Luhring Augustine’s Lauren Wittels documents her commitment to the arts and to artists

by leslierankowfinearts

Lauren Wittels Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York

Lauren Wittels
Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York

LUHRING AUGUSTINE IS A GALLERY THAT HAS EARNED ITS OUTSTANDING REPUTATION AS A STRONGHOLD OF INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY ART. THE GALLERY ARTISTS CONSISTENTLY RECEIVE SUCH HIGH RECOGNITION AS INCLUSION IN SUCH PRESTIGIOUS VENUES AS THE VENICE BIENNALE, CARNEGIE INTERNATIONAL AND DOCUMENTA. A 30-YEAR PARTNERSHIP FORMED BY LAWRENCE R. LUHRING AND ROLAND J. AUGUSTINE, THE GALLERY HAS THE LOYALTY OF SUCH STELLAR ARTISTS AS CHRISTOPHER WOOL, RACHEL WHITEREAD AND GLENN LIGON AND A GROUP OF UNIQUE AND INNOVATIVE CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS SUCH AS TOM FRIEDMAN AND DAVID MUSGRAVE, WORKING IN A DIVERSITY OF MEDIUMS THAT INCLUDE PAINTING, SCULPTURE, VIDEO, PHOTOGRAPHY, AND INSTALLATION ART.

IT IS A PLEASURE TO INTRODUCE LAUREN WITTELS, SENIOR DIRECTOR AT LUHRING AUGUSTINE, WHOSE KNOWLEDGE OF ART AND THE ART WORLD IS AS FAR-REACHING AS HER DEDICATION AND COMMITMENT TO THE GALLERY ARTISTS IS IMPRESSIVE.

LAUREN, THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE LRFA BLOG.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST START AT LUHRING AUGUSTINE? WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE YOU JOINED THE GALLERY?

I started working at Luhring Augustine in June 1989, a few weeks after graduating from Columbia. I was studying Northern Renaissance painting as an undergrad, and my plan was to find a job for one year until I could start graduate school; my goal was to earn my PhD and become an art history professor. I wound up staying at Luhring Augustine all through graduate school on a full- and part-time basis; I went a semester or two past my MA degree and then decided to come back full-time to the contemporary art world. I had become somewhat addicted to working with contemporary art and living artists and functioning in a public space – the thought of devoting myself to academia exclusively had become completely untenable.

In early 1994, I opened a gallery three days per week; it was open Saturdays through Mondays. I worked at Luhring Augustine five days per week (Michele Maccarone was my gallery sitter on Saturdays) and then at my own gallery on Sundays and Mondays. In 1995 I decided to leave Luhring Augustine and go for it full-time as a dealer. By 1997, I had run out of money and felt incredibly dispassioned about being a dealer, so I closed the gallery. I spent several years at the Citibank Private Bank Art Advisory Service as their contemporary art expert, and then I started a non-profit artist’s book publishing organization, Regency Arts Press Ltd., which I ran from 2003 through 2011. That’s when I came back full-time to Luhring Augustine as a director. It’s been a wonderful return.

Tom Friedman, Untitled (Video Camera), 2012 Wood and paint 63 1/2 x 44 1/2 x 44 1/2 inches

Tom Friedman, Untitled (Video Camera), 2012
Wood and paint
63 1/2 x 44 1/2 x 44 1/2 inches

WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU HAD AN INTEREST IN ART AND WANTED TO PURSUE A PROFESSIONAL CAREER IN THE ARTS? WHAT WAS THE PATH YOU TOOK TO REACH YOUR CURRENT POSITION?

My very first interactions with art were at MoMA when I was in elementary school – I remember seeing Desmoiselles D’Avignon for the first time and feeling like the floor beneath my feet had dropped away; it was that visceral. And I had never heard of Picasso or that painting – it was a completely intuitive response. In high school I took my first art history course and became completely hooked – the moment I knew I was hooked was when I saw a connection between a Berthe Morisot painting and the Madonna and Child; that was all I needed.

Ironically, I worked as a front-desk person for a gallery the summer after high school – that would have been 1985, Anne Plumb Gallery on Greene Street – and I really hated it. It was the summer, and nothing was going on; I learned how to thoroughly read the New York Times that summer. I swore I would never work in a gallery again, but we now know how that turned out.

When I graduated from Columbia, I was completely unsure how I was going to make money for the year before graduate school. A grad student I knew told me about two jobs open at galleries – Pat Hearn and Luhring Augustine – and even though gallery work was at the bottom of my list of potential job opportunities, right under scooping ice cream, I wrote them both letters (letters!) and sent my resume; Luhring Augustine called me, interviewed me, and hired me, all within a week.

CLEARLY, THE GALLERY HAS GREAT INSTINCTS NOT ONLY FOR BRILLIANT ARTISTS BUT ALSO IN STAFFING THEIR BUSINESS.  IN OUR NEXT BLOG, LAUREN WILL DETAIL THE STRUCTURE OF THE GALLERY AND ITS APPROACH TO IDENTIFYING AND REPRESENTING CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS OF UNIQUE QUALITY AND COMMITMENT.

LAUREN IS A WONDERFUL RESOURCE FOR INFORMATION ON ART AND ARTISTS.  I KNOW SHE WILL ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS WITH INSIGHT AND EXPERTISE.

FIRE AWAY!