Discovery Series: 30 UNDER 40 EMERGING ART MAVENS
(June 14, 2011) As art lovers flock to Art Basel and the Venice Biennale to see who is buying what and for how much, we decided to highlight a group of talented professionals who are significantly impacting the future of art from beyond art world’s center stage. They live and work in places like: Bushwick, Koreatown, Yerba Buena, London’s Shoreditch and Chicago’s Arts District. After many months of lengthy debate, research and tough decisions, we have compiled this list of 30 emerging art influencers, all under 40 years old, who we believe embody the best cross-section of international art mavens. A diverse spectrum of artists, curators, advisors and collectors, each of these individuals has displayed their emergence with a similar passion for extending the boundaries of art. These influencers are emblematic of our mission here at COMPANY; they are not interested in re-telling “what is” but rather they help the rest of us discover “what will be.”
For those of you with ADD, here's the list at a glance (in alphabetical order):
Our first pick, Blaise Niosi is devoted to helping emerging artists advance their careers. As CEO and founder of Blaise and Co, she searches for emerging artists who challenge and inspire her through their visual prowess and sense of ambition. "I look for a sense of rigor in an artist's work; I like artists who push themselves and others to self-reflect and question." Blaise encourages collectors to seek out emerging art even though her established collectors sometimes seek “bigger” names. “Developing a collection,” she says, is "a wonderful litmus test for the collector to determine where his or her sense of fearless passion is founded. To acquire an established blue-chip artist will no doubt make your heart skip a beat, but there is a different certain sense of empowerment that the collector derives from influencing and constructing an emerging artist's market in real time."
Founder and CEO of trans-media agency Culture Shock Marketing, Debra Anderson’s passion for art has merged with her desire to provide platforms for artists, galleries, and creative projects to engage with new audiences. We love Debra’s persuasive case for the use of new technologies in the advocacy of new art. She points out that social media provides enabling platforms that remove the barriers to communication and encourage the growth of a new kind of art community and discourse. “Instead of bringing people to museums and institutions we need to think about bringing museums and institutions to people.” Housing a small collection herself, Debra is a strong believer in being daring when buying art. “It's more important than ever that collectors don't play safe. Art needs risk takers on both sides of the spectrum. Art needs champions and mavericks who are not afraid to tear up the rule book.” Amen.
Amanda Schneider is the founder and director of the ground-breaking Dunham Place Salon, an art and design gallery in Williamsburg that works with emerging and established artists. Drawing on her experiences working as Paul Kasmin’s top lieutenant for 4 years and as an artist liaison for Lehmann Maupin Gallery, Amanda decided to establish her own venture to focus on collaborating and guiding emerging artists. We love Dunham Place’s informal part-gallery-part-home environment, and her belief in the intimate setting for experiencing art rather than the sterile “white box.” Amanda is also responsible for the “table environment” installation at the recent Brooklyn Museum Artist Ball.
Our next pick, Elektra, stands out in any crowd as a vegan feminist artist and singer for a NYC based punk-darkwave band called Rosa Apatrida. Born in the Ukraine and raised in Colombia, Elektra spent her childhood roaming through the rural hospitals where her parents worked as doctors. Even then, she knew she wanted to be an artist. COMPANY CEO CJ Follini discovered her work at the School of Visual Arts BFA open studios, where it stood clearly apart from the rest. “Elektra’s passion is manifested in her work, and she experiences no separation between art and life as her work conveys her voice so clearly that you are transfixed by its ferocity.” Her art is executed in a variety of materials and speaks from her feminist perspective on the human capacity for barbarity, including war, oppression, genocide, sexual aggression, and neocolonialism. Elektra seeks to provide others a window into the true reality of the world as she sees it through her art.
