Steve Turner owns and directs his eponymous gallery in Los Angeles.
What do you find unique about showing work in Los Angeles? How does the contemporary art world in LA differ from the scene in New York?
The Los Angeles contemporary art scene has numerous micro-systems. It’s like the weather in San Francisco. It varies from block to block, gallery to gallery. Success can be elusive. There are far more artists than there are galleries, and not enough collectors for the galleries. As such, each gallery must develop a strategy to attract collectors to support its program. Mine was to develop a strong international program that would appeal to both local and international audiences. With artists Pablo Rasgado (Mexico City); Camilo Restrepo (Medellín); Michael Staniak (Melbourne); Jonas Lund (Amsterdam); Rafaël Rozendaal (New York); Deborah Grant (New York) and Yung Jake (Los Angeles), I have done that. It really has more to do with the artists, and what I do outside Los Angeles, than it does with the local scene.
You’re opening a new space in Hollywood, right? How did your upcoming group show, Space Program, come about?
Our new space is in a refurbished 1920s warehouse building with 15 foot ceilings. It is just west of the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland Ave. Our closest neighbor is Regen Projects, and LAXART is opening one block away on the same day that we are—January 10th. Space Program came about as I brainstormed with my staff about the nine artists we were showing (those mentioned above plus Luis Hidalgo (Cuernavaca) and Maria Anwander (Berlin). I wanted to highlight our unusual space (we also have a roof deck that abuts a huge white wall (30 x 80 feet) where we will project videos) and I wanted to show a range of artists from our program. The title summed up my objectives perfectly. The show will introduce our new space and it will give greater meaning to the program that we have carefully developed over the last seven years.
How was your experience this year in Miami at UNTITLED compared to other years? What is your favorite part about participating in art fairs?
We did very well at UNTITLED in Miami. We showed works by five artists (Yung Jake, Staniak, Rozendaal, Lund and Hidalgo) and we sold multiple works by each artist and also sold works by other artists in our program. Our experience was comparable to that of other years when we introduced Parker Ito in 2012 and Petra Cortright and Camilo Restrepo in 2013.
How did you come to represent Yung Jake? What do you look for when procuring new artists?
I met Yung Jake in May 2013 and I liked him instantly. I had a very good studio visit with him and first thought I would wait a while to see how his practice developed before I offered him an exhibition. Six months later I did a second visit and since I was even more impressed with this meeting, I decided to offer him not one, not two, but three opportunities in 2014. He had a project room show; a main-room show; and then, a solo booth presentation at Art Berlin Contemporary (ABC). All three presentations were different. All three were great. All three were successful.
In finding artists, I look for rare talent; extreme commitment; good character; and general compatibility with me and my staff.
What do you have planned for 2015?
Our first solo exhibition in the new space will introduce a new artist to Los Angeles and to our program—Hannah Perry (London). She just arrived in Los Angeles where she will live and work for the next six weeks, both for her show here and her solo project at Art Brussels in April. We also have solo shows planned for Jonas Lund, Pablo Rasgado, Michael Staniak, Camilo Restrepo and Yung Jake, all of whom will also be prominently featured in art fairs in Europe and in Latin America. Two newcomers deserve special mention. Ivan Comas (Buenos Aires) is a brilliant young conceptual painter who will have a solo show with us in June, and a solo booth at a European art fair in September. We are also providing him a studio in Los Angeles for three months starting in mid-January. In October, William Pope L. will have a solo show inspired by the legacy of Joe Gans, an African American world champion boxer who fought and won the longest bout in modern boxing history—42 rounds in Goldfield, Nevada in 1906.
What trends in collecting should people pay attention to (or avoid)?
I don’t recommend following trends. The best collectors use their eyes, not their ears.