IN 2012, SEAN KELLY OPENED A NEW 22,000 SQUARE FOOT SPACE AT 475 TENTH AVENUE IN A HISTORIC 1914 BUILDING. THE TWO-STORY GALLERY WAS THE FIRST OF ITS KIND IN THE DEVELOPING HUDSON YARDS NEIGHBORHOOD, AND INCLUDES 16-FOOR CEILINGS, A MAIN GALLERY FEATURING 2,900 SQ FT OF EXHIBITION SPACE AS WELL AS ADDITIONAL PROJECT SPACES AND A BLACK-BOX THEATER.
DESIGNED BY AWARD-WINNING ARCHITECT TOSHIKO MORI, WHICH OPENED WITH A SERIES OF EVENTS CULMINATING IN ITS INAUGURAL EXHIBITION, BODYSPACE, OF THE SCULPTURE OF ANTHONY GORMLEY. AFTER TWENTY YEARS AS A GALLERIST, SEAN KELLY WAS ABLE TO ARTICULATE THE IDEAL EXHIBITION AND STORAGE SPACE FOR HIS ARTISTS AND HIS STAFF. AND TOSHIKO MORI WAS HIGHLY QUALIFIED TO REALIZE IT. SHE WAS AWARDED THE AIA DESIGN AWARD IN INTERIORS FOR HER UNIQUE ARCHITECTURAL APPROACH TO THE HUDSON YARDS LOCATION.
Toshiko Mori immigrated to the United States as a teen in the 1960s, and is highly regarded for infusing American and Japanese modernism in her poetic approach. “Architecture is multidisciplinary and therefore there are many sources of inspiration. I never dream up in a vacuum,” said the Harvard professor, in a recent interview with ArchDaily. “There are so many conditions and constraints. There is a client, site, program, and so on. But aesthetically, my inspiration goes back to Japanese traditional architecture, which has a sense of clarity and tectonics. That’s my DNA.”
Mori has designed residences for many an art fixture—including gallerist Sean Kelly and fashion designer Tomas Maier—as well as numerous academic and cultural institutions.
TODAY, CECILE PANZIERI, SENIOR PARTNER AT SEAN KELLY, ENRICHES OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE ARCHITECTURAL PROCESS TO CREATE THIS LANDMARK GALLERY SPACE.CECILE, WELCOME BACK!
THE GALLERY ALSO IS REPRESENTATIVE OF A WIDE RANGE OF MEDIUMS, PAINTING, SCULPTURE, PHOTOGRAPHY, INSTALLATION? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CRITERIA THAT YOU LOOK FOR WHEN CONSIDERING AN ARTIST’S WORK? We think that it is important to have a balanced representation of all media, but we tend not to give too much importance to this. Most important is whether the work of an artist has relevance and would be a good “fit” for what the gallery represents and stands for. It is hard to fully describe what the “right fit” is but we instinctively recognize it.
YOUR MOVE TO 36th STREET AND 10th AVENUE WAS PRESCIENT. WHAT PROMPTED THE MOVE AND HOW DID YOU MAKE A DECISION TO MOVE OUT OF CHELSEA AT THE TIME?
We moved to our current location in October 2012, almost 8 years ago. We did so because our lease on 29th street could not be renewed: the owners wanted to sell (and did). At the time, this was pre Hurricane Katrina, finding the right space in Chelsea was very difficult, and the options for ground floor spaces meant much higher rents for less space and very costly renovations. We heard that Exit Art was looking to leave their location following the passing of its founder, Jeanette Ingberman. We went to visit the space and immediately saw that it offered great possibilities for the gallery’s continued growth (the gallery has a total of 22,000 square feet). We did not hesitate.
We knew that at some point Hudson Yards would emerge, but back then it was nonexistent. We were used to being on the edge of what was SoHo and then Chelsea, and did not mind moving further north. Known to be a gallery destination, we were confident that we would be able to continue to attract existing as well as new visitors. A noticeable change to visitorship, because of the ease of access it provided, is the extension of the 7 subway line, and the opening of restaurants, food courts and salad bars in and around Hudson Yards.
TELL US ABOUT THE ARCHITECTURAL PROCESS IN RENOVATING A SPACE THAT HAS TURNED OUT TO BE SO BEAUTIFUL AND FUNCTIONAL?
Sean loves architecture and understands what a space can and should do. Working with Toshiko Mori, whom he had known for many years and who had designed his residence upstate, is something that he really wanted to do. Sean and Toshiko have great aesthetic and intellectual affinities, and share a kinship for what design must do for art, their maker, and the viewer. It was a very exciting project to be closely involved with which was realized in record breaking time. As you know, both my glass walled office and that of another director, are right up front behind the reception desk: we are deliberately visible and accessible, and found that even a hand wave or smile while on the phone or in our office is very appreciated as it humanizes the gallery visit.
WHAT DOES A GALLERY THAT IS SO EXTENSIVE IN SIZE AND VIEWING AND STORAGE SPACE AFFORD THE GALLERY IN TERMS OF EXHIBITIONS?
When we were thinking about the new space, we wanted to retain the flexibility and versatility of our space on 29th street. We designed 3 exhibition spaces that could be all used or not by an artist (2 on the ground floor, one on our downstairs floor), a very large storage in our downstairs floor, and private viewing spaces and open offices. The gallery space has worked very well.
In order to adapt to the changes to how we do what we do brought on by the Covid 19 pandemic, we will use one of the exhibition spaces for “remote” viewings, and for the photography and video of artworks to provide as much visual information about an artwork of interest to collectors, and to broaden the visual presence of our artists on our website and on the art fairs’ on-line viewing rooms.
IN OUR NEXT LRFA BLOG POST, CECILE WILL EXPLORE SOME OF THE WAYS IN WHICH THE GALLERY HAS ADAPTED TO THE RESTRICTIONS THAT ARISE FROM COVID-19 AND THEIR EXPANSION OF ONLINE ACCESS TO SEAN KELLY GALLERY.
THANK YOU FOR FOLLOWING!