December 21st, 2016

An Artist’s Life Manifesto: Marina Abramović’s Rules of Life, Solitude, and Silence


Abramović writes:


An artist should not lie to himself or others
An artist should not steal ideas from other artists
An artist should not compromise for himself or in regards to the art market
An artist should not kill other human beings
An artist should not make himself into an idol…
An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist


An artist has to understand silence
An artist has to create a space for silence to enter his work
Silence is like an island in the middle of a turbulent ocean


An artist must make time for the long periods of solitude
Solitude is extremely important
Away from home,
Away from the studio,
Away from family,
Away from friends
An artist should stay for long periods of time at waterfalls
An artist should stay for long periods of time at exploding volcanoes
An artist should stay for long periods of time looking at fast-running rivers
An artist should stay for long periods of time looking at the horizon where the ocean and sky meet
An artist should stay for long periods of time looking at the stars in the night sky

During our recent public conversation in San Francisco, Abramović shared three more life-rules she borrowed from her dear friends Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson:

1. Have a good bullshit detector.
2. Fear nothing and no one.
3. Be tender.

As Galleries Double Down on All-Women Shows, Will Market’s Gender Gap Narrow?
Wednesday, February 01, 2017
By Gizara Arts
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As Galleries Double Down on All-Women Shows, Will Market’s Gender Gap Narrow?


Recent institutional interest in female artists may be having a knock-on effect on the broader art market. All-female commercial exhibitions are on the rise, designed to raise the visibility—and profitability—of women artists who until now have accounted for a relatively minuscule part of the art market.

Industry insiders say the growing institutional recognition of women artists coincides with a slew of recent auction records and a genuine desire to redress a long-standing gender imbalance in all corners of the art world—all factors that point to the potential for further market momentum.

In one high-profile example, next month, Sotheby’s will open a joint show of works by two of the best-known (and most expensive) female artists of the 20th century, Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama. Titled “Traumata: Bourgeois / Kusama,” the exhibition takes place at the auction house’s London private-selling gallery, S|2, from late February through mid-April. It has a feminist bent, examining how both artists built careers in New York’s male-dominated art scene in the 1950s and ’60s.

Isabelle Paagman, the European head of private sales at Sotheby’s, says a series of successful results at auction has led Sotheby’s to be more proactive when it comes to sourcing and selling works by women. In last June’s contemporary evening sale, women accounted for 21 percent of the overall value. That spike in value can, in part, be attributed to the record £6.8m achieved for Jenny Saville’s monumental “body pile” painting, Shift (1996-7), which had been estimated to sell for £1.5m to £2m. However, at Sotheby’s July 2015 sale, women accounted for just 2% of the total value, the auction house said.

Only around 50 percent of the works in “Traumata: Bourgeois / Kusama” are reportedly for sale (Sotheby’s declined to give prices). But both Kusama and Bourgeois also have works coming up in the house’s March 8th contemporary evening sale, which falls on International Women’s Day—a coincidence Sotheby’s is happy to capitalize on. A 2003 vitrine by Bourgeois is estimated to sell for between £800,000 and £1.2 million and an Infinity Net canvas painted by Kusama in 2007 is expected to go for between £500,000 and £700,000.

Sotheby’s is hardly testing the water here: Bourgeois holds the record for the most expensive sculpture by a woman to be sold at auction (a within-estimate $28.2 million in November 2015 for her nine-foot bronze Spider, 1997) and Kusama once held the auction price record for any living female artist ($7.1 million for her painting White No. 28 (1960) in 2014) before being dethroned by Cady Noland. Works by Sturtevant and Carol Rama, whose auction record was broken three times in 2016, are also due to go under the hammer, with consignments still being made prior to publication.

Paagman says that growing institutional support generates a positive feedback loop for sales to individual collectors. Prominent shows, such as the 2016 Abstract Expressionist exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, which included Lee KrasnerJoan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler, created “the opportunity to sell a number of female artists privately,” she says. “It prompted a buying spree by European collectors.” She also cites Tate Modern’s choice to devote half of all the rooms in the opening show of its Switch House extension last June to women artists including Bourgeois, and Marina Abramović.  

