New Neighbors and Fresh Faces in SoWa

2017 has been an interesting year in the art world, from major museum controversies to recent galleries closures. Often overlooked are the new spaces opening up. Here in SoWa there are dozens of art galleries and studios brimming with art, and notable new galleries have recently moved to town:

A R E A Gallery
460C Harrison Avenue

A lively crowd at A R E A opening night, including Gallery Director, David Guerra (2nd from right), image courtesy of A R E A Gallery Facebook

What began as a photography pop-up project called Darkroom Boston, founded by David Guerra, and eventually morphed into an apartment gallery space, is now a physical gallery securely located in the C building of 460 Harrison Avenue. On December 1st, AREA occupied two existing commercial spaces at the end of the hallway, immediately bringing life to the space with his bright, backlit sign and booming energy to match. The inaguaral exhibition, C O L L A G E art sale, features 26 artists working in a wide variety of styles and media. The gallery mission is focused on promotion of the arts in Boston through interesting exhibitions and events, and they believe everyone should be a collector! Read more about the gallery by clicking here.

KABINETT Gallery
450 Harrison Avenue #29

Opening January 5th, 2018, KABINETT Gallery has relocated from their Shawmut Avenue location and moved into their new, two-level gallery space at 450 Harrison Avenue. Gallery owner and director, Gabe Boyers, has curated an upcoming exhibition, Killers & Thrillers, that will feature an astounding 50+ artists from 200 BC -2017. According to their wesbite, "Above all, Boyers chooses to represent work that he loves, art that moves and transforms us." An active member of the MFA Museum Council, you can catch Boyer's speaking on art collecting panels or in conversation about his passion for mid-19th through early 20th century works. Read more about the gallery by clicking here, and don't miss the opening reception on January 5th! Also check out their very cool promotional video: https://vimeo.com/246640833

Beacon Gallery
534B Harrison Avenue

Image courtesy of @beacongallery Instagram

Officially opened on November 2nd of this year, their first exhibition, First Look, features six contemporary artists working in a variety of styles and media. Described by The Boston Sun as "a warm little oasis filled with art," the gallery activates a space that was previously a garden level office. Run by a powerhouse team that includes owner Christine O'Donnell, marketing director Rachel Lagault, and finance and admin coordinator Jennifer Condensa-Garcia, they offer a fresh perspective to the Boston art scene. You can look forward to their upcoming show opening January 5th, Lives in Limbo: Refugees at the Gates of Europe, which will two-fold feature topical artwork and fundraise on behalf of refugees (100% of profits!). Click for more details about Beacon Gallery.

The biggest takeaway: having a physical space is still important. People still want to see and experience art in person, this creates that important dialogue between the patron and the work. SoWa has become the destination for contemporary art in Boston, stop by any day of the week (well, aside from Mondays!) and you can see dozens of exhibitions and hundreds of artists all within a few blocks. 

Museum Review: Takashi Murakami at the MFA Boston

Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami has brought a splash of color and a lot of attention to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston recently with the exhibit Lineage of Eccentrics, A Collaboration with Nobuo Tsuji. Professor Nobuo Tsuji assumed the role of mentor and teacher to Murakami in 2009, an act that would allow the artist to engage with historical Japanese art and expand his knowledge in the traditional art forms. The exhibit has taken Murakami’s explosive, vibrant artworks and paired them with pieces from the museum’s extensive collection of Japanese art, creating a conversation between past and present. The near sensory overload is on par with the New York Times description of the artist, “Takashi Murakami rocketed to international fame in the art world for his Pop Japanese anime-inspired characters and motifs that proliferate playfully and menacingly across paintings, sculptures and a line of commercial products.” With fifty of Murakami’s works on display paired with a matching number of carefully curated Japanese works, the museum visitors undergo a unique viewing experience.

