Anthony Allen, director of Paula Cooper Gallery, explores changes in the gallery world and art market
PAULA COOPER OPENED HER FIRST GALLERY IN 1968 IN SOHO – SETTING A PRECEDENCE OF INDEPENDENCE AND IDEALISM THAT CHARACTERIZES THE HISTORY OF THE GALLERY AND CONTINUES IN FULL FORCE TODAY. THE GALLERY SERVES TO INTRODUCE AND SUSTAIN NOT ONLY ARTISTS OF UNIQUE VISION AND AESTHETIC INTEGRITY BUT ALSO PLAYS A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN THE COMMUNITY SUPPORTING THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL CAUSES THAT RESONATE WITH PAULA. SINCE ITS INCEPTION, PAULA COOPER GALLERY HAS INTRODUCED THE WORK OF NUMEROUS ARTISTS, NOW INTERNATIONALLY RESPECTED LUMINARIES, AND JUDICIOUSLY ADDS NEW TALENT TO THE GALLERY ROSTER. LAUNCHING REMARKABLE MUSEUM QUALITY EXHIBITIONS, FOR EXAMPLE, THE GALLERY STAYED OPEN CONTINUOUSLY IN JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2011, GIVING THE ART COMMUNITY THE OPPORTUNITY TO VIEW CHRISTIAN MARCLAY’S, “THE CLOCK”, THE EXTRAORDINARY 24-HOUR FILM THAT WEAVES TOGETHER THOUSANDS OF IMAGES AND MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA AND TELEVISION, EACH CLIP MARKING THE PRECISE MOMENT THAT THE VIEWER IS EXPERIENCING IN REAL TIME. THIS WORK WENT ON TO THE CENTRE POMPIDOU IN PARIS AND THE MONTREAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART. http://www.paulacoopergallery.com/
TODAY, WE ARE FORTUNATE TO CONTINUE OUR CONVERSATION WITH ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, ANTHONY ALLEN, ON THE EVOLUTION OF THE GALLERY IN TODAY’S WORLD AND THE CULTURE AND CHARACTER OF OUR CURRENT ART MARKET.
ANTHONY, IN 1999, THE GALLERY OPENED A SECOND SPACE ACROSS THE STREET ON 21st. DOES THIS SPACE HAVE A DISTINCT AND SEPARATE CHARACTER AND FUNCTION FOR THE GALLERY?
Our second space has different proportions and a different layout, and it gives us more flexibility in scheduling different kinds of exhibitions. Each space has its own set of challenges and opportunities, its light, its ‘flow’, etc. We also maintained a smaller third space on 23rd Street – perfect for projects and very focused exhibitions – and since September 2013 we’ve had a temporary ‘pop-up’ space on 10th Avenue, which we’ve just closed. The pop-up space allowed us to present an exhibition of early Alan Shields works, to commission a new performance and video piece by Liz Magic Laser, and to do one-person exhibitions with Liz Glynn, Beatrice Caracciolo and Justin Matherly. We like to expand and stay local at the same time! It’s really about taking advantage of opportunities, whether it is about giving additional visibility to our artists or going out on a limb and doing something new and unexpected.
THE ART WORLD HAS CHANGED RADICALLY SINCE PAULA COOPER OPENED, NOW GLOBAL IN SCOPE, WITH GALLERIES, ART FAIRS, MUSEUMS, COLLECTORS, ADVISORS AND AUCTION HOUSES ACTIVELY APPROACHING, PURSUING AND ENGAGING IN A WORLD WIDE DIALOGUE. HOW DO YOU SEE THE GALLERY’S ROLE IN EMBRACING AND PERSONALIZING THESE ENORMOUS SHIFTS IN THE ART MARKET?
I think these shifts are exciting to the extent that they attest to contemporary art’s greater visibility overall. But there is a real risk of “depersonalization”. We participate in art fairs, but selectively. For the last decade or so, we’ve done three a year (Art Basel, Art Basel Miami and FIAC). This year we’re adding Frieze Masters to the mix. But our primary focus remains our gallery program and our exhibitions. We also try to use Internet in a way that suits the gallery and the needs of our artists best – we’re developing our presence on the web and on social media, etc. The challenge is to take advantage of these shifts while at the same time remaining first and foremost a “real” space that people visit to have a direct and immediate experience with art.
WHAT ARTISTS DOES THE GALLERY REPRESENT NOW? WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE THE ARTISTS AS SHARING THE CONCEPTUAL AND MINIMAL SENSIBILITY OF THE ORIGINAL ROSTER OR IS THE PRIORITY QUALITATIVE OR REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CURRENT DIVERSITY OF STYLES, MEDIUMS AND ART FORMS?
The terms conceptual and minimal have become much too broad to describe anything. The gallery’s program has always been more independent, and even more eccentric, than these labels imply, though it is unified by Paula’s vision and sensibility. The artists we represent today, each in their own way, express an expanded idea of art that has its roots in the art of the 1960s and 1970s but continues to evolve and respond to the social and political, as well as material and technological shifts of the 21st century. An artist like Kelley Walker, for example, is acutely aware of Warhol’s legacy, but filters or reworks that legacy through a markedly 21st-century prism.
AS THE ART WORLD HAS SHIFTED TO A GLOBAL ENTITY SIGNIFICANT IN BOTH AESTHETIC AND ECONOMIC INFLUENCE, IN THE NEXT LRFA BLOG, ANTHONY WILL EXPLORE THE IMPACT OF THESE CHANGES ON THE GALLERY AND ITS PLANS FOR THE FUTURE.
I LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR COMMENTS AND HOPE TO ANSWER ANY AND ALL QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT.