Bridget Donahue, Real Fine Arts, Chewday’s, Jenny’s, and Galerie Max Mayer take over a floor of the Chelsea gallery
In 2013, the art dealer Matt Moravec traveled to Los Angeles, where his gallery, Off Vendome, had a booth at Paramount Ranch. Off Vendome was then based in Düsseldorf, Germany (it’s now permanently relocated to New York), and Paramount Ranch, an elusive art fair for young galleries, was in its first year. Held at an old film set in Santa Monica, Paramount Ranch offered a chance to change up the staid art-fair model, and when Moravec and I spoke recently, he recalled Paramount Ranch being a uniquely positive experience. Recently he’d begun to wonder why he felt that way.
“I’ve just been thinking about structures and ways you can get what different art fairs offer, which is often networking, connections to new collectors, and creating new audiences for the art that you’re exhibiting,” he said. “I realized that a lot of that could be done without giving [anything] up for anyone else, basically.”
This year, with Frieze New York rolling into town for its fifth edition, Moravec has decided to take matters into his own hands. Starting today, May 5, he will be hosting what he calls a “gallery share”—turning over part of his two-floor Chelsea space to several gallerist friends through the weekend. (Off Vendome currently has a Max Brand show on view, and Moravec will temporarily relocate it to his office, on the gallery’s lower floor.) Put in fair press-release speak, it features five exhibitors from three countries: Bridget Donahue (of New York), Chewday’s (London), Jenny’s (Los Angeles), Galerie Max Mayer (Düsseldorf), and Real Fine Arts (Brooklyn).
The whole plan grew out of an email that the artist and dealer Tyler Dobson sent to Moravec about a five-day show he was planning for Real Fine Arts, which he cofounded, in New York’s Meatpacking District during the Independent fair and the Armory Show in March. Dobson figured it was time that a smaller, alternative fair was organized in New York, and so he was writing to ask if Moravec wanted to do a multiple-gallery presentation near the Independent art fair, in Tribeca.
“I thought it was a great idea, but I already had a space here, in Chelsea, where people are going to be walking around anyway,” Moravec said. “It didn’t really make any sense for me to get another space.”
Moravec’s initial approach was to be like any other art fair: divide up a bit of real estate (in this case, Off Vendome’s top floor), and make all the exhibitors pay an equal amount for rent. But Moravec’s fellow collaborators agreed that that wasn’t the best option—it had the wrong attitude. Collectively, they decided that the gallery share should only have a minor shared expense, for the art handler and other lesser costs. “I’ll set up a Venmo and be really open about everything,” Moravec said.
Moravec said he hopes the exhibitors will bring work that might not otherwise sell—or even be shown at all—at art fairs. “A lot of times, people do more commercial presentations, especially more-established galleries,” he said. “It’s totally understandable, because [fairs are] really expensive. But hopefully, people here will bring stuff that they’re not entirely sure is going to sell,” like videos or pieces by lesser-known artists.
Moravec emphasized the communal quality of the gallery share—the way that these five galleries would hopefully bring in a collector base for young and emerging artists, and how they would combine their efforts to bring in an audience. At fairs, Moravec said he usually didn’t have that experience. “It’s really frustrating, as a young gallery, that you feel like you’re giving so much up by asking people to validate what you’re doing,” he said, “Actually, your peer group should be the one that validates you.”