Left: Takashi Murakami, And then, and then and then and then and then / Green Truth, 2006 Right: Takashi Murakami, And then, and then and then and then and then / Original Blue, 2006

Left: Takashi Murakami, And then, and then and then and then and then / Green Truth, 2006
Right: Takashi Murakami, And then, and then and then and then and then / Original Blue, 2006

Walking into the gallery, visitors are greeted by Transcendent Attacking a Whirlwind, a colossal new work by Murakami illustrating an oversized sea serpent surrounded by curling waves and a background of tessellating pattern. Murakami’s new work was inspired by the six-panel folding screen of the same title, created by Soga Shohaku in 1764 which is now in MFA’s Collection. These pieces act as a perfect introduction to the marriage that Senior Curator of Japanese Art, Anne Nishimura Morse, and Japanese Art Historian, Nobuo Tsuji, have cultivated between pop-art and traditional Japanese artwork. The contrast between Murakami’s contemporary artworks against the beautiful scrolls and images of centuries past simultaneously charm the viewer and display the lasting effect that traditional Japanese culture has had on the present.

The exhibition is organized into six thematic sections, beginning with the exploration of Murakami’s coined term of “Superflat”. Murakami’s Superflat Manifesto, 2000, articulates his artistic approach in which he drastically compresses the space between three dimensional objects and metaphorically flattens distinctions between “high art” and “low art”. The other five galleries are organized based on Tsuji’s principles of Japanese art history: animation, kazari (ornamentation), asobi (playfulness), religiosity and eccentricity.

Detail of: Takashi Murakami, Dragon in Clouds — Red Mutation, 2010

Detail of: Takashi Murakami, Dragon in Clouds — Red Mutation, 2010

One of the most memorable pieces in the show is Dragon in Clouds—Red Mutation, a twelve foot by fifty-nine foot painting that Murakami created in just twenty-four hours. The gigantic painting came to be in 2010, after Tsuji challenge Murakami to paint his own work without the help of any of his studio assistants. After putting himself on a twenty-four hour time limit, and pulling inspiration from Soga Shohaku’s 1763 thirty five foot long Dragon and Clouds, Murakami worked for an entire day. The final product was the massive and powerful acrylic on canvas artwork. 

With the show being so bright and colorful, it easily lends itself to social sharing, making it a popular backdrop to countless Instagram photos. In the room housing Kawaii – vacances (Summer Vacation in the Kingdom of the Golden), visitors can be found going as far as laying on the ground to capture the psychedelic effect the happy flowers and metallic finish. With a guiding phrase on the wall reading: “If you don't share a photo from this exhibition, did you really visit? Share your #mfaMurakami photos with @mfaBoston.” A controversial statement that has received varied feedback, raising the topic of how institutions should be using social media to handle self-promotion through art. The phrase certainly questions the intentions of the exhibition; whether to grab the attention of snap-happy social sharers or start a cultural conversation about Japanese art past and present – and which is more important to the museum.

Overall, it is a strong exhibition and we recommend seeing in person. Be sure to bring a friend so you have someone to take your Instagram photo…

Detail of: Takashi Murakami, Kawaii-Vacances (Summer Vacation in the Kingdom of the Golden),  2008.

Detail of: Takashi Murakami, Kawaii-Vacances (Summer Vacation in the Kingdom of the Golden),  2008.

The Contemporary Curator

As defined by the dictionary, a curator is, “a keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection.” In the contemporary art world however, we take a different perspective on the roles and responsibilities that this job entails. As described by David Guerra, Director of AREA Gallery and our March 2016 curator of Dualisms, “A curator is a selector and a facilitator, but most importantly, is a connected author of critical narratives that creates social and cultural value.”

Installation View: The Awakening, November 2017

Installation View: The Awakening, November 2017

At Abigail Ogilvy gallery, owner and director Abigail Ogilvy Ryan and Assistant Director, Allyson Boli, typically take on the curatorial role, discovering new artwork that has yet to be exhibited and discussed in the Boston area. We seek out new points of view through guest curators, such as David Guerra (Dualisms), Meredyth Hyatt Moses (An Eclectic View), and Todd Pavlisko (Fuse). This coming February 2018, Abigail Ogilvy Gallery is inviting curators, artists, and collectives to offer a new vision for our gallery, a crucial part of cultivating diverse perspectives in contemporary art.

