The Art Assassin

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang

Chapter 42: ASSASSINATION: Daniel Gellis, Director of The Conference Room Gallery

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Portrait of Daniel Gellis. Courtesy of Facebook.
Poster design for the exhibition “Jesus Cancelled My Art Show.” Courtesy of The Conference Room Gallery and Visual Narcotics: 20mg.

Meeting with the director of the Los Angeles space called The Conference Room Gallery was quite an eye-opening experience. Daniel Gellis curates his experimental space with an emotional verve and intellectual furor that I have not seen before in anyone else that I have met. His brilliant roster of artists including Ryan Pratt, Patrice Hubert, Andrew Wrigley, and Joshua Krause that range from graduates from art schools as well as self-taught persons. His gamut could be considered risky by many standards, yet it is apparent that Gellis is willing to test the limits of what the boundaries of art can be and to prove that the traditional demarcations among genres do not exist in the normal sense.

Having spent a great deal of time with Gellis was a learning experience. As the ART ASSASSIN, I can confirm only that the mark was a man whose stormy passion and heartfelt ingenuity makes him the Beethoven of gallery directors in today’s world. He truly thinks outside of the box, even converting a former mortgage office into a fabulous gallery space featuring top-notch, provocative exhibits.

So if you have any questions about any of the artwork featured at the Conference Room Gallery, feel free to contact Daniel Gellis at daniel@theconfroom.com for further information.

So here are the secret details of the “assassination” as revealed by transcript:

qi peng: How did the The Conference Room Gallery originate in 2007?

Daniel Gellis: THE CONFERENCE ROOM EMERGED AS A POINTED RESPONSE TO THE CURATORIAL PRACTICES OF STATUS QUO INSTITUTIONS, CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERIES, ART JOURNALS AND ACADEMIC BOURGOISE THAT HAVE CLOSED DOORS TO ARTISTS BECAUSE OF LACK OF FORMAL EDUCATION, THE NEED TO PIGEON HOLE STYLES FOR MARKETING PURPOSES AND THE CLASSIFICATION OF GENERAL CONSENSUS TO SAY THE ART IS GOOD BEFORE THEY PROCURE THE FINANCIAL BACKING TO PUT AN ARTIST ON THE WALLS, FLOORS OR CEILINGS.  ALSO, I HAVE WORKED IN MANY CORPORATE ENVIRONMENTS WHERE ART WAS LESS THAN APPRECIATED.  WALKING DOWN HALLS OF COMPANIES WHERE THE ONLY WORK ON THE WALL WERE INSPIRATIONAL POSTERS.  I WOULD USE MY OFFICE AS A MINI DISPLAY OF THE WORKS THAT I OWNED AND MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, MY OFFICE BECOME THE CREATIVE MECCA, WHERE NEW IDEAS AND BRAIN STORMING SOLUTIONS WOULD BE THE NORM.  I TOOK THE CONCEPT OF MERGING THE TWO WORLDS.  HENCE OUR LOGO; A WATER COOLER.  MOST CHIT CHAT IN THE OFFICE IS DONE AT THE WATER COOLER OR KITCHEN AREA OF AN OFFICE.  PEOPLE ARE FREE TO SPEAK ABOUT NON-WORK RELATED TOPICS AND LOWER THEIR DEFENSES.  EACH EXHIBITION HAS A MEETING NUMBER AND EACH ARTIST IS TITLED A REPRESENTATIVE.  BEING THAT EACH SHOW ENTAILS ART MADE FOR EXHIBITION, THIS IS NOT DISSIMILAR TO HOLDING A LECTURE, TRAINING SESSION, CORPORATE MEETING ETC… YOU WOULD HAVE A REPRESENTATIVE OF A DIVISION, COMPANY, MANAGEMENT, ETC… SPEAK OR CONDUCT THE MEETING.  THIS IS SIMILAR TO HOW AN EXHIBITION IS HELD.  YOU HAVE THE HOST GALLERY, THEN YOU HAVE THE HOST ARTIST.

qi peng: When the gallery first appeared in Los Angeles, what were the initial challenges for getting the space off the ground and building up a reputation within the context of the contemporary California scene, and eventually international, arts scene?

