Claressinka Anderson is famous for her Venice Beach art salons hosted in an intimate beachside bungalow. Now the proprietress and director of a formal contemporary space, Marine Contemporary, Anderson continues to host domestic events and was thrilled by the opportunity to discuss her ongoing love affair with California—in particular, her soft spot for Venice Beach.
Artsy: Tell us all about your famous Venice Beach salons. How did they begin? Why is L.A. particularly ripe for salon success?
Claressinka Anderson: I have always been fascinated by the salon and I spent some time looking at its history when I was thinking about opening Marine, which I did in the summer of 2009. I was interested in reinterpreting the idea of the salon in the context of the contemporary art world and creating a space that fosters thought and discussion about what it is to really live with art. The art world in L.A. is really very small and I wanted to help broaden the audience and inspire young people to start collections. I grew up in London where there is an evolved and ingrained history of arts patronage, so I really noticed the difference in the comparative lack of that supporting culture here.
But along with that lack of history comes a beautiful openness—both physically and mentally. There is a freedom here for people like me—there is still a sense of the Wild West about L.A. I do feel that this is changing, but L.A. is still a very different proposition to London or New York. I have had many conversations with people about being intimidated by galleries when they are starting out and I wanted to create a warmer environment for fledgling collectors to explore. Besides, everyone likes the idea of poking around someone else's house. I feel as though there is the sense for the visitor that something is being uncovered. It is an adventure. Now that I have a conventional gallery space as well, I really enjoy the interplay between the two spaces and appreciate the uniqueness of the salon space even more. L.A. is a laid-back city in many ways and viewing art in a home lends itself naturally to that sense of casualness.
Artsy: As a London native living in Venice Beach, do you identify with the stereotypical fascination with the sun and space, à la David Hockney?
CA: Most definitely. When I first moved here in 2006, I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay. I saw it as more of a transitional place on my way back to London, but with each passing year the sun and the air crept under my skin more and more, to the point where the idea of living in London actually started to feel oppressive. The light here is special—it pierces you a certain way. Everyone always talks about how seductive Los Angeles is and its light is part of that. The legend of Hollywood is also an obvious part of its draw, but it is much more than that. I’ve always found it interesting that so many important artists have chosen L.A. as their homes, but L.A. has historically not been a world center for contemporary art. It has been a place of production, but not necessarily presentation, which is shifting now in profound ways. L.A. also has an interesting energy because I think it is a city that attracts people that are searching for something. This exists outside of anything else. It is what makes L.A. captivating. I chose Venice to live and have my gallery in because it is one of the few areas in Los Angeles with a rich history of artistic production. The quintessential L.A. artists have all had studios here: Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell, John Baldessari, Ken Price, Robert Graham, the list goes on and on. Furthermore, most of the established Los Angeles artists teach at its top art institutions, which helps to continually foster new generations of artists.
Artsy: We have one day to spend in Venice Beach. What should we do?
CA: Well, my perfect day would start with a walk to the beach with my dog, where I would stop off for a juice at Moon Juice on Rose Avenue. Then I’d get on my bike to have brunch in the garden at Axe on the North end of Abbot Kinney. The nine-grain pancake is a legend. Then I might take a stroll down Abbot Kinney towards Venice Boulevard to take in all the shops. There are so many wonderful stores on the street, but a few highlights are the well-curated A + R, Firefly and Tortoise General Store. There are also two other young galleries of note on Abbot Kinney, Various Small Fires and Aran Cravey. Toms (of shoe fame) recently opened on the street and it has a charming Wes Anderson-esque back courtyard where you can sit, read and have coffee. Continuing on South, there is Urbanic Paper Boutique, which has a thoughtful selection of cards, and wrapping paper. You should definitely stop opposite the street for cocktails at Tasting Kitchen, which has the best bar in Venice. Around the corner on Venice Blvd is L & M Gallery designed by Kulapat Yantrasast—it’s a gorgeous space in a historic power plant from the 1930’s. Before they moved in, I used to covet that location as my ultimate gallery space and I love what they did with it. Finishing off the evening, I might head back to Rose for dinner at Superba Snack Bar and a nightcap at Venice Beach Wines, which was the pioneer business on Rose and really kick started its regeneration.
Artsy: Are there any current or upcoming exhibitions that are absolutely not to be missed?
In keeping with the Venice theme, I’m keeping it local with my recommendations! My gallery neighbor on Abbot Kinney, Various Small Fires, is currently showing L.A. artist Anna Sew Hoy. I’ve been a fan of Anna’s work ever since I saw it at “Eden's Edge: Fifteen L.A. Artists” at the Hammer Museum when I first moved to L.A., so I am excited to see what she is up to now. Further down Venice Boulevard at the ocean, the venerable L.A. Louver has a Matt Wedel show opening on April 11th. Matt makes monumentally scaled sculptures of magical figures and flora and fauna in clay. They are truly magnetic.
Artsy: Can you choose 4-5 works on Artsy that you feel epitomize Los Angeles/California, and explain why? (Follow Claressinka to see her selects)
Claressinka Anderson is a curator and contemporary art dealer living in Los Angeles. She is also a published poet. Originally from London, England, she has worked as a curator and art advisor both in Europe and L.A. Anderson is the owner of Marine Contemporary in Venice and Marine Art Salon in Santa Monica.