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Artists should embrace Atlanta's open playing field

Atlanta's no New York - and that's a good thing


In 1991, the erstwhile Atlanta College of Art unleashed a pair of game-changing artists into the wider art world: painter and sculptor Radcliffe Bailey and printmaker Kara Walker.



It quickly became a tale of two artists: Both received significant critical attention from the local arts press. Both maintained a full calendar of exhibitions in the city, including representation in the following year's biennial at the Nexus Contemporary Art Center (now the Contemporary). But ultimately their paths diverged: Walker left. Bailey stayed.



For those unfamiliar with the tonier provinces of Artworld-istan, both artists are international successes. Walker is a staple on the global biennial circuit, and Bailey will soon be the subject of a major midcareer retrospective at the High Museum. Both can and do write their own tickets in a world where artists are usually forced to choose between being exploited and being ignored.



Despite the worldwide kudos, those of us who spend our time blowing on the embers of Atlanta's cultural scene are tempted to see in these two artists both a success and a failure: Bailey represents the city's success in holding on to a major cultural figure, and Walker represents our failure to catch that lightning in the same bottle.



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