Daniel Gellis: THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WAS TO BRIDGE THE GAP BETWEEN FINE ART AND WHAT WAS/IS CONSIDERED LOW BROW, NAÏVE, OUTSIDER ART.  THE CALIFORNIA ART SCENE IS BROKEN DOWN OVER HISTORICAL SCHOOLS, MOVEMENTS AND SCENES NOT TO MENTION PUBLIC LIVING LOCATIONS BEING DISPERSED BETWEEN MILES AND MILES OF SUBURBS. DEPENDING ON WHERE YOUR GALLERY IS LOCATED YOU COULD EASILY BE LUMPED TOGETHER WITH PLEIN AIR PAINTERS FROM THE 30-40’S, BEACH ART, TOURISM ART OR A PARTICULAR SCHOOL.  CALIFORNIA IS SUCH A LARGE STATE THAT UNLIKE MANY OTHER ART SCENES IT IS VERY HARD TO CLASSIFY, AS WELL AS THE LOS ANGELES SCENE HAS BEEN SLOWLY OVER THE LAST 40-50 YEARS PROVIDING GROUNDS FOR MANY NEW ART MOVEMENTS. IF YOU LOOK BACK, ONE OF THE BREAK OUT EXHIBITIONS FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ARTISTS WOULD HAVE TO BE THE HELTER SKELTER EXHIBITION IN MY OPINION.

qi peng: When you started to search for artists to represent, what was the methodology behind finding the ones whom you chose eventually for full representation?

Daniel Gellis: THAT’S NOT AN EASY QUESTION TO ANSWER.  I HAVE MY OWN CRITERIA I’VE FORMULATED THAT ALLOWS ME TO CHOOSE WHOM AND WHAT I’D LIKE TO SHOW. THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT I HAVEN’T CHOSEN TO EXHIBIT ARTISTS THAT I WASN’T FULLY COMFORTABLE WITH, BUT HOW I TEND TO OPERATE WHEN I’M NOT 100% POSITIVE ABOUT THE ARTIST IS TO HAVE A GROUP EXHIBITION.  THIS ALLOWS ME TO SEE THE FULL SPECTRUM OF THE ARTIST THEMSELVES.  HOW THEY WORK, HOW PROLIFIC THEY ARE, HOW DEDICATED THEY ARE, THE QUALITY OF THE WORK ETC…  I ALSO BELIEVE STRONGLY THAT IF I WOULDN’T OWN THE ART MYSELF THEN I SHOULDN’T EXHIBIT THE ARTIST.

qi peng: By focusing on your own personal and fierce vision as the driving force behind the gallery’s conceptual stance and its appeal to the art world, what was the main aesthetic and philosophical thrust behind that approach?

Daniel Gellis: MY BACKGROUND CAME FROM WORKING IN SPECIAL EVENTS AND INSTALLATION CREWS FOR MUSEUMS AND I BELIEVE THE EXPERIENCES FROM EACH MUSEUM AND HOW THEY CURATE AND OPERATE GAVE ME MY FOUNDATION TO BEGIN FROM.  BE IT AS IT MAY, I DON’T FOLLOW EXACTLY WHAT I WITNESSED WORKING AT THESE MUSEUMS BUT I DO FOLLOW CLOSELY CURATORIAL PRACTICES AND CONCEPTS THAT BASE LARGE AND TOURING EXHIBITIONS. MY OWN PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY WOULD MELD SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THAT OF A MASTER PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINTER WITH THE ATTENTION TO DETAIL AND COMPOSITION THAT HAS TO BE UPHELD ALONG WITH MATERIAL, MEDIA, SUBJECT MATTER AND RELEVANCE OF A MUSEUM.

qi peng: What is your assessment of your artists’ combined vision within the current practice of art?