Federico Solmi stands out as a multi-media artist even amongst the exploding popularity of video art from a YouTube generation. His satirical installations incorporate video, drawings, mechanical sculptures and paintings in an effort to portray a dystopian vision of present day society. His collages pull from the video game industry, pop culture, and the internet, though he says he is “very skeptical about what's hip or hot today.” Fede’s works antagonize the viewer with their irreverent, explicit nature, and we find his works as extravagant, rowdy, and as ironic as he. Fede was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 2009, and his videos are featured in the 54th Venice Biennial. While creating, he never thinks about where his finished pieces will end up, however Federico makes an effort to keep in touch with his collectors. “For me, it is very important to have a dialogue with the people that are supporting me and my career.”
While the Armory Show at the Piers is NY Art Week’s 800-pound gorilla, we connected more with a little show off the beaten path. The Fountain Art Fair was founded in 2006 by John Leo and David Kesting and provides an equal playing field for independently run galleries that deserve exposure to international collectors. Since inception, Fountain has held 12 exhibitions throughout Miami, Chicago, and New York. Fountain brings a raw and occasionally combative energy which inspires a younger demographic as well as engaging the seasoned collector. As John Leo says, “Emerging art is what is most current. It is fast paced and high energy. There seems to be a lack of young artists at the larger fairs and this is a niche that Fountain fills.” We agree and can’t wait to discover Fountain 2012.
London born and based artist Gordon Cheung caught our eyes with his ability to balance spiritual undertones alongside diverse contemporary images. Though mainly a painter, Gordon also uses video animation and sculpture in his work to form epic techno-sublime vistas that oscillate between utopia and dystopia. Gordon graduated from the Royal College of Art and exhibits internationally. He was highlighted in The British Art Show 6, as well as The John Moores Painting 24 and we feel that he is on the cusp of greatness. COMPANY admires Gordon’s strong relationships with those who collect his work: “I consider them friends, especially because they understand my work and connect to it at a deep level. Experiencing the collection of a passionate collector is like seeing the refractions and reflections in a crystal, revealing multiple sides of them as a human being. All of this is very inspiring.” His forthcoming solo show, ‘The Light that Burns Twice as Bright,’ will be at London’s Alan Cristea Gallery in September.
Our decision to include glass artist Graham Caldwell was not immediately obvious but ultimately unanimous. We challenge anyone who experiences Graham’s work not to be entranced by his use of the medium or dare consider it decorative. When he first saw glassblowing in action at Urban Glass in Brooklyn, Graham tells COMPANY that he was spellbound by their visceral, organic sculptures. The Rhode Island School of Design graduate not only highlights glass’ ability to act as a conduit or modulating agent for sight, but his work can be reminiscent of bone, plant tendrils, or blood vessels being gently pulled by gravity. “Three dimensional artworks generate an experience with the viewer that has its basis in physicality, you must move around a sculpture in space in order to understand it, very different from looking at a flat surface or a screen.” We are definitely looking forward to his solo show this September at Martos Gallery in New York.
We have been following the roguish Happy Famous Artists for quite some time and we love their snarky yet insightful commentary. Their rowdy blog displays their excellent taste never fails to turn us onto new artists especially in Europe. The three current contributors, Intelligensius Anarchus, The Great Attractor and Rick B. believe that the value of emerging art lies in the art itself. “For emerging artists you try to find the symbolic value of their work and hope the economic value will follow, for established artists you ask if with their economic successes they are still culturally relevant.”
According to HFA, the internet and social media have enabled artists to become less dependent on classical channels of promotion and distribution of their work. Technology has also affected dealers (Gagosian is launching his own iPad app this month), and has provided collectors with new ways to explore art. That being said, personal relationships are irreplaceable. “The relationship and trust one builds with fellow collectors is still key. Technology is only secondary to this.”
We met curator Herb Tam while visiting Exit Art’s Outer Space benefit. Herb has since moved on to be Curator and Director of Exhibitions at the Museum of Chinese in America in New York, where he is excited to contribute to the museum’s growth. Previously, Herb also curated for the Queens Museum of New York. His projects include "Alternative Histories," a 50-year survey of the history of alternative spaces in New York, "Summer Mixtape Colume 1," an exhibition exploring the role of pop music in the work of emerging artists, and "Queens International: Everything All at Once," a biennial of Queens based emerging artists.
