This is the first in a new series of interviews we will be conducting with a selection of galleries across the globe. To kick things off we interviewed Catlin Moore, the Director of the Mark Moore Gallery In Culver City, CA.
|——DF — Can you give us a bit of background behind the gallery. When it opened, who are it’s founders and what was the main driving force behind it?
|——CM — My parents – Mark and Hilarie Moore – opened their first gallery in 1984 in Long Beach, CA. After a few start-up years of trial and error (as is the case with any small business), they relocated and opened Mark Moore Gallery in Los Angeles in 1993. We were based out of Bergamot Station (Santa Monica) for nearly twelve years, before purchasing our current building in Culver City in 2010.
Mark has seen the ups and downs of many economic recessions and booms, and the evolution of the contemporary art market over the last nearly thirty years – so I consider his tenacity and sincere passion to be the driving force behind the gallery.
His focus on emerging and mid-career artists is as rewarding as it is challenging – especially in representing as many artists as we do – but he’s never been one to shy away from provocation.
|——DF — How did you find the right gallery space and was the process a lot harder than you imagined?
|——CM — Yes and no. The nuts-and-bolts part of the process was arduous and expensive, there’s no dismissing that. We chose a Neo-Classical historic building from the 1920s that hadn’t changed title since the 1970s, so there was a lot of unanticipated investment in things like sprinkler systems, seismic retrofitting, and infrastructural repair in order to bring it up to code with the city. Our architect – Peter Zellner – did an incredible job with driving the project forward without compromising the stylistic and logistical needs we had originally envisioned.
We wanted to do it right the first time, but there’s a lot of red tape inherent to working with a historical space, so our grand opening got pushed back more than once. Despite that, it was a very meaningful change for us. This investment was much more than a financial one – it also signified our intention to keep the doors open another thirty years, and provide a place of stability and growth for our artists.
In being a family business, we were looking for the right way to establish the next chapter in the gallery’s history, and this was the perfect advancement. Moreover, the facade of the building looks strikingly similar to the very first space Mark ever maintained, so it seemed to circle back to a place of nostalgia for him.
The gallery is big on efficiency, follow-through, and organization, and I’m lucky to be able to say that our entire staff subscribes to a rigorous work ethic that borders on neuroses
|——DF — Do you feel that the Mark Moore Gallery have a particular tone of voice or identity?
|——CM — Does obsessive compulsiveness count? The gallery is big on efficiency, follow-through, and organization, and I’m lucky to be able to say that our entire staff subscribes to a rigorous work ethic that borders on neuroses. I feel confident in saying that our identity is ever-evolving, we are constantly looking for ways to diversify our program and subscribe to a fairly straightforward business practice.
We show artists we believe in. We develop a program that has aesthetic and conceptual teeth. We treat our collectors with high esteem and honesty. Subscribing to an “art world persona” has little relevance if you don’t back it personally, so I suppose our identity is one of positive transparency. That alone sets us apart.
|——DF — Is there is a right amount of artists a gallery should represent?
|——CM — The amount you can handle with diligence and care. Most galleries don’t have the luxury of an extensive staff – so when you can’t remember the last time you had a quality conversation with one of your artists, something isn’t working. We currently represent twenty-six artists, and each of them has been in contact with at least one person at the gallery in the last few weeks – so to me, that indicates we’re doing our job and working on projects to best support each of them, and maintaining a dialogue that fosters a constructive partnership.
Collecting motivations are as diverse as the collectors themselves – it’s impossible to generalize why works are bought and sold
|——DF — How is the art market changing and what are people’s main motivation for purchasing?
|——CM — Collecting motivations are as diverse as the collectors themselves – it’s impossible to generalize why works are bought and sold. I will say that the economic downturn after 2008 changed the way people evaluate their purchases; if anything, it leveled the playing field a little bit, and also encouraged artists to be a little more adventurous in the studio.
We brought several emerging artists into the program over the last three years, and their work has done very well with our collectorship because they are reasonably priced and doing exciting things. Ten years ago, it would have been a different reality.
|——DF — What would you say are the most important ingredients for a successful exhibition?
|——CM — Preparation, visibility, and stimulating work.
|——DF — Name two exhibitions that have made an impression on you in recent years (one of your own and another)?
|——CM — I am honored to work with all of the artists in our program, but 2009′s “Ultrasonic IV: Fresh Perspectives” made an extreme impression on me because it was the first show I was really responsible for. That might sound egocentric, but it really taught me some critically important lessons about exhibition organization, logistics, and curating that I could have never prepared myself for outside of just jumping in – and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity so early in my career. Because of that show, I can assuredly wear the many hats required of a gallerist.
Outside of the gallery, the first exhibition that really made an emotional impression on me was Jackson Pollock’s 1998 retrospective at MoMA. Talk about having the wind knocked out of you…
|——DF — If there was one piece of art you could hang in your gallery (reality / availability aside), what would it be?
|——CM — I’d re-stage Chris Burden’s “Shoot.” He’s a monumental artist for me, and that work would have an entirely different, pivotal reading now. The crux of his work is still very topical and relevant, but would be consumed in totally unprecedented ways. Ironic, coming from the violence-phobe.
|——DF — Is there anything else we should know? any upcoming exhibitions?
|——CM — We’re in the midst of final preparations for Allison Schulnik’s upcoming solo exhibition – “Salty Air” – which runs from May 26th – July 7th and has been much-anticipated to say the least. She’s another artist that has made a profound impression on me, and this show is no less astonishing.
I’m also the co-founder of 5790projects and we’re almost done curating our next pop-up exhibition in downtown LA. We focus on very emerging talent in Los Angeles, and working with these artists has proven to be fulfilling and fun.
A big thanks to Catlin Moore for finding the time to answer our questions and kicking off this new series of interviews.
Mark Moore Gallery
5790 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
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