Daniel Gellis: SINCE I FOCUS ON EMERGING ARTISTS, THE MAJORITY THAT I EXHIBIT ARE ALWAYS STRIVING TO BREAK NEW GROUNDS, RE-INVENT THEMSELVES AND THEIR WORK.  OFTEN I WILL CURATE A SHOW THAT MAY HAVE TWO TOTAL DIFFERENT MEDIUMS THAT DO WORK IN CONJUNCTION WHEN THE OVERAL CONCEPT IS ON VIEW. I SEE MANY ARTISTS WHO COLLABORATE WITH EACH OTHER AND BEGIN TO SEE HOW CONVOLUTED THAT WORK BECOMES.  I PREFER TO ALLOW THE ARTIST TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES SOLELY INSTEAD OF TRYING TO FIT INTO A PRE-DESCRIBED STYLE.  AS WELL, I BELIEVE THAT ALL DEPENDS ON THE ARTIST AND THEIR EXPERIENCE IN THE ART WORLD AS A WHOLE.

qi peng: How does the gallery’s programs relate to the overall art history context?

Daniel Gellis: I WOULD SAY THE CONFERENCE ROOM GALLERY, BEING THAT IT FOCUSES PRIMARILY ON EMERGING ARTISTS HAS MUCH RELEVANCE.  SINCE WE’RE NOT DRIVEN EXCLUSIVELY ON MAKING A PROFIT, OPPOSED TO OTHER EMERGING ART GALLERIES OR EVEN ESTABLISHED ONES FOR THAT MATTER, WE HAVE MORE PLAY AND ABILITY TO PROVOKE THE VIEWERS. THUS WE ARE ABLE TO PUT ON EXHIBITIONS THAT CHALLENGE CURRENT TRENDS AND EVENTUALLY BECOME THE FATHERS OF NEW MOVEMENTS, SCHOOLS OR PROGRESSIONS.

qi peng: What is the most controversial exhibition that you have hosted in the gallery that received a strong response to the artworks being featured there?

Daniel Gellis: I WOULD SAY I’VE HAD MORE THAN A FEW THAT PROVOKED SERIOUS RESPONSES BUT THE FIRST AND FOREMOST SUCCESFUL OF THOSE WOULD BE THE JESUS CANCELLED MY ART SHOW; MEETING 1.3.  THIS PARTICULAR EXHIBIT CHALLENGED NOT ONLY THE AUDIENCE’S IDEA OF HOW ART AND RELIGION INTERTWINE BUT ALSO THE ARTISTS EXHIBITING, ASKING THEM TO DIG DEPPER INTO THEIR SOUL AS TO WHY THEY CREATE ART AND WHY THEY CHOOSE TO EXHIBIT THE ART THEY CREATE. THAT PARTICULAR EXHIBITION WAS CREATED DUE TO A CANCELLATION FOR A SOLO EXHIBITION BY AN ARTIST WITH THE REASON THAT HE HAD GIVEN UP ART TO DEVOTE HIS LIFE TO CHRISTIANITY, WHICH MADE IT PERSONAL AND NOT JUST CONCEPT.

qi peng: Who would you judge to be your most provocative artists in your roster?

Daniel Gellis: WELL, THAT’S A LOADED QUESTION.  YOU PIT ME INTO FAVORITES… I WOULD HAVE TO SAY ONE OF MY MOST CONTROVERSAL ARTISTS WOULD HAVE TO BE RYAN PRATT, NOT SO MUCH BECAUSE OF HIS SUBJECT MATTER BUT HIS MEDIUMS.  HE USES TRADITIONAL METHODS BUT MERGES STYLES. ONE PAINTING MAY HAVE A BEAUTIFUL SERENE STILL LIFE OF A BANQUET TABLE BUT UPON CLOSER OBSERVATION THAT FANTISTICAL ROAST IS NOT A PHEASANT OR HAM BUT A RAT, GLAZED TO PERFECTION.   I HAVE HAD LIMITED SUCCESS SALES WISE WITH HIM, BUT I NEVER TIRE OF LOOKING AT HIS WORK OR TECHNIQUE.  HE’S VERY EXISTENTIAL YET AT THE SAME MOMENT VERY CALCULATED, FORWARD THINKING AND DEEP IN THOUGHT. HE TENDS TO REACT IN A MANNERISM TO HIS SURROUNDINGS THAT EXPRESSES THE SUBLTIES RATHER THAN DIRECTLY IN YOUR FACE. HE WORKS IN OILS AND PEN & INK WHICH DOESN’T ALLOW HIM TO BE PIGEON HOLED AS ONE STYLE OR MEDIUM.  HIS SUBJECT MATTER REALMS FROM CURRENT EVENTS TO SURREAL DREAM LIKE VISIONS STEMMING FROM LITERATURE, HISTORY, ART MOVEMENTS AND WORLD NEWS.  PEOPLE TEND TO EITHER REALLY LOVE HIS WORK OR REALLY HATE IT.

