"Gary Garrels is a sign, an omen. Two years ago, he was ensconced at the Museum of Modern Art as chief curator of drawings and a curator of painting and sculpture. Maybe, as you’ll hear, he wasn’t so happy there, but 10 years ago the person with that sort of job at MoMA wasn’t leaving New York for L.A., never mind how unhappy he was. No way. Not 10 years ago, maybe not even two years ago. But that’s what Garrels did, right in the middle of the Brice Marden retrospective he’d organized. Right in the middle of a bigtime New York art career. His reasons: the artists living and working in Los Angeles. And the Hammer Museum, where he is now chief curator, a limber, creative institution driven not quite so much by the numbers, or hindered by the weight of history or expectations, as MoMA is. And a thriving artistic ecosystem, not yet overwhelmed by the money interests — as, he says, it is in New York... TOM CHRISTIE, LA Weekly.
"...But the kind of creative dynamic atmosphere here in L.A., I think, is really better than New York at this point.
There’s an openness. I don’t think the art making has been completely overshadowed by the commercial world here. Artists are more willing to talk about art here. The gallerists are more open to talking, they’re not just selling. There’s just a very lively, spirited community here.
This is not to paint a black-and-white picture — it’s not either/or. The market isn’t great here: There aren’t hordes of collectors, you know, standing in front of the door before the show opens. In New York it’s just insane, the collecting frenzy, and the money is staggering. Artists in L.A. are certainly ambitious for their careers, and it’s not that they’re not competitive, but I just don’t think it totally overwhelms or subsumes the work in the same way.
I also think people here are more open to risk. New York has become a little more timid. Now when you go to galleries in New York, there are six to 10 shows that I want to see and they’re L.A. artists. Artists who are based here in L.A. are a hugely significant part of the art scene in New York, and sometimes you see their work there and you don’t see it here. Like Jason Rhoades I saw in New York, I didn’t see him here. Mark Bradford, Matt Monahan, there’s a lot of that..."