Whether in a large museum or a small gallery, four things are crucial to the curatorial profession today: the preserving, selecting, connecting, and arranging of art. Every exhibition is more than just the artwork on a wall—it is a long and detailed process.

Preserving: An exhibition is usually based on a theme or topic. It is imperative that a curator chooses work that follows a central theme or starts a conversation with the viewer in some capacity. It is also important that the curator preserves the tradition and concept of the art. The challenge lies in showcasing the work to its fullest potential without glossing over the artist’s inscribed value. Whether a large group show, or a specific thematic exhibition, the curator should preserve the meaning of the artwork and ensure visitors can interact within the dialogue of the show.

Selecting: Once the theme or concept is established, the next step of a curator’s job is selecting the work. The curator can spends weeks, months, or even years during this phase of curation. They will contact artists and galleries, diligently visiting their studios or finding ways to view the work in person. This step includes immense research and discovery in order to learn about each artist’s background and portfolio. When the curator feels they have the right artists for their particular exhibition, they will begin discussions around getting the work to the exhibition space.

Connecting: Connecting the work to the art historical canon is another crucial element of curation. As the definition of contemporary art continues to expand, we must remember that all art is in some way a response to what came before it. The context of a piece must always be considered when building an exhibition. Once that connection is established, the curator will need to find a way to express this vision to visitors in the space.

Arranging: The final part of a curator’s job is to determine how the art they have selected will be arranged and displayed. Keeping the previous elements in mind, the curator must now utilize their own creativity in order to stay true to their theme and enable the art and the environment to become a cohesive experience and form a story. While many of us are used to the “white cube” model of experiencing an exhibition, there are hundreds of ways to display artwork in any given space.

Click to apply for February 2018 Curatorial Role

4 Simple Questions to Guide Your Next Art Purchase

Buying art shouldn't be an overwhelming, confusing process, but sometimes it's hard to know where to start. Here are four key questions to ask yourself to help make the process, easy, approachable, and above all, fun.

Why do I want to purchase art?

Purchasing art can have many approaches, depending on what you’re looking for. It’s not always vital to pinpoint the exact space for your art before beginning your search. Get a sense of your goals— Do you want to start with one piece, or are you open to multiple purchases? Is there a specific wall that you want to fill, are you looking to start a collection, or both? Understanding what you’re trying to gain is the best way to guide your search.

What's out there?

Personal research is the most important part of the process. Take a walk through your city’s arts district, talk to gallerists, attend opening receptions and artist open studios, browse online resources like Artsy. This part can be fun. Don’t be intimidated: there’s no rush. The more patience you have with your search, the more you learn, and the more educated of a purchase you will be able to make. Take a friend to an opening, wander your local Open Studios with your spouse, ask gallerists questions on First Fridays. The main focus isn’t to seek out a purchase, it’s to enjoy the experience of looking at art.

What do I like?

As you continue your research, keep track of the things that appeal to you: artists, media, particular galleries. What colors have been your favorite? Have you been drawn to abstract work, or figurative? Maybe you initially went in looking for a painting, but later realize that you love photography. Maybe you intended to fill a wall with three smaller pieces, but have come to like the idea of one large piece. Now that you are beginning to understand the market, you can set a budget and determine what work suits your taste. Start considering options, envisioning the way it may fit into the different spaces in your home, office, or concept.

Which piece is “the one”?

This is the simplest part. When all of the pieces finally fall together—size, aesthetic, price, concept—you’ll know. Many artists, consultants, and galleries offer payment plans, as well as shipping and installation assistance to make your purchase a smooth, easy process. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge.

Thursday, September 15, 2016: Puloma Ghosh