qi peng: How do you balance presenting artists who play with being eye catching with probing inquiry and those who provoke deep thought subtly?

Daniel Gellis: I TEND TO DENY IMMEDIATELY ANY ARTIST THAT IS HOPING ONTO A BAND WAGON OR HIP MOVEMENT.  THEY MUST PROVIDE INSIGHT INTO WHAT IT IS THEY ARE TRYING TO SAY WITH THEIR ART.  I CARE LITTLE IF THEY’VE HAD A WRITTEN BIO/CRITIQUE/STATEMENT AND MORE ABOUT FIRST HAND INFORMATION FROM CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN THEM AND I.  I TREAT EACH ARTIST AS I WOULD A FRIEND, I’M READY AND WILLING TO BE DISAGREED WITH OR EVEN MISUNDERSTOOD BUT YOU MUST HAVE CONVICTION.  YOU MUST TRULY BELIEVE THAT AT THAT MOMENT THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT AND OPEN TO NEW IDEAS. AT THE SAME TIME EXECUTION IS THE VERY IMPORATANT TO ME.  IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO EDUCATE ON A LARGE SCALE TO AN AUDIENCE YOU HAVE NO IDEA IF THEY HAVE A DESIRE TO LEARN.  I TRY TO LET THE CURATORIAL SIDE AND THE ART TO DO MOST OF THE TALKING AND MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, PATRONS ARE INQUISITIVE AND REQUEST MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE EXHIBITION OR ARTISTS.

qi peng: Is there a political or sociological context for what The Conference Room Gallery have been achieving during its years?

Daniel Gellis: I TEND TO SHY AWAY FROM POLITICS FULL STOP.  I FIND THAT MOST OFTEN ANY POLITICAL, WHETHER IT BE GOVERNMENT OR MOVING UP THE LADDER IS MOTIVATED BY THE EGO OR SELF INTEREST AND LESS ABOUT THE WHOLE.  AS FAR AS SOCIOLOGICAL CONTEXTS, THIS IS AN AREA I FIRMLY BELIEVE IN.  I TEND TO GET TO CAUGHT UP IN PSYCHOANALYSIS OF WORKS, SEARCHING FOR MEANINGS THAT SOMETIMES AREN’T THERE.  THIS DOES ALLOW ME THOUGH TO CREATE AN EVEN DEEPER DIALOGUE WITH THE ARTIST AND THEIR WORK BEFORE WE COMMENCE WITH AN EXHIBITION AND PRODUCE A SHOW THAT CHALLENGES THE STATUS-QUO WAY OF THINKING.

qi peng: With the architectural layout of The Conference Room Gallery being in a changing structure and new spaces, how do you go about planning the curating and the physical layout of each show? Have you found any “unusual” exhibitions that challenged the nature of your space and its constraints?

Daniel Gellis: I’VE FOUND OVER THE YEARS THAT I’M NOT AS GOOD WITH CREATING SOMETHING FROM THIN AIR, BUT WHEN GIVEN CONSTRAINTS, SAY A BOX OR FRAME, I CAN THEN USE THAT TO CREATE AN EXHIBITION THAT MOST OFTEN WOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN THOUGHT OF BY THE NORMAL PERSON.  I FIND OFTEN THAT I’M CONGRATULATED BY ARCHITECTS AND DESIGNERS FOR MY IDEAS AND EXHIBITION CONCEPTS.  ALSO, WHEN I WORKED IN INSTALLATION CREW FOR MUSEUMS, I’M NOT AFRAID TO BUILD A WALL, TAKE ONE DOWN, MOVE IT SOMEWHERE ELSE TO ENSURE THAT THE WORK IS VIEWED TO ITS HIGHEST POTENTIAL.  I TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION, AMBIENT LIGHT AS WELL AS MANUFACTURED LIGHT.  ROTHKO MADE HIS EXHIBITS LOOK LIKE MAUSOLEUMS, WHERE AS SONG DONG CREATES EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENTS, INTERNALLY.  I HAVE HAD EXHIBITIONS IN HOTELS, HALLWAYS, AND EVEN OUTSIDE IN THE SNOW. BUT I FIND THINKING ON A MUSEUM LEVEL UTILIZING WALL PAINT AND THE FACT THAT WALLS ARE NEVER PERMENANT UNLESS STRUCTURAL ALONG WITH LIGHT CAN DO MORE THAN ANY PRE-BUILT ENVIRONMENT.

