Since opening in 2013, the enterprising Mexico City project space named Lulu has operated out of an immaculate white cube within the studio of the artist Martin Soto Climent, who started and runs the venture with curator Chris Sharp. Despite measuring only about 100 square feet, Lulu has played host to solo shows by international artists like Michael E. Smith, Lisa Oppenheim, and Nina Canell, and even inaugurated its own biennial, the Lulennial, last year. Now it is expanding—in a characteristically playful way.
“We’re adding a space that’s about 140 square feet,” Sharp told me excitedly over coffee late last month while he was visiting New York. “It’s a tiny space, but what we’re doing is we’re inserting another Lulu, with the exact same proportions, into it. We’re rebuilding it just slightly larger.” To reach the original Lulu one had to walk down a little pathway from the sidewalk, but this second space, which is in the same building, opens right onto the street. The freshly expanded venue debuts tomorrow, February 6, with a solo show by the German artist Manfred Pernice that will take take over both spaces.
“One of the reasons why we wanted to take another space was to demonstrate more of a commitment to Mexico City,” Sharp said. “It’s not just in somebody’s studio. It’s a space exclusively dedicated to Lulu and our exhibition program.” Lulu (which is named for a local juicer, not the Berg opera) will also, for the first time, have regular hours, opening to the public one day a week. (Previously it was by appointment only.) “It’s an overture, more toward the local community than the international,” Sharp continued, “although the primary audience is still the international community.”
Lulu is an unusual endeavor—it’s not really a gallery (they don’t represent artists), but it is more ambitious than a typical project space. “We’re an independent space, kind of a hybrid,” Sharp said, when I asked him how he explains Lulu to those who are curious. Do they sell work? “We sell in theory,” he said. “We’ve sold very little. Our shows aren’t commercial. I mean, if something sells and somebody’s interested in it, that’s great.”
“The objective of the program, in a way, is to be self-sufficient or self-supported,” Sharp continued. To that end, Lulu has begun to do art fairs to raise money for shows and publications. “The expansion, I think, has bankrupted us,” he said. “Martin and I are paying for it at this point.” But it would probably cost something like 10 times more to do in New York City, he said. “It’s really well done, and they’re doing a lot of work.”
Sharp was in town to do research for a Tom Wesselmann retrospective that he is organizing at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, but was soon heading back to Mexico City. It is primetime down there right now, with the Zona Maco and Material art fairs open. Along with the Lulu opening tomorrow, Sharp is also unveiling the latest in a series of shows of young artists he has curated for the local powerhouse gallery Kurimanzutto, this one with the Mexican artist Rodrigo Hernández, who is based in Basel, Switzerland.
After Pernice’s show, Lulu will host a painting exhibition, titled “The Clear and the Obscure,” with Michael Berryhill, Ryan Nord Kitchen, Victoria Roth, and Patricia Treib. It opens April 9, which will also be the three-year-anniversary of the gallery’s first show. “We’re still relatively young,” Sharp said.