I’ve heard a lot of news about gallery openings and closings this summer which leads me to wonder, why in the current uncertain economic climate would anyone want to open a new gallery?
– Perpetually Perplexed, New York, NY
Let’s start with the basics: anyone who chooses to open a gallery has already probably lost their mind in some way. Dealers are a rare breed, driven by multiple forces, the largest of which is an unadulterated passion for art. They can’t live a day without thinking about it and it likely consumes a large portion of their professional and personal life. Inherent in this fervor is devotion to the support of artists and enhancing the broader cultural conversation. No one opens a gallery to be in a bubble.
Opening a new gallery also, of course, requires ego, which can blind one to the financial risks—even in uncertain times. However, I would argue that the distinct pleasure of selling a piece of art that directly affects an artist’s ability to continue their practice is likely the most balancing factor to ego. One needs to truly believe they can sell.
I, personally, had never worked a day in a gallery until Kristen Dodge and Abigail Ross Goodman hired me back in Boston at a small Newbury Street space that showed emerging artists fresh out of the local art schools. My experience up until that point had been primarily in the auction world, thanks to a summer I worked at Sotheby's in New York and two semesters of college in a regional office. It took only a week for me to realize that the gallery model was something very different and truly special, filling the gap of what had been missing in the auction house: a relationship with the artist. I then followed Kristen Dodge to New York to open DODGEgallery, a program we built and ran for four years. It was exciting, challenging, sometimes infuriating, but most of all rewarding.
We closed DODGE when Kristen realized that her aspirations were no longer aligned with how the market was moving—too many fairs and not enough focus on gallery exhibitions, to name a few reasons (she addressed her thinking extensively in various news outlets). As many readers of Artspace Magazine know, Kristen moved upstate and took a pause from the art world. But, as her close friend, I can admit (sorry for outing you, K!) she never stopped looking at and engaging with artists over the past two years.
I shied away from the gallery model when we closed, feeling uncertain about working in a program where I wouldn’t be able to build and contribute in the same manner. Artspace became the perfect home for me, allowing me to dialogue with other dealers, view more art than I could have ever imagined, and still work with artists on special projects.
The well-known Einstein quote, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” is easily applicable to many of the dealers I know. We’ve seen this as Kristen returns to opening a space in Hudson, SEPTEMBER, in just two short weeks, and though the model is different, the core values remain the same: to champion the artists you support and broaden the dialogue in the community.
I, too, have found myself rethinking the model over the past two years and looking for spaces in which I could contribute. Just a few months ago, I found a home; a soon-to-be-opened gallery called yours mine & ours that I will be running with two good friends, Courtney Childress and RJ Supa. We’ll represent a blended family (like the Lucille Ball film that our name derives from), as Courtney and RJ come from their own separate LES gallery pasts, at On Stellar Rays and Louis B. James, respectively.
yours mine & ours also represents the second generation of Lower East Side dealers. It’s been a common story for a Chelsea gallery director to leave their blue-chip perch to open their own space downtown but, to my knowledge, this is the first time three veteran LES dealers banded together to create their own new space in the neighborhood. Why stay there, in our new home on Eldridge Street? Courtney, RJ, and I feel a commitment to the ethos of the LES. It remains one of the best places in the world to view and learn about emerging work, as well as to launch the careers of young artists.
To that end, we are only representing three artists to start with, though we’ll also exhibit others who we’ve each championed over the past eight years but who may now be without a home due to shifts in the gallery landscape. Together we want to explore how our program can grow and offer opportunities to many artists, especially in these economically and politically challenging times. This is exactly the period in which we need to hear the voice of the artist, and we’re grateful to be able to provide a setting where this can happen.
I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to collaborate with smart, genuine, and likeminded people like Courtney and RJ, while still remaining with the family at Artspace to carry on with our successes here. How can I do it? The answer is nights and weekends—and the support of two badass business partners.
The world is changing. As dealers, we must continue to evaluate and challenge the gallery model as the economy fluctuates, allowing for shifts in our goals and projections but ensuring that the ideals survive—to support artists, engage within your community, and most importantly, have a good time doing it. The gallery archetype has been in existence for hundreds of years through many economic ups and downs—it’s here to stay. My father always reminds me, “Do what you love and success will follow.” Perhaps he’s a little crazy, too.