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‘It’s an Experiment’: Tobias Czudej, Former Owner of Chewday’s in London, Launches Waldo Gallery in Maine

Installation view of “The Infinite Image,” 2018, at Waldo, Rockport, Maine.

COURTESY WALDO

In July 2017, London’s Chewday’s gallery, one of Europe’s most beloved emerging spaces, closed its permanent venue in what many considered a sign of the times. Now its owner, Tobias Czudej, has gotten back into the game with a new gallery, Waldo, which opened in Rockport, Maine, this past summer. The name for the seasonal enterprise is a reference to Maine’s Waldo County as well as the striped-shirt-wearing character in Where’s Waldo? cartoons, and the space is about a 90-minute drive up the coast from Portland.

Czudej said in a phone conversation that his decision to move across the Atlantic Ocean, to New York, came after he got married to the artist Catharine Czudej (who previously went by Catharine Ahearn). “I spent a few months trying to decide what to do, and I decided I didn’t want to open a Lower East Side storefront space,” Tobias told ARTnews, citing concerns about exorbitant real estate prices in Manhattan. “Catharine’s family lives up in Maine, so we were visiting there quite often. I came across this 19th-century dance hall on the ocean and decided to open a space there.”

Waldo opened in July with “The Infinite Image,” a group show that featured works by Ei Arakawa, Eugenio Dittborn, Sergej Jensen, Seth Price, and R. H. Quaytman alongside ancient Mesopotamian cylinder seal impressions. (Exhibitions at Chewday’s also tended toward such quirky juxtapositions—a show staged there by Galerie Max Meyer as part of the gallery-share program Condo placed works by Jef Geys and Nicolás Guagnini next to Egyptian funerary objects.) In Czudej’s estimation, some 200 people turned out for the opening of the gallery, which has views of West Penobscot Bay.

“It’s an experiment,” Czudej said. “I’m trying to see how a model that isn’t rooted in a major art capital could exist. As soon as you start having a new space, and as soon as you start paying rent, you instantly have to play the game, and you have to play the game really well. I wanted to see what other games could be played.”

Waldo remains open for the season with “TOTAL HELL,” a show featuring work by Tobias Spichtig that runs through October 14. And though its home base is in Maine, Waldo is also currently sharing real estate on New York’s Lower East Side with Mathew gallery, in whose space it is presenting a show of work by Beth Collar. Additionally, Waldo has an office in New York that sometimes functions as a showroom, Czudej said.

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