Herb views both galleries and museums as venues that teach the public about work that's happening right now. “Some do an excellent job of putting that work in a context that reveals much about the work and why it was made. In reality there's not an opposing relationship, but rather an overlapping of responsibilities.”
Hrag Vartanian is editor at Hyperallergic, an influential Brooklyn, NY-based blogazine about Emerging Art. Hrag feels that working with emerging artists is about excitement and discovery, and he takes to the streets to hunt for new artists which is where COMPANY CEO CJ Follini recently ran into him at Bushwick Open Studios. Born in Syria and raised in Canada, Vartanian also contributes to Art21, Boldtype, The Brooklyn Rail, the Huffington Post, and NYFA Current. He is a board member of the Triangle Arts Association and volunteers for various arts organizations.
Hrag enjoys the element of surprise he finds when writing about new artists. Unlike established talents who have developed a signature style, talking with emerging artists can be rewarding because “they're so open to change and new things that there is a great opportunity to have very deep conversations about their work or art.” Hrag also believes that emerging art collectors often have a more rewarding experience than bigwig collectors. “The more influential collector is the one who takes a chance on an artist that is an unknown quantity. Those are the people who make the difference in the lives of artists and an art scene. Those are the people who really, deep down, know the most about art.” All of us at COMPANY could not agree more.
Recent graduate Jason Bard Yarmosky blew us away with his recent solo show, Elder Kinder, at Like the Spice Gallery in Brooklyn. Jason recruited his Brooklynite grandparents as models for this series, and portrays them in an assortment of playful costumes in an effort to address innocence at both ends of the generational spectrum. With notable painterly influence from old masters, these bizarre yet intimate oil and charcoal portraits include grandma as a sweet faced Viking ballerina, and gramps going full-on Batman – endearing or creepy, you can take your pick (personally, we find them sweet). Jason is aware to viewer’s reactions to his paintings, but does not let that affect his work. “I create art that is meaningful to me, and in turn, to a larger audience of viewers and collectors.”
We’ve been fans of Jazz-minh Moore’s ephemeral, ferocious, and emotionally rich paintings for some time. Based in New York, Jazz-minh received her BFA from Cornish College, and her MFA from California State Long Beach. Born on a hippie commune and Oregon and raised on a dirt road in the outskirts of San Diego, Jazz-minh draws her inspiration from the complicated nature vs. culture dialectic in contemporary society. Jazz-minh is a proud member of the Gutbox collective, and is represented by Lyons Wier Gallery in NYC, where she will be participating in a group show “24/7” opening June 16th. She is also preparing for a solo show at Lyons Wier in 2012.
Jazz-Minh strives to place her work with collectors who feel an emotional connection to the piece. “It's like placing a foster child in the right home. I want my paintings to have families of their own to love and care for them. It's also really satisfying to sell work outside of New York, to unknown collectors. I imagine that my painting is hanging in some bungalow in Louisiana, or an apartment Seattle, or a tiny flat in Paris.”
At a critical point for the contemporary arts department of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Jen Mergel not only guided the expansion of the contemporary arts presence, but pushed to re-examine what contemporary art could be at a museum. A true scholar of the arts, Jen taught at Harvard and Boston Universities, has curated for the Whitney Bienniale, and has served as a guest lecturer, curator and juror at many national organizations.
Jen’s academic rigor and efforts to define and redefine art are critical to the discovery and understanding the work of emerging artists – collectors like us look to curators like Jen to provide the scholarship supporting our intuitive choices. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to work with such a phenomenal network of colleagues and patrons to develop the MFA’s bold new vision for contemporary art, and further enrich and expand Boston’s cultural landscape.” The Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art is opening this fall.