Throughout the last year, dealers from Hauser & Wirth to Sprüth Magers to Maccarone had mounted all-women shows. Recent examples include Sadie Coles in London, whose exhibition “Room” brings together installations and photographic works by female artists (until 18 February), and the Fine Art Society (FAS), whose program will pay particular attention to women throughout 2017. In February, a series of exhibitions opens pairing works by female contemporary artists (priced between £2,000 and £35,000) and Modern British women (priced up to £90,000) with the work of Gluck, a British painter born in 1895 who famously eschewed any gender-defining prefix. (The FAS organized five exhibitions of the artist in the 1920s and ’30s.) Further shows on Emma Alcock and Eileen Cooper are planned for later in the year.

Sara Terzi, an associate director at the FAS, said the gender gap in the art world is gradually closing, from museum shows to representation at art fairs. The aim, Terzi says, “is to get to the point where a show like mine, using the term ‘women artists’, will become unnecessary if not anachronistic.” The gallery has recently signed two new female artists–Phoebe Boswell and Emma Alcock–with the aim of representing an equal number of female and male artists. Currently, their stable of nearly 100 artists is less than 20% female.

How will the art market will treat these up-and-comers? Eleanor Heartney, the author of The Reckoning: Women Artists of the New Millennium, notes the ratio of graduates from MFA programs in the U.S., Sweden, England and Israel was either equal or favoured women, meaning the pipeline is chock full of female talent. But in a survey of prominent New York galleries, Heartney found that women artists represented a maximum of 25 percent of solo shows around the time of her book’s publication, raising the question of what structural factors winnow out so many female artists in the transition from school to gallery system.


Mad Men and Artist Lisa Gizara: The Importance of Design
Thursday, January 12, 2017
By Gizara Arts
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Mad Men and Artist Lisa Gizara: The Importance of Design

By Aleksander Gilyadov for Paste Magazine


<i>Mad Men</i> and Artist Lisa Gizara: The Importance of Design

Mad Men is a show that gives precedence to costume, interior, and overall art design unlike any other. It, for seven seasons, has mostly taken place indoors with very few scenes taking place outside. The offices, apartments, desks, chairs, paintings, and the fashion is always in focus in every frame and shot — hence the heavy reliance on design. It’s an interestingly particular, and exquisite aspect of Mad Men, that can easily go unnoticed by most viewers, but it’s a feature that glues the show together as much as its characters. Since its debut in 2007, the show is credited for bringing 1960’s fashion, culture, and design to the forefront of modern design.

The revival in men’s suits, in particular those with shorter jackets and higher waistbands, fedoras, slicked-back hair, bourbon and whiskey drinks, and even tortoise sunglasses can all be attributed to the show’s immense popularity. “Mad Men’s set design, fine art, the incorporation of day-to-day utilitarian objects and costumes of Mad Men are so historically accurate, perfectly placed and well researched that the show instantly brings us back to a nostalgic time that so many viewers remember and want to revisit,” writes Lisa Gizara, a photographer and painter whose work has appeared on Mad Men, as well as Modern FamilyCastle, Variety, LA Weekly and others.

Mad Men’s set decorator Claudette Didul was searching for eccentric works of art to complement Roger Sterling’s (John Slattery) mid-century cool office. Didul happened upon a panoply of Gizara’s eclectic work at Art Pic, an art gallery in North Hollywood, and was captivated by her monochrome-like painting Madonna I alongside King of Hearts and Queen of Hearts. The former painting is of mixed-media with paint, oil stick, and graphite, and contains curvaceous lines that Didul deemed perfect to sit on the wall right behind Sterling’s desk.


”[Production Designer] Dan Bishop and I wanted to keep the black and white theme going in Roger’s office,” Didul told Gizara, when she asked her why her work was chosen. “One of the paintings looked like it had a backwards ‘R’ in it (Madonna I — which is by Roger’s desk). They had the perfect abstract feel of the period. Many offices were using abstract art at the time and both pieces (The King and Queen of Hearts) seemed very fitting.”

