques they needed to be considered for high-profile institutions. Now Carter & Associates handles just about every aspect of the behind-the-scenes process of booking exhibitions.

“I say to a client, ‘hey I got you a show!’ They don’t realize I approached 80 museums,” Carter chuckled. “These days, to succeed you have got to have beautiful materials, energy and the guts to follow through. The world has really changed and you have to buckle up.”

When people come to Carter they’re usually somewhat known and she puts their work on the road for 10 to 15 shows. By the end of that tour, they’re in a different echelon than when they started.

“If you haven’t done that, the higher level institutions won’t look at you. You can really change the course of someone’s life. When you’re able to give that to someone in three years and take them to the next level, it’s a good feeling. I’ve had a lot of wonderful clients over the years.”

She cites Katharine Eliot and Martin Weinstein as a couple of the artists she placed into about 30 shows, which really elevated their careers. But everyone knows that when artists are starting out, they don’t usually have much in the way of finances. Carter is cognizant of that.

Photograph by Sparky Campanella, now on display at Joyce Goldstein Gallery in Chatham.

“Money is a real issue for artists,” she said. “That’s why we’ve always been fee based and why I wrote our book. We want to empower artists. I shared everything. I gave up all my techniques.”

Carter has been plying her unique trade from our region since the early 2000s when she visited Hudson and a friend showed her that she could have the space and seclusion she desired while remaining connected to her associates and clients in the city. She bought her home in Kinderhook in 2005.

“I felt Kinderhook was good for me because I’m a bit of a recluse but I can still access so much in Hudson.”

In the years since she moved here, the local art scene has grown considerably, punctuated a few years ago when an old friend, Jack Shainman, opened his huge museum-quality gallery in Kinderhook.

“It’s really wonderful to have Jack here. I’ve known him for 30 years. When he moved here I couldn’t believe it.”

What does Carter like to do for fun? Facilitate excellent gallery exhibitions locally, of course. She recently worked with minimalist photographer Sparky Campanella to set up a show at the Joyce Goldstein Gallery in Chatham, New York which runs through December 2, and will soon help present the work of John Lyon Paul and George Spencer locally.

While Carter’s success is due primarily to her technical acumen and years of experience, it’s clear that what drives her is an intrinsic love of art and passion for helping artists, as people, reach their potential.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 11/14/17 at 08:24 AM • Permalink