The art world is going west—or at least, bicoastal. Mainstays of the New York art world—the patently titled Venus Over Manhattan, Team Gallery, Maccarone—have (or soon will, in the latter case) put down roots in Los Angeles’ seemingly ever-growing art scene. Figuratively speaking, Derek Eller, owner of the eponymous Chelsea gallery, isn’t quite going that far, either now or in the forseeable future—“Right now there are no immediate plans to open a gallery in Los Angeles,” he told me over the phone—but from August 8 through August 16, he’ll host an offsite exhibition at 2405 Glover Place in L.A. “Auto-Correct” will feature new paintings by Greek artist Despina Stokou, as well as sculptures and drawings by Peter Shire, founding member of the Memphis design collective. Both artists are currently based in L.A., though Stokou is new to town.
“The gallery helped her get a visa to spend three years in the U.S. making work, and as a part of that we also helped her start a studio in Los Angeles,” Eller explained. “It’s a big commercial space, something like four- or five-thousand square feet. It’s a nice-looking gallery, but ultimately it’s going to be [Stokou’s],” Eller said.
In return for help with renovation expenses and some initial financial backing, Stokou not only agreed to house a collaborative project, she further suggested that it include Shire’s work, prompting Eller to travel across the country for a five-hour studio visit. The two have discussed the possibility of co-curating an annual show (not necessarily featuring Stokou’s work), but for now, Stokou is intent on establishing herself locally. “We’ve certainly sold her work to a number of L.A. collectors but [this project] is a way for people to get to know her in Los Angeles as well.”
Eller is a Los Angelean by birth but a New Yorker by choice for the last 23 years, a hybrid of identities that, I had assumed, would impel him to remain objective in his comparison of both cities—and he was, until he thought about leaving New York. “New York is so expensive,” he said when I asked him what he thought of the recent exodus, in the desensitized way a person might say “C’est la vie.” “Despina, for example, could have come here, but she couldn’t have had a four- or five- thousand square-foot studio in New York for what the cost is now. L.A. is much more reasonable, and you can do a little hiking in the morning after you wake up, you can ride a bike without getting hit by a car…”
That must be nice, I said.
“She drives now, too,” he added. “I don’t think she did before, but she does now. She got herself a car and she’s really loving it out there. I certainly see the appeal of L.A., having grown up there, and with family still there. But New York is…the energy is very different, so it depends what you’re looking for, I guess. I think if I were ever [based in] L.A. I would miss New York.”
For Eller, a temporary space is the ideal compromise—a smaller commitment he can have more fun with. “There are going to be cost faults but it’s not like committing to a full-time staff, and then there are all the benefits of just having a second extra space.”
At one point, he mentioned Despina was from Athens. “L.A. probably feels more like home then, climate-wise,” I offered.
“Yeah, she’d been living in Berlin for the past ten years, so I could see the appeal of [L.A.’s] beach culture. And anyway, she’s already spent some time in New York and had that experience as an artist.”
“So it’s just that urge to go west?”
“Yeah,” he said, considering it. “It’s just an event.”