The crew’s search to include paintings that can most complement a single set highlights their fastidious attitude towards Mad Men’s design. The time and effort spent on aesthetic is almost equal to the writing here, and there have been a deluge of benefits as a result in these past seven years. Everything has to fit. Every single shirt, painting, desk, skirt, hairstyle and tie has to have character, and needs to invoke a nostalgic ’60s vibe in the viewer.

“My paintings needed to set a tone and reflect a time during the 1960s Mad Men era,” writes Gizara. “Since my favorite paintings are by the American expressionists first developed in New York in the 1940s-’60s: Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock. I am honored to have my paintings included as representational of that time. I still refer to these artists for inspiration when I paint today.”

The ’60s was arguably the last period of “glamour” in the United States, where daytime fashion was equally as important as dressing up for a fancy dinner. Perhaps this is one of the biggest reasons why Mad Men has left, and is still leaving, such an impact on culture. It shone a bright light on an era that was difficult to be forgotten for too long. Gizara even goes so far as to say that the White House during the ’60s also brought a swift, and colorful change to its appearance as well.

“The young President John Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline’s presence in the White House added — for the first time — an elegance and refinement to the White House,” she writes. “Jackie was educated in art history and brought her taste and education into what was a stodgy and dated White House. She researched, renovated and restored the White House while adding her own style and we all watched a new era come into being.”


Gizara was born in 1960, and has distinct memories of what people wore during that decade. Her mother always wore Chanel suits with a “frost coiffed hairstyle,” while her father attended similar martini lunch meetings as Don Draper does throughout Mad Men’s seven seasons. The ’60s pinpoint accuracy from the show is prodigious. But as it is slowly coming to a close with its final season, people will wonder: What will be the next fashion and design trend, and what will be the next show to captain this change?

According to Gizara it just might be the 1970s, with Mad Men’s final season kick-starting the decade’s dominance. “Mad Men is now set in the 1970’s Peter Max era complete with Day-Glo colors, bell bottom pants, paisley patterns and long hair (and bad mustaches),” she writes. “Predictably there is a resurgence now, especially in Venice, California, of this hippie style. With the onset of ’70’s hippie fashion, casual, comfortable clothes with fringe and flowers, jeans and peasant skirts become the norm.”

Fashion and design trends come and go, clinging on to the next “thing” every few years or so, and showrunner Matthew Weiner would be proud to know that his show will forever be a significant part of that. Whether or not Don Draper, Peggy Olson or Roger Sterling live on in TV audience’s hearts years from now, Mad Men will always be a prime template — an example of how a show’s design can be just as important as its characters.

Art & Anger
Thursday, January 12, 2017
By Brainard Carey with Gizara Arts
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This is a wonderful letter from art supporter & mentor Brainard Carey. It really spoke to me about how angry one can  get as an artist. Here is his wonderful website filled with resources for artists:

Dear Artist,

If you detect a note of angst in the title here, that just means you can read, but it also points to something larger. (It is a recent comment I read on Twitter recently) 

There is, without a doubt, a thread of anger that weaves through the art world and taps the shoulders of many in a number of ways. Whether you suffer from frustration at the difficulty faced in trying to earn a living doing what you love in a world obsessed with cheap and disposable goods, or you feel as though you are pouring your heart and soul out for an audience that would rather watch television, there are so many ways artists can fall into the trap of anger. While it may be easier said than done to simply let go of anger, learning to work through it and live alongside it (and of course eventually move beyond it) can help you to expand not just your own emotional landscape, it can even inform your work as an artist.

Our society is absolutely rife with consumerism. One could easily argue that it is even defined by it. Everywhere you turn there is something to buy. Our possessions are not meant to last, they are designed to be replaced quickly. This system creates waste, destroys the planet, and can very quickly leave us feeling quite hollow. Art is the very antithesis of this cheap consumerism and sometimes speaks directly to or against this very philosophy. Many artists use the chasm of a consumer economy as a launch pad for their work. This can be cathartic and, in the right context, can help inform a broader audience of the constant barrage of commercialism we face every day.

