End of Brick and Mortar: Part I

Gallerists are under unprecedented market pressures leading many to move on from the gallery convention. In Part I of this panel discussion on post Brick-and-Mortar experiences held at Christie's Education New York, Nicole Klagsbrun and Jay Gorney present on alternative entrepreneurial and curatorial models. In Part II, available shortly, art market analyst and journalist Josh Baer will provide historical contextualization and market insight. Richard Lehun will present on the opportunities and challenges created by these new art business practices


Nicole KlagsbrunNicole Klagsbrun

I am originally from Belgium. I came to New York in 1980, and in 1982 I started officially in the art world and was a director of a gallery called Olsen Gallery. At Olsen Gallery I was introduced to Clarissa Dalrymple by artist Sarah Charlesworth. [Clarissa and I] opened Cable Gallery in 1984. It was obviously a very different time compared to today. There was a real community and you were very close. There was much more connection with the artists etc. In ‘89 I opened my own gallery because Cable Gallery closed. We lost our artists and we were not very experienced and we were not funded.

At that time the relationship with artists also was balanced. There was a sort of reciprocity. I enjoyed the process of working with the artists, like going to their studio, creating the first show, nurturing them to have a career. Whereas now, you really have to perform for the artists because of what's happened to the market. Now this all takes place in three months, from the studio, to the first show, to an auction house sale.

I like being a facilitator, somebody in-between, and the way that the art world works now is much more alienating. Everybody knows how corporate it is and how many people work in galleries and all the art fairs. So, the focus is much more about the result, rather than really living through a creative process.

This slide is Green Street, Jimmy Durham. It was sort of a 20th century model, where there were three modes of communication: you showed up, you picked up the phone, or you send a letter. This was before the fax machine.

It's not a criticism. It’s just that now it's completely different. The way that it evolved, it became about the product. The public became much more interested in the resale and the monetary value of art. That became very stifling.

Then I moved to Chelsea in ‘98, and this is a slide with a Rashid Johnson, another show.

So the art world evolved from being much more of a community and people in the trade, to functioning much more like the rest of the economy, kind of global. And for me that was very stressful and not pleasurable on a daily basis.

And I also felt that the rules of it and the way that it functioned, weren't negotiable. You had really be in the art fairs, you had to have a schedule of shows, you had to really be part of it, and that got sort of blinding. Also the problems of participating in an art fair were another very difficult part. And the public now wants to buy en masse. They seem like they don't want to be confronted with the actual person and a one-on-one situation. Probably the Internet is playing a big factor.

And also if you go to an art fair, the artwork is seen by, I don't know how many - 60,000 people versus the number of people who pass by a gallery, which is much less. So, I think that's the reason why the artists want so much to be in art fairs. I did [participate in art fairs] at one point which was a few years before I closed, I took a smaller place on the ground floor on West 24th Street, because I was trying to change the way of functioning. So I took that as a project space and I decreased the number of artists that I was representing. But I didn't feel that solved the problem of that machine that I constantly feel that I have to feed and follow. I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I did know that I didn't want to continue in the system and the only way of not being part of the system was to get out of it.

So I closed in 2013. Before I closed I started to work with an artist called Brie Ruais. I thought it was a pity not to give her her first one person show, so I asked her if she agreed to do this with me as an independent if I rented a space, and she agreed. So that was basically my first venture as an independent. And the show was very successful and we still continue to work together, so I still represent her.

This slide is a show where we collaborated with Mesler Feuer in the Lower East Side. She currently has some new work at Rachel Uffner Gallery in the Lower East Side.

Then in 2015 I was introduced to Lee Quiñones, and within six months I found a space on the Lower East Side and showed drawings from the 70s and 80s. So that was the second pop-up.

Then Jeffrey Deitch came back to New York and reopened his gallery with a show of drawings and paintings by Cameron, which was shown in LA MoCA and I've been representing this estate since 2006.

I now work out of an office/showroom in Chelsea in the same place I used to have my gallery, funnily enough, and where I did a show of watercolors by Peter Schuyff.

I do find it again quite exciting because I felt there was no place to grow anymore. The mid-sized gallery is kind of disappearing, which is what I was. So, in this vast new horizon, I feel again excitement, a place to grow and some opportunities. I do represent a young artist, I work with a mid-career artist, Lee Quiñones. There are a lot of artists that don't have galleries, that have a career, and so there are lots of opportunities to intervene. I am back to a flexibility, a pace that I dictate, which I enjoy, and to reflect, to have relationships with people and not necessarily to be exclusively a conduit for the art market.

That’s kind of it. Thank you.


Jay GorneyJay Gorney

I’ve been a gallerist in New York in one form or another for over 30 years. I worked for Sidney Janis, for a gallery in the 70s called Hamilton Gallery. In 1985, I opened my Gallery, Jay Gorney Modern Art, on the Lower East Side, which then moved to SoHo in 1987.

I'll begin with this image of a group exhibition in my SoHo Gallery in 1988 and there you see reading from the left, Haim Steinback, those photographs from James Welling, Sarah Charlesworth and then a Meyer Weisman painting on the right.

