Luhring Augustine: an insider’s view on the gallery structure
SINCE ITS FOUNDING IN 1985 BY LAWRENCE R. LUHRING AND ROLAND J. AUGUSTINE, LUHRING AUGUSTINE GALLERY, LOCATED IN CHELSEA ON 25TH STREET, HAS GAINED GREAT CRITICAL RESPECT FOR ITS EXHIBITIONS OF CONTEMPORARY MASTERS, MARCEL DUCHAMP (1987), GERHARD RICHTER (1994), AND MARTIN KIPPENBERGER (2005), TO NAME A FEW, WHO SERVE AS HISTORICAL ANTECEDENTS FOR THE GALLERY’S CONTEMPORARY PROGRAM. THE GALLERY’S RECENTLY OPENED SECOND LOCATION IN BUSHWICK, BROOKLYN, UNDERLINES THEIR CONTINUED COMMITMENT TO THE ARTISTS THEY REPRESENT PROVIDING EXHIBITION SPACE FOR LARGE-SCALE INSTALLATION AND LONG-TERM PROJECTS.
LUHRING AUGUSTINE’S OWNERS AND STAFF ARE CONSTANTLY LOOKING AT WORK, EVALUATING IT AND EXPLORING WHETHER IT WOULD FURTHER ENHANCE THE BROAD SPECTRUM OF TALENT AND DIVERSITY OF MEDIUMS THAT CHARACTERIZE THE GALLERY ARTISTS THEY REPRESENT. IN TODAY’S POST, LAUREN WITTELS, SENIOR DIRECTOR, DESCRIBES THE GALLERY’S STRICT CURATORIAL MODEL FOR BOTH ITS EXHIBITION PROGRAM AND ROSTER OF ARTISTS.
LAUREN, THANK YOU FOR OUR CONTINUING DIALOGUE.
WHAT WOULD YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS BE FOR SOMEONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN THE GALLERY WORLD? DO YOU THINK IT IS NECESSARY TO HAVE AUCTION HOUSE EXPERIENCE AND BE ACQUAINTED WITH A WIDE RANGE OF COLLECTORS BEFORE ELECTING TO WORK IN A GALLERY?
I think the main thing you need to work in a gallery is a really strong interest in contemporary art and the energy and ambition to run all over the city looking at it and thinking about it. When we interview candidates for entry-level positions here, we are always impressed by the candidates who can talk about contemporary art in a meaningful way; who have a list of artists and/or galleries who interest them; who know our program at least to some degree. Auction house experience has almost no crossover with an entry-level gallery position, in my opinion. Funnily enough, I had no knowledge of contemporary art when I applied to Luhring Augustine, but it was a different time, and those entry-level jobs were hardly as highly prized and competitive as they are now.
WHAT WOULD YOU DESCRIBE AS THE MAIN FOCUS OF THE GALLERY? IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU SUPPORT THE ARTISTS THE GALLERY REPRESENTS?
Luhring Augustine is dedicated to developing long-term, meaningful relationships with artists and to ensuring their work is presented as faithfully to the artist’s intentions as possible. The gallery is also deeply invested in communicating work to the public that deserves an audience and attention, as much as that may or may not intersect with the marketplace.
HOW DO YOU STAY CURRENT WITH THE WORK OF OTHER ARTISTS THAT YOU MIGHT CONSIDER FOR THE GALLERY? IS THAT A ROLE IN WHICH ALL OF THE STAFF PARTICIPATE OR IS IT LIMITED TO A FEW?
Everyone on the staff – from the receptionist to the directors – are extracurricular art viewers. We all spend our free time going to see galleries, museums, temporary installations, and artists’ studios, then we discuss and share what we liked, what we didn’t. As for me specifically, most of my friends are artists, so that means I am very often in people’s studios, talking about work and keeping my eye fresh. Roland and Lawrence are very interested in us all making recommendations to them about artists to consider. They of course welcome all of our suggestions, but we try to be very judicious in terms of directing them towards artists who make sense with our program and the gallery interests.
WHAT IS THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS OF THE GALLERY IN TERMS OF TAKING ON NEW ARTISTS? DO YOU START TO INTRODUCE THEIR WORK IN A GROUP SHOW OR FOLLOW THE WORK IN OTHER VENUES AND MAKE A DECISION TO REPRESENT THEM EXCLUSIVELY?
Both Roland and Lawrence have to be fully on board with the decision to take on a new artist. They are constantly being given recommendations by curators, collectors, critics, friends, artists, and staff. Typically only one of them will visit the studio first, but with a director along too. If things go well, the other will visit with one or two of the directors. At that point, the situation is typically pretty apparent, and they know if they should move forward or not.
Assuming representation of an artist is such a serious commitment, it doesn’t happen very often and is treated with the utmost seriousness by Roland and Lawrence. So, sometimes a group exhibition is the perfect way to test out the relationship – we see how they work, and they see how we work. Other times fortuitousness is involved, and there might be an open slot in the schedule that a new artist can be dropped into. It’s different with every artist, of course.
LUHRING AUGUSTINE ORGANIZES THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF ITS STAFF DIFFERENTLY THAN OTHER GALLERIES WITH WHOM I WORK. ORDINARILY, AT LEAST IN MY EXPERIENCE, THE WORKING RELATIONSHIP IS BETWEEN ME AND ONE OF THE OWNERS OR STAFF OF A GALLERY WHO HANDLES ALL OF MY INQUIRIES ABOUT EACH OF THE ARTISTS THEY REPRESENT AND MEETS WITH ME AND MY CLIENTS.
IN THE NEXT LRFA BLOG, LAUREN WILL DETAIL THE UNIQUE WAY IN WHICH LUHRING AUGUSTINE IS STRUCTURED. LAUREN IS A DEDICATED GALLERIST AND ALWAYS SO AVAILABLE TO ANSWER MY EVERY QUESTION AND REQUEST. I KNOW SHE WILL OFFER YOU THE SAME GENEROSITY OF TIME AND EXPERTISE.