qi peng: What are some of the most difficult challenges that The Conference Room Gallery had to face during the economic crisis that we are facing today?

Daniel Gellis: I HAVEN’T HAD THE SAME ISSUES I’VE HEARD RUMOURS OF.  MY SALES ARE CONSISTENT.  I’VE HAD SELL OUT SHOWS AND THEN I’VE HAD SHOWS THAT NOTHING SOLD.  IF YOUR PREMISE FOR THE EXHIBITION IS TRUE THOSE THAT ARE WILLING TO PURCHASE ART HAVE LITTLE CARE OF WHAT THE CURRENT FINANCIAL CLIMATE IS.  MY PATRONS ARE NOT ALL WEALTHY ZILLIONAIRES, I ENSURE THAT THE PUBLIC CAN OBTAIN WORK THAT IS AFFORDABLE AND WELL BEYOND THE QUALITY FOR ITS PRICE.  IT ALSO DEPENDS UPON THE ARTIST THEMSELVES AND WHAT THEY’VE PREVIOUSLY SOLD AT.  I MOVE WITH THE MARKET AND LOOK AT ART SOMETIMES AS IF ITS STOCK OR REAL ESTATE.  IT’S CYCLICAL.  I SOLD 4 PIECES RECENTLY BY ARTISTS THAT WERE NOT EVEN IN THE EXHIBITION.  MOST OF MY CLIENTELE UNDERSTAND RAPIDLY THAT THIS IS NOT JUST YOUR FRAME MATCHING THE COUCH GALLERY AND THAT IF THEY CHOOSE TO PURCHASE ART THEY WANT TO FIND AN ARTIST I REPRESENT.  I TREAT MY CLIENTELE AS A MUSEUM WOULD.  I’M HERE TO EDUCATE AND ENLIGHTEN FIRST, SALES ARE SECONDARY.  THAT MODEL DOES PUT ME IN FINANCIAL CONSTRAINTS AT TIMES BUT IF I AVERAGE SALES OUT YEAR OVER YEAR IT ACTUALLY WORKS.  AS WELL, MY PURPOSE IS TO GET THE ART IN THE HANDS OF THE VIEWERS AND AM WILILNG TO WORK OUT PAYMENT PLANS OR CREATIVE MEANS IN ORDER FOR THEM TO PURCHASE.

qi peng: With the closure of prominent Chelsea and Lower East Side galleries during the past few months, has this phenomenon carried over into the Los Angeles area?

Daniel Gellis: YES IT HAS. I’VE NOTICED MORE GALLERIES THAT HAD LITTLE TO NO CURATORIAL BASIS, OBTAINING MORE ARTISTS OR GUEST CURATORS. BUT I BELIEVE IT’S A GOOD THING.  TOO MANY ARTISTS OR FRIENDS OF ARTISTS BEGAN OPENING UP GALLERIES MORE FOR A PARTY ENVIRONMENT THAN FOR ACTUALLY CATERING TO THE PUBLIC IN GENERAL.  GALLERIES THAT DID NOT CHALLENGE CAN NOW GO BACK TO WHAT THEY WERE DOING BEFORE THEY OPENED UP A PARTY SPACE. ESPECIALLY HERE IN LOS ANGELES I THINK IT’S A FANTASTIC THING THAT THERE IS A THINNING AND RE-ORGANIZATION OF GALLERIES.  AS FOR ART AND ARTISTS THIS WILL ONLY ENHANCE THE DESIRES OF WHAT THEY CREATE AND THE GALLERIES AND WHO THEY EXHIBIT. I ALSO TRY NOT TO GET CAUGHT UP IN RUMOURS OR POLITICS, I’D SAY THERE IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR MORE POLITICS IN THE ART WORLD THEN IN THE BUSINESS WORLD AND AS A BUSINESS RESTRUCTURES SO WILL ARTISTS AND GALLERIES.  THEY WILL HAVE TO TAKE A DEEPER LOOK AS TO WHAT IS THEIR PURPOSE.

