This is what happens when you’re a fairly unseasoned longform writer handed a vast and consequential topic and an amount of space you’re totally unqualified to command: you collect a number of conversations with extraordinary people and agonize over them for weeks, paralyzed by the fear that you’re betraying your subjects, exploiting their experiences, and making naive, superficial generalizations quilted together by a tenuous thread. As you obsess over each paragraph, deleting, rewriting, and reordering them at least a few dozen times, you’re haunted by premonitions of being skewered on Twitter, and you saddle your friends, your colleagues, and largely anyone within earshot with your emotional baggage. Wearing athleisure is a constant. You kind of look like shit.
you forgo telling the stories you set out to tell—the origin stories of a rare section of the art world that is hardly discussed or even mentioned—and lean on well-worn historical anecdotes as a crutch, because the past exists inherently at a safe distance and is therefore less intimidating to criticize. You defer too much power to your editor’s perspective—although he’s a particularly fantastical writer himself, he had no ideas the stories I had been told and were trying to relate to you.
You resign to it, you send it off and hope to never think of it again, but the reality is a prolonged state of duck and cover; the publication date is far enough in the future to put it in the back of your mind, but not far enough to free the back of your mind from a mild but nagging, gnawing anxiety.
When it’s published, it should come as no surprise. You saw and approved each word change and edit in Google Docs with your blessing. And STILL! STILL! you feel spectacularly deflated at the wasted opportunity. The writer’s cutting room floor is always a graveyard of wry quotes and clever anecdotes that fell for never having found an appropriate foothold in the piece, but this graveyard feels particularly tragic. I wrote this story because I met Mariane Ibrahim during Untitled Miami Beach and she pointed out a very simple truth: there, as in most fairs, she was one of the only, or maybe the only black gallerist there.
I sought out other black gallerists, and the list was short. These are things I would have liked you to know about them: why her gallery is called we buy gold and where it is and what it means to have normative space; the sentiments of being african and seeing a continent reduced to anthropological art; one gallerists shift from distancing herself from being referred to as a “black gallerist” and now leaning in to a say she has a black-owned space for artists of color; one of them casually hurled with a racial slur at a European art fair as recently as April. No one’s here to only show black artists, but the normalization of people of color comes naturally, because it is what’s normal to the person in charge. The gallery is a vector of the gallerist,
Everyday I asked myself, How do you structure this? I know exactly how in hindsight, but the opportunity has passed. I hope that the story still serves a purpose: that it will plant the seeds of realization in those who have never noticed or considered the whiteness and exclusion of the world that we inhabit. I also realized a few things.
This was my 808s and Heartbreaks