Cultured Magazine

Spring 2014

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Page 98 of 135

Jeff Poe—co-founder with Tim Blum of Los Angeles gallery Blum & Poe—is in a reflective mood. "We started in a space that was 1,200 square feet, just the two of us," he says, "and we'd get five visitors in a week, maybe." That was in 1994. Since then, the gallery has moved twice, expanding to occupy 21,000 square feet of gallery space, and, in May, it will be opening satellite galleries in New York and Tokyo. The taciturn Poe claims to be "absolutely overjoyed" by the possibility that his Upper East Side gallery might draw a comparably modest number of visitors. For him and Blum, it's all about face-time with their clients. In a "small and focused" 2,000-square-foot space, on the upper two floors of a chic, five-story townhouse, he says there will be nowhere for visitors to hide. "We sit around and complain that the art world that we started out in has been lost," Poe continues. "It's a sad state of affairs. The 'c-word' now in the art world is 'connois- seurship.' It's not spoken about. It's sad. We have to keep our-selves interested." "There is so much mania with the young and the new," adds the more chipper Blum. While the gallery remains open to showing young artists such as Gavin Kenyon, Mathew Cerletty, Darren Bader and Lucy Dodd, it has also recently begun to focus on curated historical shows as well. "Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha" was Blum & Poe's game-changing 2012 exhibition of work by artists of the Mono-ha movement, which flourished in Japan in the late '60s and '70s, but whose importance has been minimally acknowledged in the United States. By contracting specialist curator Mika Yoshitake to organize the exhi-bition and oversee a scholarly catalogue, Blum & Poe demonstrated a level of seriousness that is rare among commercial galleries. Almost unheard of for a selling exhibition, "Requiem for the Sun" subsequently traveled to Gladstone Gallery in New York. In September, Blum & Poe will attempt to repeat this success with "From All Sides: Tansaekhwa on Abstraction," an exhibition of Korean monochromatic painting from the '60s to the '80s. One of the Tansaekhwa movement's leading protagonists was Lee Ufan, a Korean artist who lives in Japan and who was also featured in the Mono-ha exhibition. Blum & Poe's Tokyo gallery will open officially in the fall after a "soft" May opening. As Blum says, it's important for the gallery to maintain a close connection to the Japanese artists on its roster, who, along with surviving members of the Mono-ha group, include giants Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara. Blum & Poe New York is located on East 66th Street near Madison Avenue, not far from some of the foremost art museums in the world—MoMA, the Whitney, the Guggenheim and the Met. In light of Blum & Poe's growing historical commitments, nurturing relationships with such institutions is imperative. Instead of finding East Coast representation for the Mono-ha and Tansaekhwa artists, says Blum, "We thought, who can better manage it than us? Why would we want to give that project to someone else?" Once again, nothing beats the personal touch. "Museums are people, they're not institutions," says Poe. "It's a big misunderstanding. Those people are the patrons who support the museum. A museum is people with money." The face of the New York gallery will be senior director Matthew Bangser. "I wouldn't want to be doing this without Matt," says Poe. "He's incredibly important for the project." He will be joined by director Andrea Neustein, formerly of the Lower East Side's Miguel Abreu Gallery. The gallery's first show will be of paintings by Mark Grotjahn. One of Blum & Poe's biggest sellers, Grotjahn is "a Los Angeles artist who we've been working with from the very beginning, and who has become historically important," Poe says. In New York, however, he is already represented by the Anton Kern Gallery. In a move that may surprise some observers, none of the work in this inaugural exhibition is for sale—all of it is bor- rowed, instead, from collectors and museums, including the Whitney and the Guggenheim. "Coming into New York is an incredibly loaded thing for a gallery like ourselves," Poe says, adding that he's sensitive about making enemies. "If we came out with a show of brand-new Mark Grotjahn paintings, that would provide a lot of volatility," says Blum, choosing his words carefully. Instead, they have enlisted Los Angeles curator Douglas Fogle, formerly of the Hammer Museum, to curate a survey of Grotjahn's iconic "butterfly paintings," the popular abstractions that the artist stopped making in 2008. Connoisseurship and consideration remain watchwords for the pair, despite their inclination toward dudely turns of phrase. "It's smarter for us to be snipers, rather than in an F-111 dropping gigantic bombs," says Poe with a smile. CULTURED 97 Tim Blum (left) and Jeff Poe, co-founders of Los Angeles gallery Blum & Poe, are opening two new outposts this May in New York and Tokyo.

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