Art Prostitute’s gay partner, Mark Searcy, focuses on cultivating business and making money
The era of the pretentious art gallery is officially dead. At least that’s the vibe emanating from the newest Deep Ellum gallery, Art Prostitute.
Co-owned by Mark Searcy and Brian Gibb, Art Prostitute was intentionally named to weed out the flowery pretentiousness of the “fine art” scene. The Commerce Street gallery opened last month, after Searcy and Gibb relocated from Denton, where Art Prostitute started as a quarterly journal and was Denton’s only independent exhibit space.
Searcy says he and Gibb are a seemingly mismatched pair: Searcy’s gay, lithe and arboreally tall; Gibb’s straight, stout and noticeably shorter.
Originally from Memphis, Searcy, 31, relocated to North Texas during his high school years. At the University of North Texas, he majored in graphic design and he graduated in 2002. After college, Searcy worked for a Denton advertising agency, but the corporate ad world didn’t suit him.
Migrating the Art Prostitute empire from Denton to Dallas wasn’t always the duo’s plan. They considered moving to cities like Chicago or Los Angeles. But the Deep Ellum Association made an attractive pitch to lure Searcy and Gibb into Big D’s arts and entertainment district, which has been struggling lately due to growing crime problems.
Inside Art Prostitute’s 1,700-square-foot, newly refurbished Deep Ellum digs, paintings and drawings of Los Angeles-based artist Dave Kinsey adorn the walls razor-sharp, crazy-cool works, many featuring beleaguered faces of baggy-eyed men.
Searcy is a breath of fresh air when discussing the frontier after “post-modernism” and Art Prostitute’s focus.
He says the gallery and journal highlight mid-career artists. Many share a visually sharp, urban, graphic-design aesthetic. And although the focus is about making money, Art Prostitute isn’t about astronomical price tags. The gallery sells an 18″ by 24″ show print signed by Kinsey for $80. Some of Kinsey’s drawings go for as little as $650. But the most expensive piece in the show, a three-panel painting, goes for $18,000.
“We’re in the business to stay open. We constantly ask, “‘How is this artist going to make money?” Searcy explains.
And being ridiculous for the sake of being ridiculous doesn’t make money, Searcy says.
“Today, you can’t just shit on the floor and call it art. You have to think about marketing,” he explains. “Today’s art world is comfortable about saying, “‘Yes, it’s about money.'”
Does gay art sell?
“Does “‘gay art’ mean art made by people who happen to be gay? I don’t think it matters,” Searcy says. “I see examples of gay themes in straight artist’s work all the time. That doesn’t mean the artist is gay.”
Dave Kinsey exhibition runs through July 16. 2919-C Commerce St. 214-760-7170. ArtProstitute.com.
Gay contemporary painter Michael Cross is one of 10 artists chosen to participate in The Latino Cultural Center’s third annual “Hecho en Dallas/Made in Dallas” exhibit. The juried exhibit features 10 artists from the Metroplex exhibiting work in all mediums.
Cross says he sees the same rhythms, structures and natural laws at work in open landscapes and crowded city streets. Cross’ abstract paintings allow him to address “his interest in natural connections and patterns.”
The Latino Cultural Center, 2600 Live Oak Street. Runs July 13-August 26. Opening reception July 13 at 5:30 p.m. 214-671-0051.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 7, 2006.