Art, Celebrity + the Hustle

I am not really into the art world, I just want to paint and stay humble towards my art. – Louis Carreon
Milja Ficpatrik

For someone who wants to continue to be humbled by their art and not “into” the world crafted around it, Louis Carreon really seems to be soaking in the glory of its celebrity. 

I had never been to Hamilton-Selway Gallery and was looking forward to see the art created by a self-made celebrity artist, dubbed so by David Foxley.

Carreon, based out of California, found his passion in art after a stint in prison and recovery from drug addiction. According to Foxley’s article in Architectural Digest, Carreon went guts for glory with DIY streetwear he’d created and went straight to Fred Segal with his merch in hand. His foot in the door in the world of fashion led to his huge jump into the art world using a jet plane as a canvas for Art Basel Miami.

Although the articles and interviews I’d read about the entrepreneur came along with intermittent images of celebrities posing in front of his work, I had an impression of someone genuinely down to earth. His history and quotes from his interviews painted a picture of an artist tuned into his craving to create and who seemed down to vibe about his work. Ambitious people are inspiring people to talk to and usually, they are ready to be the hype with other ambitious people.

I thought that the theme of this show was ironic.

The theme behind all of Carreon’s new work had to do with our deifying dependence on Google as a resource for information. Where our fallback for guidance was once God, now we have our almighty, globally integrated tech company to replace Him. What a bold statement to make! One surely wouldn’t expect some kind of wormhole of a conversation to ensue over such a substantial claim — the glorification of technology and its ability to be an infinite resource.

Enter stage left: a woman with a nagging thought.
I had to know more and I had hope that I’d find myself in some sort of an endearing conversation. The irony in it was too good to go unnoticed. Here you are, surrounded by art which is making a social commentary on the current state of technological culture, inside of its own culture of deification.

I ran into someone fluttering around the gallery, complimenting him on his maneuvering skills. He asked me if I liked the art.

“I notice a lot of things in it that play off of current trends going on. You know how you can see a popular theme in art that comes out now done by a bunch of different people and some aspects of it just show a better understanding of that trend than others?”

“Well that’s what’s so great about art, it’s open to interpretation.”

He introduced himself as the dealer and jumped into a sale offer. I let him know right away that I was just a hustling artist with no interest in buying.

“Haha, sorry, Mike. Don’t you go wasting your time on me.” He quickly sashayed away.

I eventually got my turn in conversation with the artist, slightly interrupting some social drama about a lady. Sorry, Louis. I dove into my burning idea.

“I like the story. It’s really sort of ironic, isn’t it?” A giant smiled plastered across my face, excited to hear what the almighty Louis Carreon had to say.


“It’s sort of like Inception, right? You step outside of what’s happening in the comment about Google and into what’s happening here in this exhibition and it’s the same thing. The dependence, the reliance on. It’s paralleling the whole commentary that you’re going for.” He looked around the room.

“But that’s exactly what galleries do. That’s what they’re here for.” He seemed a little peeved, if not flustered. We both paused, and at times like these I like to really lay down the groundwork for my deep thoughts with a covetous response, “Okay.”

“Well, that’s what’s so great about art, it’s open to interpretation. What I see isn’t necessarily what you see.” Then he sashayed away.

I left almost instantly, deeply disappointed to walk away with 0 stimulating conversation from the gallery or the artist. What a shame, because it opens a direly needed dialogue about art, the artist, and the art world.


I wound up at stARTup Art Fair’s event happening at the Kinney in Venice; an organization on the other end of this sliding scale. This DIY art fair, started by artist Ray Beldner and gallerist Steve Zavattero, gives a platform to unrepresented artists to take their careers into their own hands. Artists who after having spent some time attempting to enter into the gallery world were either rejected or dropped one too many times.

I got my wish for stimulating conversation there. It came as a surprise to me. I had previously been at one of stARTup events in San Francisco helping an artist install. I thought for sure that the level of intrigue and curiosity belonged to only that particular event and maybe even San Francisco itself.


But here they were in Venice producing the same atmosphere and the same enticing crowd of art, artists and lovers of art. Hot damn, how incredibly refreshing.

The vocabulary you hear there when it comes to art careers is worlds apart from the passive implications noted at Hamilton-Selway that night. Where at the latter there is no direct mention of what is or could be, at the Kinney you hear “I wish ____,” insert whatever hope you have of making a steady income or iconic career in art.

So there is another separation of ideals which Carreon’s Church + State show has helped to uncover: Art + Celebrity.

stARTup entire idea is geared toward the independent artist — the ones who know how (or are in the process of figuring out how) to hustle themselves. Although their sentiment toward iconicism is more practical, so is their outlook on investment. Let’s break this down.

Someone like Carreon might drop an easy $2k on PR for his art and upcoming shows.* That’s at the beginning of an aspiring career. Taking into consideration that someone writing about the art and someone promoting the art are two different kinds of PR. Add to those first few thousand a manager/agent, another several thousand a month ($50/hr, 40hrs/wk). So let’s say Carreon dropped all this cash on PR and marketing and is now getting representation at different galleries — he’s still giving those galleries approx 50% of his sales. Unless Carreon continues his own hustle not only to match but exceed his own market’s expectation, all of his cash dropping will be for not. Basically, he has to not only create more but sell more than what he’s paying. And he has been on point in his investment and creative hustle for long enough and on point enough for other people to catch on and notice.

So how is Carreon’s behind the scenes any different from stARTup setup? Other than calling it an art fair and using hotels as venues, it isn’t all that different. Obviously the environment is unique, but the overall action plan isn’t (and really, using hotels as a venue instead of galleries has also been done before). It’s just a mouthful to repeat to other artists why the investment is worth it. Honestly, if you’re hesitant about making investments in your art, you’re already losing.

The entire aesthetic of stARTup is an art fair, but what it really is is a Starter Kit. You’re not making beaucoup bucks off your art yet, you’re trying to get better at networking with art buyers, you don’t know how to market your work or to who. Or you’re trying to level up those buyers. With stARTup you’re laying down a lot less than Carreon’s ongoing investments with PR people (who may or may not bring results), managers, and galleries (who take a cut but don’t always promote). And WAY less than regular art fairs (LA Art Show is anywhere between $12k -$55k with a $100 application fee). They do the marketing for you and you do what you do best.

Really it isn’t a question about investing how much money, but how and where to invest that cash along with your time and energy. Being an artist IS being an entrepreneur whatever way you want to slice it. You have to be your own boss and even when you’re paying other people to do the work you still have to carry the hustle. Carreon owns two night clubs now and is probably going on to his next venture. He may not see the irony but he knows where the hustle is.

stARTup Art Fair Los Angeles deadline to apply is October 28, 2018

Rooms start anywhere between $2600 – $4400 with a jury entry fee of $25, plus there is a payment plan offered.

Hear about stARTup from Ray Beldner:

*Prices are based on an approximation from second hand experience and a magic thing called google.


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