But what if your audience simply doesn’t get it? Sometimes it can feel like you are shouting in a room full of the deaf. It is easy to choose the path of consumer dogma, to buy into the promise of happiness from more stuff, better stuff, new stuff. Art has no immediate payoff for many, it can be difficult to understand, and you can’t drive it down the street to make the neighbors jealous. For this reason it is easy, as an artist, to become fed up with what seems like a useless battle. Constantly reaching deep and presenting your innermost self to a thankless crowd can wear on a person for the most obvious reasons. Much like in many fields that seek to change the world, it is necessary to come to art with a relatively thick skin. In the fields of politics and activism the same is true. The message may be critical to the human species, but it may take many attempts to get through. This is never a reason to give up. Nothing great ever came of giving up. And few great things ever happen on the first try.

There is, and has been, an image of the artist as a perpetually angry soul and for some, this may be the case. Living and working in a culture that seems not only to fail to appreciate what you do, but often seems to be actively working against you can be incredibly difficult. The arts are constantly being defunded and undervalued, schools cut art programs before anything else, and secure, lucrative jobs for artists are difficult to come by unless one is willing to step across to consumerist industries. It is easy to feel like the whole world is the enemy.

So what do we do with these feelings? Surely it is exhausting to live in a state of constant outrage. As artists, part of what we do is use our work to process what is happening in and around us. Maybe your art doesn’t automatically lend itself to a series of work that clearly expresses your anger at the circumstances of our times, but there isn’t any reason you can’t incorporate this somehow. Explore your anger, don’t be afraid to look at it, touch it, pick it up and shake it. One of the first ways to begin to process something is to understand it. Ask yourself very honest questions, journal about it, just don’t let it freeze your creativity.

Another source of ire for many artists is the seemingly impenetrable fortress of the art world. We have offered blogs about this in the past owning up to the fact that, indeed, the art world is in many respects about who you know. The simple truth is that the whole world works this way. There isn’t a single field in which it can be said that networking doesn’t account for quite a lot of individual movement within the span of a career. It is important to remember this. It’s easy for us as artists to forget that, although there are some definite departures in our field as compared to many others, there are also similarities. We mustn’t let ourselves become false martyrs. To believe that we have a special claim on anger is to isolate ourselves. In every field there is some kind of strife. The financial world took the most brutal hit imaginable in 2008 at the hands of irresponsible government. Families lost everything because a few at the top behaved like greedy children. But there wasn’t the option to come to a standstill when the ground gave out beneath their feet. The very same is true in the art world. Just because you face an uphill struggle, this is not a reason to freeze up. Take the struggle and the feelings it creates and use them as fuel to fight on. 

Sincerely, Brainard

Get the Facts
Saturday, June 25, 2016
By Gizara Arts
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Did you know?

•  51% of visual artists today are women.

Only 28% of museum solo exhibitions spotlighted women in eight selected museums throughout the 2000s. 1

•   “The men liked to put me down as the best woman painter. I think I’m one of the best painters.”—Georgia O’Keeffe 2

Only 27 women are represented in current edition of H.W. Janson’s survey, History of Art—up fromzero in the 1980s.

•  From 16–19th centuries, women were barred from studying the nude model, which formed the basis for academic training and representation. 3

Though women earn half of the MFAs granted in the US, only a quarter of solo exhibitions in New York galleries feature women. 4

•   “This is so good you wouldn’t know it was done by a woman.”—artist-instructor Hans Hofmanns “compliment” to Lee Krasner 2

Women lag behind men in directorships held at museums with budgets over $15 million, holding 24% of art museum director positions and earning 71¢ for every dollar earned by male directors. 5

•  Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 is more than three times the previous auction record for a work by a female artist, which was the $11.9 million paid for Joan Mitchell’s Untitled(1960) at Christie’s earlier in 2014. 6 It doesn’t, however, come close to the world auction record, held, naturally, by a male artist: $179.4 million with Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger7

Venice Biennale: The 2009 edition featured 43% women; in 2013, it dropped to 26%. In 2014, it is 33%. 8

•   In a report from October 2014, Gallery Tally looked at over 4,000 artists represented in L.A. and New York—of those, 32.3% were women. 8

The good news is that, while in 2005, women ran 32% of the museums in the United States, they now run 42.6%—albeit mainly the ones with the smallest budgets. 8

Here’s What the Guerrilla Girls Have to Say

The Guerrilla Girls is a group of women artists and arts professionals who fight discrimination.