Kate Eric is the collaborative identity of Kate Tedman and Eric Siemens. This couple shares a uniquely inter-dependent artistic relationship, a long term collaborative partnership that results in unpredictable, organic works. As an artist “team,” it is no wonder that they draw inspiration from the duality in the world around them: “We enjoy looking at interactions of any sort, whether they are between a cartoon dandy and a banana peel, a new idea and a preconceived notion, or oxygen and hydrogen. It is the commonality in these interactions that fascinates us. Recognizable figures in our work are subject to the same forces and limited to the same intelligence as pool balls in a roller-skating rink - a series of equal and opposite reactions that lead to some eventual destruction.”
Their history is as compelling as their paintings. They began creating art together on a whim in Barcelona as an emergency attempt to gain funds for Kate’s journey home to England after her car exploded in the South of France. A gallery owner liked the pieces and offered to show them at his gallery in London, and they have been a dream team collaborative art duo ever since. Currently their time is split between San Francisco and rural Italy. It is rumored that Eric is also an artist in the kitchen; we hope to find out if his culinary skills match their artistic future.
Our next selection stands out because of her bold take on a uniquely challenging space. Lauren Ross left traditional spaces behind after a stint as Interim Curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum and as the Director/Chief Curator of White Columns and is currently the curator and director of New York’s High Line. This extraordinary elevated public park is built on the site of a former railroad track and runs straight through neighborhoods filled with blue-chip art galleries, design studios, non-profit art spaces and theaters, so it is no surprise that artists were some of the first to help save the High Line from demolition. Lauren’s work helps to keep this partnership between artists and the public space strong and visible, including commissioning new, site-specific works by artists such as Sarah Sze, Demetrius Oliver, and Valerie Hegarty.
“For an artist, the park is a chance to reach an enormous audience. For the public, it’s a chance to have an unexpected and thoughtful encounter that might be surprising and perspective-changing.” She also points out that the public element can work favorably for emerging artists, “For better or for worse, people will judge work they find in public space on its own merits, free of certain contextualizing factors, including level of establishment.” Lauren tells us there are some exciting initiatives led by public agencies on the horizon for emerging artists, including the New York City Parks’ Clare Weiss Emerging Artist Award set to debut soon.
Michelle Tillou, co-owner of Kinz + Tillou Fine Art, won us over with her year-in year-out support of emerging artists of all stripes. With her BA from American University and an MA from FIT, she recently curated “In the Distance,” a well-received exhibition featuring Nan Goldin, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, David Wojnarowicz and Spencer Tunick. Her gallery’s lease ended and Michelle began facilitating exhibition projects in pop up spaces throughout NYC as a creative alternative, saying that “having a physical gallery space is not a necessity.” As a gallerist/consultant/curator, she represents emerging, mid-career and established artists in all media and thrills in watching their growth and development. “It is very exciting to watch an artist's vision grow as their career develops. I love the fact that I can say I watched an unknown book sculptor’s (Brian Dettmer) career take off before my eyes. ”
Nadja Nebas owns Rouge 58, a young Williamsburg gallery that celebrates freedom of creativity. Nadja works collaboratively with artists of all mediums, and aspires to dissolve the boundaries between genres. Her gallery is an experimental haven for exhibitions, parties, and film screenings – there are no rules. “I want to bring people together from diverse artistic fields and talents.” This German born gallerist believes in supporting local artists alongside international artists, providing a forum for a cultural exchange of ideas. Nadja prides herself in following intuition, and encourages collectors to do the same. “To discover yourself through emerging talent requires you to trust your own instincts.”
All of us at COMPANY are mesmerized by Olek’s drive to re-weave the world from Brooklyn to Harlem, to Istanbul to Venice, Poland and Brazil as she sees fit. Born in Poland, Olek lives in New York, where her bicycles encased in cozy “second skins” stop fast paced city dwellers in their tracks. Last December, Olek braved the cold to shroud the Wall Street bull in pink and purple knit. “Good public art works make a person stop walking, stop staring at the ground, and focus on art.” Not only known for her environmental graffiti, Olek has received numerous awards and residencies, and was an artist in an independent collective exhibition, Waterways, during the 49th Venice Biennale. We caught her recent solo show at Christopher Henry Gallery in the LES, which is now traveling to the Smithsonian.
