In Dialogue with Liz Garvey on her Programming
Liz Garvey says that one of her favorite aspects of the Garvey/Simon Select program is seeing how artists reinvigorate traditional media with innovative techniques. Established in 2010, Garvey/Simon is both a private dealer and art advisory service co-founded by advisor/dealer/curator Elizabeth K. Garvey and contemporary collector, Catherine G. Simon. In this interview Liz Garvey sheds some light on her gallery model and her upcoming programs.
AS: Tell me a bit about the history of Garvey/Simon.
LG: I have been a private art advisor since 1999. In 2009, my sister Cathy indicated that she was interested in becoming involved with the business and a new model was born. Initially, we intended to do more pop-up shows in various parts of the US, and we began in 2010 with exhibitions in NYC and then the Midwest. A pop-up space in Indianapolis evolved into a temporary gallery where we maintained an exhibition program for a year. I was lucky to have met two wonderful women who ran that space the majority of the time. During that year, an unexpected opportunity surfaced to share a gallery space in Chelsea, and we opened on West 27th Street in 2011. In 2019, we decided not to renew the lease and to work privately. I am fortunate to be working with the same artists I have represented. Not having public hours has given me the opportunity to do more fairs, focus more on developing relationships with new clients, and to continue my art advisory and secondary market practices in a more effective manner.
AS: What is the idea behind your Select program and can you elaborate on how your submission and following process work?
LG: Having been in the New York art world since 1990, I continue to be amazed at the lack of direction and opportunity given to artists to show their work to potential dealers. In the 1990s, we would receive unsolicited packets of slides, catalogs and other materials from artists all the time. Sometimes there would be a self-addressed stamped envelope for return, but other times not (sadly, we had to simply throw the packet away). When I opened the space in Chelsea, I found that not much had changed. We would receive an abundance of unsolicited emails and materials in the via postal mail on a very regular basis. If I took time to look at all of this material, I would not have a paying job and I would be doing a disservice to the artists I am representing. Therefore, the emails would be deleted, and materials usually discarded. The waste of everyone’s time, money and resources was mind-boggling to me. Of course, I understand it: there is not a democratic model that I know of for allowing a dialogue between artist and dealer. Most galleries I know have a simple “we do not accept artist submissions at this time” line somewhere on their website. While some galleries (miraculously) do allow artists to submit work, I am not sure how they have the bandwidth for that or how efficient that process really is.
Our Select program was something I created after being the juror for some Open Call exhibitions. I was surprised to learn that many Juried Shows are created without the juror ever seeing the work in person. Although perhaps a democratic process, the fees can be upwards of $50 for submission. Further, although it is a wonderful opportunity for artists to gain exposure, those exhibitions tend to be quite large and often only one work by each artist is exhibited. I decided to offer artists who approached us a direct way to get their art in front of my eyes. It requires an assistant to help facilitate a spreadsheet, organize jpegs, and handle correspondence with the artists, so I do charge a small administrative fee (or else I couldn’t do it). I decided to keep the fee low and have a simple initial submission for that (just a website and Instagram for me to peruse). If I liked the work, those artists are invited to submit a more thoughtful and curated submission with jpegs and other info. There is a second fee for that. This seemed a fair way to keep the cost at minimum for artists who submit for “round one” and don’t advance beyond that (Instead of charging a larger amount at the beginning). If I am impressed and excited by this second submission, I invite the artists to show me work in person. Finally, my rule for the Select exhibitions is 10 artists max per show. I want to keep the show focused on the individual artists and have them represented with several works, not just one. I also want to see if I can sell the work, which is really the point. This is our 4th year doing it. This year, we converted it a 3-month show on Artsy as well as having works in the office for viewing by appointment. The show can be viewed here: https://www.artsy.net/show/garvey-simon-select-4
AS: What would you like to share about some of the featured artists?
LG: In our current show, we have seven artists who work in a variety of media and varied approaches. Charles Birnbaum creates white porcelain sculptures with sensuous curves and multi-faceted textures. Katherine Cox is a master with colored pencil. Her graphite and colored pencil drawings of cloud formations and sea surfaces have a mesmerizing presence and abstracted compositions. Joshua Flint’s paintings have a haunting and mysterious narrative quality. Elizabeth Mead’s enigmatic photographs of constructed paper objects defy a sense of scale or location, and allow natural light to define their volume. Duvian Montoya blends fantasy and documentary in his high-key color cityscapes. Fabric is the pictorial surface of Constance Scopelitis’s new work. Her hyperrealist renderings of animals and icons of human vice ironically adorn antique handkerchiefs, staining the pristinely preserved fabric. Sharon Shapiro’s paintings and collages explicate and untangle constructs of the female self. Layers and fragments of oil paint and collage mingle with references to memory, pop-culture, and iconography, resulting in kaleidoscopic scenes that are at once deeply rooted in personal history, yet somehow detached.
AS: How do you see the on-going shift in traditional gallery models and what is your vision for Garvey/Simon in this context?
LG: Everything is on the table. We are in an exciting and unexplored time in the gallery world. Now is the best time ever for small and mid-sized galleries to be creative and invent new ways to get exposure for artists and unearth new markets. We are doing just that. I am still curating shows for the artists with whom I work, but doing so with other dealers, at art fairs, and alternative exhibition spaces. We have a by-appointment viewing space uptown, and also maintain a space at UOVO in Long Island City to show secondary market material and larger works of art. I am exceedingly happy so far. And I have windows in my office for the first time in 8 years!
AS: Can you tell me a bit about one of the future projects you are working on these days – either as a curatorial project or as part of the Garvey/Simon programming?
LG: Our Select4 exhibition will be up through the end of the year. In early 2020, I am curating a solo exhibition for Linda Lindroth at a private gallery space in Tribeca. This will be the second solo show we are doing for Linda; I met her initially through our very first Select show! I also hope to collaborate with other gallery colleagues as well. We had an exhibition of work by Ann Aspinwall at McKenzie Fine Art on Orchard Street this past June. Valerie McKenzie and I will continue to have exclusive, co-representation of selected works by Aspinwall until summer of 2021. I love the energy that comes from working with another dealer. Onward and upward.
All Photos courtesy of Garvey/Simon