Meet the Gallerists | Gavin Brown


I think there’s something
quite awe-inspiring about an artist
in the first place. There’s a kind of
distilled sense of… of this really pure idea
of being a human. I came to New York expecting or having in my head
certain ideas about a community of people who were talking
to each other about proposals, about what it means to be there and then,
at that time. That’s what I wanted
with my life. And I couldn’t find it. So I guess I tried to make it. Harlem has an incredibly
rich cultural history. There is no other neighborhood
like it in the world. It has a lot of weight. And it made me then
look at what I was doing with newly-opened eyes,
in some ways. Then you start to think about
how flexible a gallery can be. What it is, what its role should be, could be going forward. Using this as a gathering place
to discuss very specific things, be it, you know,
pro bono lawyers at the border, parole, food deserts, whatever. I don’t want to be disconnected
to the lives of ordinary people in what I do here. I think we are
in a very profoundly dark time. I’m not an activist,
I’m not a politician. I’m able to do shows
and show art that I really believe in
at a very high level here. So having an extraordinary video
by Stan Douglas with that Sturtevant painting, that… that to me is the light, in some way. Where are we
making the great halls, the great meeting places, the great gathering places
to contemplate our existence? Ironically enough, they’re
contemporary art galleries now. One could say
there is an ambition to try and work the gallery
as hard as it can be worked. That we are in a place
where art is in danger. And so, in order for it to become
truly free or off the leash, it has to almost
destroy its own environment. On the other hand,
I love a show of paintings. I love painting. There are works
that have a connection with one’s own
personal narrative. There are works that you have
certain revelatory moments with. The bottles downstairs. I put them in the show,
Rirkrit and Andy Warhol in ’94. The bottles and the picture
of Chairman Mao. That work is a kind
of talisman for me, in that it kind of cracked
something in my head in terms of my understanding
of what art was before seeing that
and afterwards. They have no material
at all to it in a way. He never put his hands on them. They’re beyond a ready-made, but they still have
this totemic sense to them. I don’t know
what a gallery is anymore. There are no guarantees of anything being of any importance in the next,
you know… beyond tomorrow. And I love all these ideas
of the proposition of what is meaningful
to us today. I think it has to have… It has to take the risk
of not being meaningful. So I guess if a gallery’s
doing things, it’s putting… it’s proposing… these notions that… And I think they’re all ways for us altogether to put
one foot in front of the other.

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