I first came across Daisy Sanchez as a teenager when I followed her on Tumblr, where she posted art she had skimmed from online archives, along with pictures of her life in New York, and text-posts about artwork she loved. The way Sanchez communicated about art was ridden with a joyful, infectious enthusiasm that attracted an audience. A trait, I discovered upon meeting her, that translates to how she is in real life — a key aspect of her charm.
At just 23 years-old, Sanchez is already making a name for herself as a talented young curator.
In 2019, she curated the show Rawr means I love you in dinosaur for Lubov Gallery, which included the emo-centric paintings by Riley Hanson and photographs by James Gregory Atkinson. The show was met with wild acclaim, getting a critics pick from Artforum, a review from Art in America, and a shout out in Time Out. Sanchez’s most recent exhibit, Trivial Pursuit, was on view at Entrance on the Lower East Side until early May. The group show brought together artists and works that delve into the relationship between fashion, art, and gauche work of trying to make ends meet.
“The commercial is seen as crass, but all galleries are boutiques. Even if some position themselves as, like, mini-Kunsthalles – the work is still for sale,” Sanchez told ARTnews, as she sat on a worn red couch in Entrance’s back room, musing on the tensions that inspired the show.
“It’s more upscale to act like it’s not about the money, but people act that way because they come from money,” she added.
Sanchez doesn’t have that luxury. At 16 – when her Tumblr following was already into the thousands – she and her mother moved from San Francisco to New York. She’d been attending a public alternative high school, the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, but when she moved to the city, she missed the cut-off dates to apply to public schools. Her father, who passed away when she was young, had left money behind for her education and she was thrust into the dizzying world of Manhattan private schooling.
“I was around these private school kids whose parents were getting them jobs,” she said. “And I was like, ‘Oh, my mom doesn’t know anybody. I don’t have any family connections. So what do I have, what’s my capital?'”
Sanchez realized that to make it in New York, she’d have to build her own network. In her free time, she began interning at galleries. While she credits the free beer at openings as initially drawing her to intern, the truth is Sanchez was trying to solve the all-consuming question of how to make a living.
She started by switching platforms from Tumblr to Instagram when it became clear it would better help her to network.
“Instagram was my way of asking for jobs,” Sanchez said. “People would see my following and who was following me and that would help.”
Appropriately, her business card locates her at: NY, NY, and Online Forever.
The first internship Sanchez landed was at 56Henry, a gallery run by the gregarious Ellie Rines who Sanchez credits as her biggest supporter.
“Unpaid, but more valuable the money could have ever paid me,” Sanchez said.
Rines introduced Sanchez to her corner of the art world and served as a mentor to the budding curator. In times of precarity, Rines let Sanchez sleep in the back room of the gallery. Not that Sanchez seemed to sleep much, as she cobbled together internships, gigs, and even networking at a lesbian backgammon league to make a living — and the seeds of a career. It paid off.
At this point, Sanchez seems to know everyone. And why shouldn’t she? She’s worked or interned for more than a dozen galleries and has even managed the odd fashion job, too. “I’ve learned a lot…” During the course of our interview someone from the street yells “Daisy, Daisy, Daisy!” loud enough that we can hear him from the back room, and her friend Sabrina Fuentes, of the indie band Pretty Sick, stops by to say hello.
“I met this guy at a party once and he said, ‘Daisy, you’re a legend!’ and I said, ‘I’m not a legend, I’m a rumor,'” Sanchez said humbly, laughing. “But this isn’t a pull yourself up by the bootstraps thing. Every opportunity I’ve had is from someone helping me along the way.”
In 2016, Sanchez shipped off to London to study curatorial studies at prestigious art school Central Saint Martins. The decision was in part practical: university in the U.K. was cheaper and only took three years. And because she attended in the years following Brexit, the dollar-pound conversion rate was decidedly in her favor. That didn’t stop Sanchez was continuing the cycle of gigs and internships while at school, landing a job at Soft Opening Gallery in London.
“I was a bad student, mostly because I was working. They had no attendance policy,” she said.
Sanchez worked gigs in the art and fashion scene that begot more better gigs, like helping luxury fashion house Balenciaga arrange collaborations with artists. She put a pause on school to pursue the opportunity in Paris until it became clear that her visa process in France would fail.
“In order to hire someone who’s international full time, the company has to prove that there’s no one in the EU who’s more qualified,” she said. “I was 20 and I didn’t have a degree. So it’s hard to be like ‘Yeah, this is the most qualified person for this job.'”
Sanchez returned to Central Saint Martins, but it wasn’t long until COVID-19 hit. The pandemic, and the ensuing lockdown, stretched Sanchez’s preciously built support system thin. Sanchez had suffered from cancer as a child, leaving her immunocompromised. The odd jobs that had long kept her afloat were no longer viable. Meanwhile, her mother had moved out of the country, which meant that once her student visa expired, she didn’t have a home in the US to return to. She briefly attended another storied U.K. art landmark, the Courtauld Institute, to extend her visa, but she eventually, in her word, “flunked out.” The stress of her situation made it too difficult to focus on her schooling.
In the midst of this dark period, she did what only she could do. Sanchez began curating shows out of her bedroom in England, sparked by an artist friend who needed a gallery show on her resume to boost her own immigration application.
By appointment only, the newly inaugurated gallery space Daisy’s Room would end up hosting artists like Brie Moreno, Inez Valentine (whose works Music, Dance, Nicole (2022) and Pushkin, (2022) were included in Trivial Pursuit), and Gal Schindler.
“We put my mattress in the living room,” she said. “My flatmates helped me hang the works in my tiny room.”
Louis Shannon, founder and director of Entrance took notice and they began a relationship that would result in Trivial Pursuit.
“The idea for the show partly came from thinking about what is trivialized by the contemporary art market, like video, photography, works on paper, which are not conferred nearly the same kind of esteem or market valuation as a painting,” said Sanchez. “This is partially due to archival conundrums and issues of sole ownership … but what it comes down to is it’s much more difficult to make a living as an artist working in a trivialized medium.”
And yet, according to Sanchez, artists find themselves in a position where doing commercial work, which actually pays, is seen as trivial, cheapening.
“So many people learned about [George] Condo when he painted that Birkin for Kanye and Kim posted it. Thank god that Marc Jacobs did that Louis Vuitton collaboration with [Takashi] Murakami and Richard Prince,” said Sanchez, veering away from the dominant art world opinion that artists who make toys or accessories are the scourge of the arts.
“Who cares if it’s handbag decoration if the public sees this work, if it enters into this greater circulation?”
But, for all this talk of money, Sanchez is always on the lookout for something free: space to do more curatorial work. Currently she’s showing one new work a week in a window next to Theta Gallery.
“I’m always looking, all the time, for someone to let me do something,” she said.