Is there a beautiful story behind the name of your gallery, which for every Russian-speaking person refers to one – love? How did love inspire you?
One of the reasons I started the gallery was because I wanted to engage with artists and art in a more meaningful way than just being able to see it or collect it. Doing shows with artists that I admired seemed like it would contribute more to their careers. I studied art, and so I love art, but eventually, I realized that being an artist wasn’t going to work for me. Helping artists realize their projects was much more gratifying to me.
You have started as an artist, then shifted to curatorial practices, working in numerous institutions and galleries but then decided to establish your own space for “doing everything with love” as you mentioned once. Who you are now: a gallerist, curator, art lover?
I try to avoid any kinds of labels. I consider myself more of a “facilitator”, than a curator or gallerist. A conduit between the artists and an audience. I give my resources to artists so they can develop and present their work, so really I just help make things happen.
How does the Institutional system, which consists of art fairs, museums, art discourse, in general, frame and influence that kind of “facilitation”? Which challenges you are facing?
Fairs, museums, and discourse all form part of the art ecosystem. Some facets of it can help access others. I make it a point to commission a writer or scholar to produce a text for every exhibition, and that helps validate the artist and their practice, and they benefit from having a studio visit with someone more established who shares similar interests. My initial motivation for doing that was that I wanted to arrange an external studio visit for every artist that I work with. And so why not have them write something that I can later use to promote their work and the show? This helps their practice become part of a larger discourse. And art fairs, I supposed that they used to be a necessary part of running a gallery in order to meet curators, clients, etc Younger galleries felt the need to do fair to be perceived as legitimate, because that was the expectation serious galleries, but this seems to be changing.
LUBOV Gallery has three artists it officially represents, but at the same time, you do many projects with artists all over the world in different spaces. Which are the main criteria for you as a curator and a gallerist to choose a new name for collaboration?
I only work with artists that make work that I like.
Do you collaborate with NFT artists?
Some of the artists I work with have been exploring technology for some time, but I have no interest in doing so at the moment.
You established the gallery in 2016 and chose a prestigious location in Lower Manhattan. Is the location itself important for you as a gallerist? How did you manage to occupy that space in quite tough times of financial crisis?
Yes, I knew I wanted to be in Manhattan from the beginning, even if that meant having a smaller space. It was important to me to be in a central location that was convenient for people to visit and travel to, wherever they may be located. In fact, the space was tiny; and in reality, that’s also because that was all I could afford with the salary of my full-time job at that time. I started the space without having collectors that could support it, and so I had to plan things without being able to rely on sales. I look back now and I realize how risky that was; I’m not sure if I would even be willing to do that now.
Looking back, what would you change? Have you still devoted the strategy of “facilitator” who doesn’t think about sales?
I wouldn’t change anything. But it’s been such a roller coaster that I’m not sure what my old self would think of getting into it.
You are the executive coordinator of Independent Curators International (ICI) in New York. Is it important for you to keep one leg on the curatorial area running the Gallery space?
It’s definitely very valuable to be able to be involved in those sides of the art world because they are complementary to each other. Both can be experimental and innovative in their own ways, and it’s interesting to think about how they can be integrated with one another. Or at least what one can learn from each and apply to the other. It’s also useful to be aware of developments and trends in each field, and how the language around certain concepts or ideas change and evolve.
What recent curatorial project or curator influenced you much?
Underground Flower and Final Hot Dessert are initiatives to me that I keep a close eye on. Their projects completely reimagine the exhibition space and it’s fascinating to see the artwork in a different context.
Working under the conception of a new exhibition project do you mostly think about it as an online object or we are still the prisoners of the white cube?
I stay away from projects that only exist online. I think of the Internet as a tool for the gallery to communicate and distribute, but not as a platform for presentation.
Is it because of a certain “aura” in Benjamin’s sense that disappeared in Internet space but is still preserved off-line?
I think art is a physical and spiritual experience. Additionally, I think part of the appeal of collecting art is actually owning a physical object that is sought after. Making something that exists purely online completely obliterates these notions, which is an interesting thing. But to me, if something were to exist only online, it should rethink completely the medium of the Internet instead of just being a repository for the material.
What economy of art means for you?
I hope to help make artists make money, and introduce them to people who might continue supporting their careers long-term. I think it’s one of the most important things I can do to nurture their practice, in addition to connecting them with an audience through exhibitions, and helping them achieve visibility through the press.
How has the portrait of art supporters or collectors changed for the last 10 years? Are they still “look” like Peggy G. or Rockefeller?
I don’t think the profile of the patron has changed. People support the artists they believe in a committed way, and artists simply need to make money to live and support their practice. Some are more discrete than others, though. I think that something that is different is that with social media some of these interests and connections are more visible.