The group reframes the question: “Why haven’t there been more great women artiststhroughout Western history?” Instead, they ask: “Why haven’t more women been consideredgreat artists throughout Western history?”

The Guerrilla Girls created the poster, Horror on the National Mall! (shown above), in honor of NMWA’s 20th Anniversary. The poster even highlights our living founder: “Ever wonder why Billie Holladay started the National Museum of Women in the Arts? Now you know!”

Check out some of the Guerrilla Girlss facts:

  • Less than 4% of the artists in the Modern Art section of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are women, but 76% of the nudes are female.

In 1723, Dutch painter Margareta Haverman was expelled from the Académie Royale when the painting she submitted was judged too good to have been done by a woman.

  • Things have not changed much since 12th century England: women who embroidered earned 83% less per day than their male peers.

1 The Reckoning: Women Artists of the New Millennium, 2013.
2 The Guerrilla Girls’ Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art, 1998.
3 Women, Art, and Society, 4th edition, 2007.
4 Brainstormers Research, 2006 and Saltz, Village Voice, September 21, 2006.
5 The Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships, 2014. Statistics reflect Association of Art Museum Director membership museums with budgets over $15 million.
6 Steinhauer, “$44M O’Keeffe Painting More Than Triples Auction Record for Woman Artist,”Hyperallergic, November 20, 2014.
7 McDermon, “A Decade of Top Art Auction Sales Worth $1.2 Billion,” The New York Times, May 12, 2015.
Reilly, “Taking the Measure of Sexism: Facts, Figures, and Fixes,” ARTnews, May 26, 2015.

Los Angeles Art Scene Comes Into Its Own
Monday, March 14, 2016
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LOS ANGELES — For art to flourish in a city, it helps to have well-off individuals and institutions with a desire to keep and exhibit it. Diverse, lively, colorful neighborhoods also come in handy, and if they have plenty of room for reasonably priced studio and gallery space, so much the better. 

You might not find Los Angeles near the top of a list of global art hotbeds, at least not yet. But it features all of these ingredients — plus nice weather — so there is growing appreciation of the cultural infrastructure, working environment and lifestyle of America’s second-largest city among artists, donors and collectors large and small. 

“Los Angeles is an incredibly important cultural city in the international context and within the United States,” said Noah Horowitz, director for the Americas for Art Basel. “There has been a huge amount of activity recently, a number of new galleries opening, important developments at museums. There’s a nice combination of cultural institutions focused on contemporary art in L.A.” 

Befitting a city noted for its car culture, oil has helped to foster the development of Big Art in Los Angeles. Three of its premier institutions — the Getty Center, Getty Villa and Hammer Museum — were founded on the eclectic private collections of petro-billionaires. A fourth, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is situated next to the La Brea Tar Pits, a dinosaur graveyard where the fossils keep fossil fuels bubbling up from the murky, viscous depths. 

Providing some geographical balance to those Westside facilities are the Museum of Contemporary Art, which opened downtown in 1983, and two new downtown venues: the Broad, a contemporary art museum founded by the billionaire industrialist Eli Broad, and the Mistake Room, billed as a billed as a hybrid between a museum and a gallery. 

These institutions have been joined lately by branches of large, international galleries. Most noteworthy, Sprueth Magers, which has spaces in London and Berlin, has opened near Lacma, and Hauser & Wirth, already in New York and Zurich, has teamed up with Paul Schimmel, a former MOCA curator, to open a gallery in an erstwhile flour mill downtown. 

Galleries are businesses, as well as cultural facilities, and if one recently reported transaction is anything to go by, there is plenty of business to be done with Los Angeles collectors. In what is believed to be the largest private art sale ever, Ken Griffin, founder of the Citadel hedge fund operation, was reported to have paid the Hollywood mogul David Geffen $500 million for two paintings, a De Kooning and a Pollock. 