I had my gallery in one form or another, Jay Gorney Modern Art and then later on in a partnership with John Lee and Karen Bravin, with Gorney Brown Lee for 20 years. Then for eight years I directed and created a contemporary program for Mitchell-Innes & Nash. I have been an independent for about three years now working in a few different ways, advising collectors, advising an estate and creating/organizing exhibitions. I'm beginning to work in a sustained way with an artist as an independent, as is Nicole, and will talk a little more about that.

This slide is Barbara Bloom’s installation called the Reign of Narcissism at my SoHo gallery in 1989. This is Barbara creating a vanity of a 19th century museum where everything is Barbara, her tombstone, her bust with the nose is broken off. This piece eventually went into the collection at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and traveled around the world to the Serpentine (London), and to Basel (Switzerland).

I showed this now deliberately because I’m beginning to work with Barbara in a sustained way, and we are going to organize an exhibition at David Lewis's gallery on the Lower East Side in this coming Spring. So again, different models for working with an artist.

This is an image of my Richard Prince exhibition in 1989. The reason I am showing this is because Barbara Gladstone was at that point representing Richard Prince across the street on Green Street and she said to me, “Well, I'm going to show the car hoods? Are you going to show joke paintings?” And I said yes, and there's an example of different models of collaboration, of changing things up a bit, and we did get them sold. They all got sold, they didn’t fly off the walls. They were I think in the range of $30-$45,000 dollars, if you’re curious.

This is a painting made in 2014 by a young artist named Matthew Cerletty, and Independent fair invited me to have a booth in 2014. The Independent is the kind of fair that will allow different types of art dealers to exhibit. I organized an exhibition of paintings by this young artist, who I think is really interesting and admirable. This went into a good New York collection. Matthew was recently seen in a group show at the Whitney Museum called Flatlands.

This is a painting by the artist Deborah Remington called Memphis. It was painted in 1969, and I organized a show with the help of Margaret Matthews-Berenson, who is here tonight and who is the curator of the Deborah Remington Charitable Trust at Wallspace Gallery. Sadly it was the last exhibition at Wallspace.

And this is a terrific painting that went into a very good New York collection. Memphis – I particularly like this painting.

Here's another view of that Wallspace show with a painting called March into Adelphi drawings, but the reason why I want to talked about Deborah a little bit, because I'm now working with the trust and have organized two exhibitions at Wallspace New York and Dennis Kimmerich's gallery in Berlin. And we are going to be opening a show of drawings of roughly a 50-year drawing survey of works from Deborah’s estate in Los Angeles at the Parrasch Heijnen Gallery, that will open next month. This will be my third exhibition as an independent, different venues of working with the same artist's estate. And this is a really sustained way of working with an artist at different galleries. And I think it does present an interesting model. I have enormous affection for the artist, whom I knew when I was a young man, and for the work.

This is a 1995 piece called Virtual Still Life #8 by the Chicago Imagist Roger Brown, for whom I've always had great affection. I am working again with Roger Brown’s estate and organized in 2015 a show of these particular pieces which were just wonderful and elegiac. It was towards the end of his life and he knew he was dying and he had collected these ceramics over his life and put them on these shelves against his paintings, really playing with your perceptions of the flat and the three dimensional. They’re stage sets in a way, and the show was at Maccarone in 1995, and had some very good reviews and went to a good New York collection. Again, a different model, creating exhibitions, working with artists I've always admired at other people’s galleries.

We can talk about why, but my feelings about closing my gallery are very close to Nicole's. I saw the handwriting on the wall. It was a changing business. It was probably fantastic for some people. I thought what it was becoming was not for me. I do think about it, about getting a traditional brick-and-mortar space, but I don't think so.

Sarah Charlesworth. I'm the advisor to the estate, I represented Sarah for about 20 years at my gallery along with Barbara Bloom, James Welling, Jessica Stockholder, Martha Rosler, and some other people. I stopped working with Mitchell-Innes & Nash about the same time as Sarah died, and her kids reached out to me, because I knew them from - one was a baby and one I knew when she was a bump. I've been advising the estate and I've worked with the Charlesworth estate through the first show at Maccarone, through the New Museum show, there is a show coming up at LA County, LACMA in 2017. I thought I would show this wonderful work by Sarah Charlesworth from 2009 called Camera Work.

I was invited back to do Independent, and I do have great affection for the Chicago Imagists, organized a show of Roger Brown and I was trying to figure out what I was going to do for Independent and with Mathew Cerletty. There was an unaffiliated artist and I was talking to my friend Derek Eller and said I have these wonderful Carl Wirsum drawings from the 60s from these particular sketchbooks and that sounds like a great Independent project, would you like to collaborate? So, this was an absolute collaboration, you see Jay Gorney and Derek Eller, he represents Carl Wirsum who is still alive and in Chicago. And this was a booth of Wirsum drawings from the 1960s. And it was very well received and we were very very happy with the result.

And we finish with yet another drawing by Deborah Remington. Adelphi series #13. This is a drawing from 1967. This is the show coming up, a drawing survey at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery. Franklin Parrasch has a New York space, and this is his Los Angeles space with his partner Chris Heijnen, and that will open in October. I mention this because this is an upcoming project. I feel privileged to be working on a third exhibition of this artist. It’s presenting a new model, which I think is what we are here to talk about tonight.

Thank you very much.

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