Natalia Sacasa is a Senior Director at Luhring Augustine.
How did you originally become interested in contemporary art, and how did you get involved in art professionally?
I have always been a creative person. I was a ballet dancer in my teens and then became a visual artist, and I love to cook and craft. I attended Carnegie Mellon’s School of Art and earned a BFA; after art school I moved to New York and got a job as the receptionist at Luhring Augustine. I was made aware of the position through one of my best friends, the artist Matt Keegan, who was vacating it, and the director Claudia Altman-Siegel, who’s sister had also attended CMU. This is emblematic of how small and familial the art world was at the time–I’ve been with Luhring Augustine since 1999 and have been a witness to this amazing transformation! There has been an incredible expansion of the art world. I think the internet has a great deal to do with this…its more like an art universe now.
The artists who you show at Luring Augustine usually have pretty developed careers. Who are some younger or emerging artists you are following and why?
I recently have been looking at a lot of younger artist’s work through the internet, and of course, Instagram…. #Bushwick led me to the work of B. Thom Stevenson. His work owes a lot to the visual language of advertising, graphic design and the nostalgia for the printed object itself. He is also a painter who brings a broad range of symbols together for visual interpretation. His work has a sharp graphic quality, and I also want to unpack and churn it over in my head.
I became fascinated with photography early in my career. I never studied it formally, I learned through my work and became obsessed with it. I began to wonder about and seek out ways the medium was being used differently, beyond the traditional classifications of landscape and portraiture. My friend, the remarkably debonair Olivier Renaud Clement, introduced me to the work of Barbara Kasten, and that opened a set of floodgates for me. And though Kasten has been making her photographs since the 80′s, her work is only just now getting the recognition it deserves. Photographers like Kasten and Sarah Charlesworth have had a significant impact on artists of my generation who are using the medium; through their work I came to appreciate and collect the works of Eileen Quinlan, Sara VanDerBeek, and Liz Deschenes.
What has been your experience of Bushwick since the gallery opened its exhibition space there in 2012? How has your gallery used that space as part of its program?
It happened that my husband Enrique and I moved to Bushwick around the same time that the gallery bought the building and decided to make part of it exhibition space, so I’ve had a multifaceted experience of the neighborhood. My co-worker Donovan Barrow recommended Lawrence and Roland look for space in the area for storage. The building was large enough to accommodate an ample gallery/viewing room and the space was designed so that we could have the option to be open to the public. At first we didn’t think we would have a year-round program, but our projects were getting such good public reception we kept inviting artists to do exhibitions there.
There was a well established community of artists and galleries in Bushwick before we opened and they were very welcoming to us. The first opening of Charles Atlas’s The Illusion of Democracy was packed! And unlike openings in Chelsea, people came and hung out rather than moving onto the next gallery, Bushwick has the feeling of community that I think we have lost in Chelsea. People spend time with the work there, so we have endeavored to make it worth their while. We have treated the space not as a “secondary space,” but as an equal counterpart to our Chelsea program. We’ve done an important historic exhibition, artists have shown new works, and we have also done screenings and overviews of earlier works by our filmmakers.
It feels like the development of the area is accelerating. There are dozens of new apartment buildings, bars, coffee shops and restaurants opening up between the Morgan and Dekalb stops on the L. The area also has a vivid display of outdoor murals–you can walk through the neighborhood and see so many different styles–from the traditional graffiti mural stylings to paintings and paper murals. I have been “collecting” murals too… I have a Facebook album going.
What projects are you focusing on or excited about this coming year either at LuA or other spaces?
I’m working with Jeff Elrod who will have an exhibition with Galerie Max Hetzler in Paris. To sum it up, I think his work is radical and he is making his best work right now. I am looking forward to that exhibition, and of course I’ll be in Paris–I love Paris! Janine Antoni is another artist I work with; she too is making some of the most compelling work of her career. She has been engaged with movement and dance as well as making sculpture; the symbiosis of which is profoundly poetic. This work will be exhibited in the spring ’15 at Anthony Meier Fine Art in San Francisco and at Luhring Augustine in New York; she is also working on a series of performance pieces for the Fabric Workshop. She received a grant to develop the work over the next two years with Anna Halprin and Stephen Petronio!
Art collecting advice no one else is giving?
I don’t think I’m alone in this assertion, but it doesn’t hurt to restate: buy what you love not what you think is a good investment. There are no “mistakes” if you buy art this way. Make an attempt to connect with the artist, make it meaningful and the value will be there.