Art collector and enthusiast Patti Kim made our list because of her dedication to supporting young artists not only through her personal collection, but by connecting emerging artists with the people and organizations that can support them. Currently a Global Branded Entertainment agent at International Creative Management, Patti fell in love with art when she saw Merging by Michal Rovner at a California gallery. Though she was unable to buy the then $30,000 piece, “the one that got away” is still emblazoned in her mind. “I heard that Jim Carrey ended up buying it and then it was later at the Tate. I still think about that piece and hope one day I will be able to to get another work of hers.”
Patti went on to Co-Chair the Whitney Artists Council for two years, and has been an active ambassador; introducing collectors to all the organizations she is involved with. She is driven to collect according to her passion for art, and encourages new collectors to buy art they are emotionally drawn to.
Raman Frey is co-owner with Wendi Norris of Frey Norris Contemporary & Modern, one of San Francisco’s landmark galleries since 2002. This unpretentious and welcoming gallery exhibits both emerging and accomplished contemporary artists from the world over, including Rina Banerjee, Kate Eric, Sherin Guirguis, Tomokazu Matsuyama, Lionel Bawden and Julio Cesar Morales. Raman’s involvement with emerging art is not limited to his gallery. He currently serves on the board of the non-profit Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, with programs in visual art, film, and performance.
Raman seeks artists who are self-propelled and pro-active with unpredictable and evolving work that makes an impact. He believes that over a lifetime, a collector’s art collection can be a significant achievement that charts the evolution of their own love for art. “A collection built over a lifetime is a unique portal into the psychic and emotional life of complex and driven individuals. Just as you might peruse a new friend’s bookshelf or music collection to gain some insight into their interests and personality, so too can a varied and exciting art collection provide insight into the full spectrum of a person’s life experiences and what they’ve explored, feared, and loved.”
Renee Ryan is an entrepreneurial perfumer, and founder of her own luxury pet product line - Sexy Beast. She and her husband are avid art travelers and have been enthusiastic collectors of emerging art since 1994. She loves the rush of discovering new talent, and watching that talent grow over time. Renee particularly values her relationships with the artists she collects and is proud to support them at their earliest stage. She loves being personally involved in the dialogue behind the art, learning about the creative process, and being able to provide her own perception of the work. Renee and her husband’s collection has no unifying theme or “trend response” – the only connecting thread is their passion for each piece. Renee believes that collectors should buy with their eyes not with their ears. “The only thing that matters is that you collect what you love. Period.”
COMPANY chose art advisor Richard Taittinger for our list because of his enthusiasm in seeking out and supporting future trend setting artists. He dedicates himself to connecting them with equally-minded young collectors. With experience in both auction houses and galleries, Richard applies his deep expertise and network of art professionals to help collectors develop their voice within their collections. We admire Richard for guiding new collectors through the white noise in the art world according to their own tastes, and for making emerging art interactive and accessible to individuals who may otherwise have missed out.
Born in the Ukraine, and raised in California, Rimma Boshernitsan is the founder and driving force behind Bosh Art Advisors. She is on the Board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art Council (SECA), whose members are exposed to the latest developments in local, national and international art scenes. Rimma draws upon her prowess of the international art community to help collectors hone their tastes. She focuses on encouraging collectors to understand their interests, tastes, budget, and collection objectives, while buying pieces they most connect with. “The collector has a pivotal role in the community since they can connect their artists with other collectors through their advocacy and thus, singlehandededly impact the future of the that artist. Collectors along with art historians, curators, and gallerists are catalysts in creating dialogue; they are influencers.”
RJ Rushmore is the voice of Vandalog, a cutting edge street art blog that we at COMPANY can’t get enough of. A student living in Philadelphia and attending Haverford College, this so-young-i-want-to-kill-him blogger ogles the internet and social media for collapsing geographic borders and making art more accessible. RJ is very passionate about street art’s absence of boundaries or rules. “It can be made or appreciated by a 10 year old kid or a 50 year old woman with a degree from the best art school in the country and decades of experience making art.” Some of RJ’s favorite street artists are Jenny Holzer, Shepard Fairey, John Fekner, Judith Supine and Swoon.