Jeff Poe, co-owner of Blum & Poe, a gallery that opened in Santa Monica in 1994 and since 2003 has been in Culver City, an art enclave near Los Angeles International Airport, has seen Southern California rally as an art center a few times over the years, only for the flurry of interest to subside. He does not expect that to happen this time. “This one’s a little different because of the critical mass that’s happening,” he said. “It’s not just the galleries. It’s the Broad opening; that has created a lot of attention in the art world. The response to the Broad has been phenomenal. It’s a great collection and space.” 

The fact that the art world has become more diffuse has contributed to the ascendancy of Los Angeles as a cultural destination, Mr. Poe added. 

“The world is shifting,” he said. “It’s not just one place having all the energy, like New York or Paris or London. There’s no hot spot anymore; it’s all lukewarm, and I think Los Angeles is one of the warmest of those spots.” 

As strong as institutions have become in the city, Ann Philbin, director of the Hammer, finds it more useful to view developments from an alternative vantage point: bottom up. “What makes a city culturally exciting is not how many collectors, galleries or institutions there are,” she said. “It’s how many artists are working there. Artists create and energize an art scene. That has happened in this city over the last decade and a half." 

Since she took over in 1999, the Hammer has developed a reputation for showcasing the work of Los Angeles artists. Its “Made in L.A. 2016” exhibition opens June 12. 

One reason that there are so many artists in Los Angeles is that its cultural infrastructure sets the city up to produce more than its fair share of them, including highly regarded programs at the two main universities, U.C.L.A. and the University of Southern California, and at specialty schools like California Institute of the Arts. 

“There are incredibly strong art schools in Los Angeles,” Mr. Horowitz of Art Basel said. “They continue to be very vibrant places for teaching, criticism, studio practices. There’s a high level of support for art education.” 

Ms. Philbin first got to know the city around 20 years ago, when part of her job for the Drawing Center, an exhibition space in New York, entailed finding emerging artists. The “amazing group of art schools” in Los Angeles meant that there were many to find there, she said. 

While it was customary then for artists in the city, and elsewhere, to relocate to New York to try to kick-start their careers, “I started to notice that they were coming out of school and staying in Los Angeles,” Ms. Philbin recalled. “Artists started to realize that they couldn’t afford to move to New York, but they could afford great studios here and have a great lifestyle.” 

It wasn’t only the homegrown talent that figured that out. Just as so many in other walks of life have done, artists started migrating to California and they haven’t stopped. 

“All the millennials in the art world are moving from New York to Los Angeles,” said Suzanne Gyorgy, head of Citi Art Advisory, a service of Citigroup’s private bank. “There are a lot of mothers weeping on the East Coast.” 

One recent arrival is Michael Williams, a painter who left New York five months ago with his wife and two young children. 

“I moved out here mainly because I thought life would be easier raising children,” said Mr. Williams, who has a studio downtown and lives in Echo Park, a few miles west. “If you live in New York for a long time, there’s this sense that you can’t live anywhere else. In the first few months I had moments of extreme doubt, but at this point I’m starting to feel pretty content here.” 

He senses that he’s not alone. “In terms of the artist community out here, it seems more casual and laidback,” he said. “They’re not trying to make something happen here; they’re trying to work in peace. The art world is an international creature. My career is going well. At a certain point in your career, you can be anywhere.” 

Los Angeles has not taken as firm a hold on Jordan Wolfson, a sculptor and video artist who relocated from New York two and a half years ago to work on projects combining elements of film production and aerospace technology. 

“Being from New York and also traveling, I don’t feel like L.A. has culturally arrived yet,” said Mr. Wolfson, who is 35 and single. “It’s on its way but nowhere near where New York is. Art seems less important here than in London and New York.” 

He acknowledged that “the young-artist scene is thriving and it’s cheaper and easier to live” in Los Angeles, but he said he plans to move back to New York. 

Members of the Los Angeles art community probably wouldn’t quibble with “on its way but nowhere near where New York is.” Los Angeles, like many cities, is proud of its cultural heritage, but it also sees its comparative lack of history as an advantage. When there aren’t as many days behind you, it encourages you to believe that the best days lie ahead. 

“We’re really a young city culturally,” Ms. Philbin said. “There have been pockets of a thriving art world since the 1960s, so it’s not a new thing, but it has become a much bigger thing. What’s evident to people now is that it’s here to stay.”