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Interview with Alex Gartenfeld and Matt Moravec

Bozidar Brazda: I wonder if the present popularity of the apartment gallery, as a kind of viable alternative exhibition space, can be attributed in part to a generation of young curators who are not only comfortable with the idea of working anywhere (i.e. via an iphone) but with the concept that socializing, networking and working are becoming increasingly interchangeable pursuits, and that the separation of public and private space is soon to be a thing of the past. 

By this rationale, do you feel that running an art gallery, or another boutique business, out of a domestic space is the way of the future? Is it in some way the physical manifestation of our online habits? Our willingness to invite people ‘in’?

Matt Moravec: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that apartment galleries are more popular now than they have been in the past. Leo Castelli, for instance, first operated out of a floor in his brownstone. So did Matthew Marks. Colin de Land first sold paintings out of his apartment, and Gavin Brown sold Elizabeth Peytons in a room in the ChelseaHotel. I think apartment galleries have more to do with working with what one has rather than creating an alternative to an existing system. It is true that things like social networking and cell phones have allowed us to reach more people — but they’re really just tools…

BB: That’s a good point. I suppose it’s not necessarily a new movement, or for that matter even a local one. When I hear “apartment gallery” I tend to think of pre-Glasnost Moscow which had a strong apartment gallery tradition, and that was back when the rotary phone still ruled…

Alex Gartenfeld: I think Matt is right; whether or not the model we present evidences some kind of contemporary, Internet-influenced condition, I couldn’t say. West Street Gallery definitely demonstrates Matt and I’s desires to show art in a way that we feel is not otherwise represented. Speaking to my own experience, bringing people into my house was absolutely a way to socialize my living space — perhaps establishing concrete connections rather than mediated ones. This project is interesting to me because it’s different from a gallery, and also for the ways in which it can be different. I started working on an ‘apartment gallery’ for a number of reasons:

1. It changed how I occupied my living space as a young person in a starter apartment in New York;

2. It was a creative outlet, parallel to my career as an editor;

3. It allowed for a different scale and context for art-viewing. That said, we don’t officially “represent” artists, which means that we are flexible in the way that we can distribute the works of the artists we collaborate with.

BB: It’s nice to finally have a credible, young, and for lack of a better word “alternative” gallery here on the West side. What inspired the move Alex? You were located in Chinatown, where you co-curated the apartment gallery Three’s Company — was it more about finding the right area to live in, or the right spot to plant a new gallery?

AG: It’s really nice of you to say that, although closer to my interest is the variety of factors that would make us credible vis-à-vis a gallery. Certainly we’re both involved with art and enjoy being so, and hopefully we bring new ideas and artists to the table. I moved because my previous apartment was my first after graduating from college. I lived there for two years and I had a great time living with curator Piper Marshall, and I out-grew it. Joel [Mesler, of Rental Gallery] and I had dinner, and he recommended another similar space, a three bedroom. He was familiar with what I did for Three’s Company, and interested in collaborating. This apartment encouraged me to work on West Street: the lighting is great and the space is very white. And if there’s something particularily “of its time” about this apartment project, it’s that rents on the West Side have fallen steeply, relative to those of other neighborhoods in Manhattan.

BB: Were you and Matt interested in separating yourself from the Lower East Side scene or was the move less political?

MM: Alex had already moved over here (or was planning to move) when I joined on. But it turned out to be quite important that he choose to be on the West Side — close to established galleries. It turned out to be an excellent counterpoint to Chelsea galleries, because we’re so young and the project, we hope, is so distinct.

AG: My concerns in moving were pragmatic. I was interested in separating myself from the noise and the sanitation issues and the space limitations of the Lower East Side. But there are many galleries in that neighborhood whose programs I relate to. Once we’d found this space, of course we knew it stood out. That’s when Matt came in. It’s in the shadow of Chelsea but a distinct walking route from it, and it has views of the Hudson. I loved the idea of having cars pass through different installations.

BB: The works in your first showOver Before it Started” — Daniel Turner’s mock shoe-scuffed-wall, Grayson Revoir’s nail riddled kitchen table and Kon Trubkovich’s renderings of interiors — seem connected by the idea that the stuff we have at home, and indeed our homes themselves (and other non art-industry interiors) are only a step away or two from becoming “art” or even “galleries” themselves. Do you plan on maintaining this kind of interior-centric specificity in future shows?

AG: It would be very boring if all of the shows were about how they were in my apartment. But I would like for every show that Matt and I do to feel as if it couldn’t be anywhere else. All three works in the show have a variety of connotations — for instance, Daniel’s markings originated from a prohibition on touching surfaces, when he worked as a guard at the NewMuseum; and Kon’s drawings depict video stills of an empty prison. To me they had as much to do with leaving a space as they did domesticity, per se. Grayson’s table was too good to resist putting in a first show, and it certainly has to do with my not yet having furniture.

BB: What comes first, representing your generation or realizing your vision/themes? Or are they one in the same?

MM: My generation. I have no interest in jumping into some kind of existing scene. I see a new group of young artists making good work and I want to be there to show it — and be the first. Anyone can recognize a trend and follow it. It’s much harder to identify a trend. That’s what I’m interested in.

AG: I would love to represent the artists who we work with in a really intelligent, graceful and generous way.

by Bozidar Brazda