Owner of a small collection himself, RJ believes collectors are just as important to street artists as they are to artists of traditional formats.. The more an artist is able to sell, the more time they can spend making their art, which he argues, can only enhance the quality of the street art itself. “Even the most novice collectors can be patrons to young artists who just need a bit of cash to blow up a poster at Kinkos.”
Sarah Small is one of today's hottest young photographers, with work featured in Vogue, LIFE, and Rolling Stone. But her true notoriety comes from her Delirium Constructions which she has developed over the past two years. These Tableau Vivants are living, breathing photographic performances of her own creation. Her most recent project at the iconic One Hanson building in Brooklyn, NY featured over 120 nude models and musicians examining the social and graphic contrasts of youth, experience, hysteria and discipline, tragedy and hilarity, and sexualization and desexualization. Straddling two spheres of creativity, Sarah has mixed feelings about collectors who may have difficulty understanding her admittedly unique artistic process. “I appreciate my collectors who understand the work of art and monetary value in balance with one another, and can relate the two equally even though my work cannot be owned physically.“
We are captivated by Stefanie Guteil’s aggressively colorful and nightmarishly visceral paintings. Raised in a resort village in southern Germany, Stefanie toyed with several careers including graphic design, masonry, and set design before deciding that anything but painting would be a compromise. With bold brush strokes and collaged textiles, Stefanie’s symbolically rich paintings portray the monsters inside all of us. “The paintings are stories of my life,” she says, “What happens every day.” Her yearning to translate of the world as she sees it into uniquely arresting works of art is an essential quality we look for in emerging artists, and we can’t wait to see what shockingly metaphorical creations she comes up with next. Stefanie is represented by Mike Weiss Gallery.
Susi Kenna’s unyielding passion for the arts has taken many forms, giving her a rounded knowledge of the ins and outs of the art world. In 2010, her decision to found The Creatives Agency came from a desire to provide artists and all creative professionals with brand strategy, business development and career management. Susi also supports artists as a collector and believes that collectors should take more of a leading role in today’s art community and culture. “They make or break the success of galleries and artists’ careers, are a life source for many museum shows and collections, and have the ability to make art happen for the privileged and the public.” Susi says her own collection is based on emotion and accessibility. “It’s all very personal and there’s nothing that I enjoy more than being at home, surrounded by my art and telling the stories of where I was when each work came into my life.”
Theaster Gates, who is currently represented by Chicago's Kavi Gupta Gallery, won us over with his his raw aesthetic and activism for cultural issues. An artist, musician, and “cultural planner” as well as Director of Arts Program Development at the University of Chicago, Theaster transforms spaces, institutions, traditions, and perceptions with his transformative performances, installations, and urban interventions.
Trained as an urban planner and sculptor, Theaster not only makes art for museums, but delves into poor Chicago neighborhoods to convert abandoned buildings into unexpected cultural spaces. “I realized that if I found a way to use this vehicle of art, that maybe I could change policy – or at least critique policy in a way that could have more impact than just working in the planning department.” After his bravura debut exhibit in the 2010 Whitney Biennial, his recognition of art’s potential to raise societal issues to the public eye is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Vadis Turner’s ribbons tied us in knots at Lyons Wier Gallery in Chealsea. Working with traditional craft materials and techniques, Vadis has developed an innovative visual language that re-imagines rites of passage and the classification of heirlooms in a contemporary cultural context. This young, Nashville-born artist now lives and works in Brooklyn, and has work in the permanent collections of the 21C Museum, Kentucky Arts and Crafts Museum and the Egon Schiele Art Centrum. Vadis creates riveting installations like the sickly sweet bedroom set acquired by the Brooklyn Museum for its permanent collection that speaks volumes about our emotional landscape. According to Vadis, “It is wonderful when a collector can bear witness to the development in your work. You share a history with those who hear your voice like certain collectors, fellow artists and art enthusiasts.”