Dinner Without An Agenda with Laurel Ptak

A few months back, I had the pleasure of sharing dinner with Laurel Ptak, director of Triangle Arts and Silvia Julianna Mantilla Ortiz from the Queens Museum. The dinner invited a handful of artists from a random survey that asked “What will the art world be like in 2050?”

I was running late. The dinner was at a Korean barbeque in Queens, and it didn’t take me long to spot the Dinner without Agenda crowd. I eyed a table of 9 or so people, trying to hold small conversations over loud K-pop music. I warmed up to the crowd and try to pick up the conversation.


Most of us artists are socially awkward. You’d think putting us in a white cube with little ventilation, teasing us with a slight dose of alcohol and we would start socializing like normal adults. Illogical! Most of us artists were misfits, at least when we started. But ironically, as we graduate from art schools, enter the art world; we realize that the art world has become a completely different monster than what we have learned in art history books. Thames and Hudson you lied to me. Cue the instagram post. If anything, the 2015 art world is driven by celebrity culture. What would this climate be like after 35 years?

“In 2050, will Jeff Koon’s studio still be producing work?” Good question. “Will galleries start franchising?” “Will the capitalization of the art ever reach a cessation?” Someone stated the obvious, maybe 2050 will mark the end of the anthropocene, apocalypse will happen. Boom. We are back to making cave paintings.

(As conversation started picking up, a painter silently exited the table without saying goodbye.)

This suddenly brought back the memory of how a few months prior to this dinner, I proposed to the MAD Museum for hosting a similar event. I proposed to host a tea party, inviting people from different art backgrounds drinking tea served in vessels that I made during the residency. The proposal was eventually rejected. Perhaps too naïve, I genuinely thought this is what the art world needed. Gatherings not limited to people of the same social status. A dinner without agenda! I am tired of pursuing a career in a world where it is a game of musical chair, with the same people cycling in and out.

In this day of age, where artistic excellence is fuelled by celebrity-like attention, we need more genuine celebrations of the psychotic egos and authentic diversity that make art inspiring in the first place. If I were to answer the question again, “What will the art world be like in 2015”, I would hope it becomes one that is not driven by Artists with a capital A, nor galleries seeking only for capital gains.

— Jes Fan

Image: Six Bowls Six Mouths, Jes Fan, 2013

This post is part of our series on Dinners Without an Agenda where guests authors react to the events they attend. Read on at this link for the rest.