As commercial real estate balloons in cities like New York and London, and art galleries professionalize, limiting the freedoms artists are given within their spaces, artists, art professionals, and collectors have begun to make use of living space—be it an entire apartment, a guest bedroom, or even a walk-in closet—to put on the shows they want to see.
Apartment galleries offer viable alternatives to see art outside of commercially focused, white cube gallery spaces, and to witness a more intimate, inclusive side of the art world. And while these galleries are nothing new—Leo Castelli famously turned the living room of his 77th street apartment into a gallery in 1957—with time, they’ve become less novel and more widespread. So what does it take to open an apartment gallery today?
This fall, Ariela Gittlen and Scott Indrisek opened a gallery, dubbed Teen Party, rather suddenly out of their Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, apartment. This was a first for the couple, who work as a graphic designer and art writer, and editor-in-chief of an art magazine, respectively. Within the span of some six weeks they confirmed two artists for the inaugural show—the esteemed
and young painter
—secured a liquor sponsor, cleared out the spare bedroom-turned-home office, installed the show, and put on an opening that saw around a hundred people filter in and out of their 600-square-foot apartment. “We were both exhausted at the end of the night, and we said to each other, ‘This could not have gone better, everything worked exactly like it was supposed to,’” Gittlen recalls. Weeks later, unexpectedly, they’d sell two of Thomason’s works. Despite how it sounds, this is not an easy venture. (Full disclosure: Indrisek is Artsy’s deputy editor, though wasn’t at the time of publishing; Gittlen is a contributing writer.)
Given that there’s no handbook, we spoke to the owners of five apartment galleries in five cities: New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Milan, and Mexico City. Below, we share their insights and inspirations, and the things you absolutely must know before launching an exhibition program out of your living room.
If sales are your main motivation, this may not be for you.
While one might expect that a strong motive behind an apartment gallery is to save on the cost of renting out a space, they’re often inspired by a passion for community or opportunities to experiment, rather than making money. “It’s so liberating not to worry about hustling to make rent and it gives us the freedom to consider projects and events that we couldn’t afford if we were renting a storefront,” says Gittlen. Even so, Gittlen and Indrisek were pleasantly surprised when a collector from Colorado got in touch, having found Thomason’s paintings online. “It was not part of the expectation,” says Indrisek.