It all began for Essex Flowers in 2013, in the basement of the eponymous flower shop located at 365 Grand Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Bill Frazer, the flower shop’s owner, sought the artists out, looking for individuals to show art in his space. Nine artists began the endeavor, adopting a flexible gallery model—part-artist co-op, part kunsthalle. They’ve since moved and grown in members. And while still in search of a permanent space, the founders maintain their pursuit to show the artists they want to see.
Artsy: What inspired you to open a gallery?
Essex Flowers: The idea of collectively opening a gallery was an idea many of us had been kicking around for a while, with a number of other artists. Several of us had already run similar spaces at different times and places. As many galleries as there were operating in the city, there were still more artists and exhibitions we wanted to see.
Artsy: How do you balance your own art practices with running the gallery?
EF: It’s different for everyone. We all have different practices and we all offer different skills to the space. We all work together to make things happen but “balance” might not be the right word for it.
Artsy: Can you tell us a bit about your exhibition program?
EF: We don’t have a strict schedule. People just speak up when they have an idea and we make sure everyone’s wishes are considered. Most of the artists we exhibit are people someone in the group has a personal connection with, but that’s not a rule. We can’t really take outside proposals because there’re already about a dozen people waiting their turn.
Artsy: What makes a gallery successful?
EF: Definitions of success can be far reaching, but in a traditional sense, an entity that is self-sustaining and contributes new and thought-provoking artwork to the public, as well as presents the historically underrated or overlooked.
Artsy: Do artists make better gallerists?
EF: Probably not. I think we’re generally more likely to take chances and give unlikely people opportunities. But after that we can be pretty conflicted about most any aspect. Artists have to wear a lot of hats to get by in this town but I think we’re always worried about one of those roles overshadowing our artistic identity. In fact, “gallerist” is maybe the last title any of us would like to claim.
Artsy: What’s next for you?
EF: There are about 12 of us now, so that means there are about as many ideas of how the space will continue to evolve.