Meet the Dealer

How Chelsea's Albertz Benda Gallery Was Called Into Being by an Art-World Taboo

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How Chelsea's Albertz Benda Gallery Was Called Into Being by an Art-World Taboo
Thorsten Albertz at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Chelsea gallery Albertz Benda was born, in the fall of 2015, out of something of an art world bias, explains co-founder Thorsten Albertz. His partner Marc Benda’s gallery, Friedman Benda, was long-established and respected, but it showed both artists and designers. And the art world was being “snobby” about it, notes director Albertz.

Some people would say “but you show furniture,” says Albertz. (The gallery’s exhibitions had included such undisputed geniuses as Ettore Sottsass and Wendell Castle.) It even proved difficult to get into some art fairs, adds Albertz. So, last September, the gallery bifurcated, with Friedman Benda on 26th Street to show designers, including the Campanabrothers and Marcel Wanders, while Albertz Benda premiered with artists like Agathe Snow, Bill Beckley, and Jen Ray. The new venture was recently included in NADA New York’s project-space section.

Albertz Benda GalleryInstallation shot of A Cosmic Traveler of Blindness by Motohiko Odani

Up now, at 515 West 26th Street, is a just-opened installation by Japanese star Motohiko Odani, a choice that came out of Albertz's previous job running the Goethe Institute in Tokyo. (Odani, well-known in Asia, represented Japan at the 2003 Venice Biennale and received a retrospective at the Mori Art Museum in 2010.)

He loved the Goethe job, notes Albertz, but the language barrier and other realities of living in Japan proved challenging, and soon he was back in America. Based originally in Berlin, Albertz had already run galleries in Chelsea—among them Korean art gallery Arario—before and during the recession. It was a difficult time, but he credits it with reminding him how much he really wanted to do this for a living.

One lesson he learned from the recession? “Not just to show the younger kids, but who has been there in the past," he says. "Not just to find artists with the hype, but those who didn’t have the right dealer or weren’t social enough.”

Which brings us to the gallery’s big upcoming fall show, the work of Ed Moses.

The groundbreaking L.A. abstract painter and teacher turned 90 this year and celebrated with a show of new work at Bergamot Station. One of the original Ferus Gallery crew—he showed with Ed Ruscha in 1957—Moses is one of the many older artists who may have lost market heat but not art world respect. There are 19 of his works in the National Gallery collection, for example, more than two dozen in MoMA, but none are currently on view.

Meanwhile, the Odani show, of sculpture and video work includes the premiere of A Cosmic Traveler of Blindness, which follows a blind man as he drifts underwater “tracing the contours of sculptures cast from his own face, hands and feet,” according to the gallery. It is up through June 18. 

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