“We joke now that Ruberta is the Wu-Tang Clan of galleries,” the Mexico City-based dealer Brett W. Schultz said in a statement recently sent to press. This is not a remark that one reads every day, but very much like that storied Staten Island hip-hop group, Ruberta, a new gallery opening September 10 in Los Angeles, is in fact a collaborative effort from a number of individuals with promising solo ventures.
Ruberta brings together five young galleries from Latin America: Galeria Agustina Ferreyra (based in Mexico City and in business since 2013), Lodos (also of Mexico City, around since 2012), Proyectos Ultravioleta (Guatemala City, 2009), Carne (Bogotá, 2014), and BWSMX (which Schultz, who co-ran the Yautepec gallery from 2008 until this June in the Mexican capital city, will inaugurate there on September 20). The five galleries are splitting costs on the collective enterprise, and will each take turns staging a two-month show at the space, in Glendale, over the course of a year.
It all kicks off on September 10 with a group show titled “El eje del mal” (“The Axis of Evil”), which has been put together by all five ventures in the new gallery’s home at 918 Ruberta Ave. Taking the street name as the business’s own was a matter of practicality, Santiago Pinyol, who runs Carne with three other artists, said in a shared Google Doc in which the members answered questions. But “as a name for girls it has the meaning ‘bright fame,’ ” he added, which would seem to be an auspicious sign. After the group show, which runs through October 22, solo presentations at the gallery will commence.
Ruberta came about because the L.A. gallery the Pit was building out a new space next to its own and asked Schultz, who also co-founded the Material Art Fair in Mexico City, if he might be interested in renting it. “I started to imagine running two parallel programs between Mexico City and L.A. and realized that wasn’t going to be financially viable for me,” he said. “But then it occurred to me that I could get a group of galleries together and form something like a co-op.” He began reaching out to dealers he knew in various ways.
“We’ve all gotten to know each other through our presence in different fairs and through shared experiences in DF,” said Francisco Cordero-Oceguera, the proprietor of Lodos, referring to Mexico City (the Distrito Federal). “I’ve known Brett since 2011 when I interned one summer at Yau when I was still in school in Chicago. He’s been very supportive of my project since then. When he proposed me to join this initiative I immediately said, ‘Yes!’ ”
Why L.A., and why now? “PST seemed like a good moment,” Agustina Ferreyra said in reference to the Getty’s “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA” initiative that officially opens next week, with dozens of museum shows focusing on Southern California and Latin American art. She continued, “Most of us will have artists participating in projects there, and it’s a good city to have a foot in right now.”
The new venture gives the dealers a position in the Los Angeles area, where galleries are opening at a steady clip, without a huge outlay of capital. It’s about “finding new ways to survive and thrive as a young gallery today,” Ferreyra said. “It’s pretty much a generalized sentiment of our generation: everything is changing, and many of us are not even interested in the traditional gallery model, so we need to come up with new ideas and partnerships to make things happen and find our own path.”
Like the Condo initiative, which has seen dealers in London and New York host peers from abroad for shows, Ruberta could be seen, in part, as an antidote to the proliferation of art fairs. “I think the intensity of the yearly fair calendar as well as the cost, risk, and pressure is exhausting for gallerists now,” Schultz said. “The ecosystem isn’t a healthy one, and it’s hitting small galleries the hardest. Like Agustina said, as a generation of young gallerists, we’re all looking for ways not just to survive but really to enjoy having a gallery again.”
Asked which member of the Wu-Tang Clan each Ruberta collaborator might represent, Cordero-Oceguera said he sees himself as Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ferreyra “would choose Raekwon, Ghostface, or RZA—although I would rather be Missy Elliot or Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopez.” Pinyol went with ODB or Ghostface Killah, and Schultz asked, “Am I GZA in this arrangement? I’d love to be GZA.” (Stefan Benchoam, the co-founder of Proyectos Ultravioleta, was, for the record, not immediately available to speak since he was “in the middle of towing a giant concrete egg from Guatemala to L.A.,” Schultz said.)
The dealers have all committed to Ruberta for one year. “We are here, we are queer, we are brown,” Ferreyra said, “and we are not going down.”