qi peng: Have any of the artists at The Conference Room Gallery felt the impact of the economic recession and/or responded to it within his or her artwork?

Daniel Gellis: I TEND TO LOOK AT THINGS GLOBALLY AND AS MUCH AS OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY THIS CURRENT ECONOMIC DOWNTURN I’VE SEEN OTHERS THAT ARE PROSPERING.  THE MAJORITY OF THE ARTISTS I REPRESENT HAVE HAD TO CONTINUE TO KEEP THEIR DAY JOBS AS I FOCUS PRIMARILY ON EMERGING ART.  I BELIEVE OVER THE NEXT 9 – 12 MONTHS WE WILL SEE A LARGE AMOUNT OF REACTIONARY WORKS FROM LESSER ARTISTS AND MORE BACK TO BASICS BY THE ARTISTS THAT HAVE HAD SOME SUCCESS.  IT REALLY DEPENDS UPON THE ARTISTS THEMSELVES.  HISTORICALLY WHEN THERE IS UPHEAVAL YOU CAN ALWAYS COUNT ON ARTISTS TO GIVE AND CREATE A POINT OF VIEW THAT WAS NOT CONSENSUS OF THE GENERAL POPULATION.  IN TIMES OF DIRE STRAITS, PEOPLE TEND TO FOCUS MORE ON THEMSELVES AND LESS ON THE COMMUNITY AROUND THEM.  THIS IS WHERE I BELIEVE ARTISTS ARE A FANTASTIC BAROMETER FOR SEEING THE SAME GIVEN SITUATION IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LIGHT.  ALSO, SOME ARTISTS PRODUCE IN SMALL QUANTITIES AND HAVE A VERY STRONG COLLECTOR BASE ALLOWING THEM TO CONTINUE WITHOUT WORRY.

qi peng: Do you have any favorite art blogs and/or magazines which you enjoy reading on a constant basis?

Daniel Gellis: THERE ARE SEVERAL AND AS I HAVE HAD TO SEEK THEM OUT ON MY OWN USING MY PERSONAL CHOICES, I FIND IT BEST TO ALLOW SOMEONE ELSE TO DISCOVER THEM AND EXPERIENCE THE JOY OF THAT DISCOVERY RATHER THAN JUST HANDING OVER THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE WITHOUT PRACTICALITY. I WOULD GOOGLE YOUR FAVOURITE ARTIST OR ARTISTS AND SEE WHAT COMES UP.  BEGIN TO TRAIN YOURSELF TO LOOK AT THE SITE THAT REPELS YOU, UNLESS IT’S JUST CRAP, AND FIND OUT WHY YOU DISLIKE IT SO MUCH.  ALWAYS CHECK THE LINKS PAGE OF ANY SITE YOU FIND INTERESTING.  YOUR WORLD WILL OPEN UP TEN FOLD.  START WITH YOUR LOCAL MUSEUM OR FAVOURITE ARTIST FROM THERE.  RESEARCH THEIR WEBSITE AND REMEMBER, CHECK THE LINKS PAGE.

qi peng: How do galleries respond to the ability to have a quick, visceral response to the artwork after the opening reception is over for a show?

Daniel Gellis: I CAN ONLY RESPOND FOR MYSELF, BUT I TEND TO GET POST WAR SYNDROME AFTER AN OPENING NO MATTER HOW SUCCESFUL THE EXHIBITION IS.  I TEND TO PUT MY SOUL INTO EACH AND EVERY SHOW I PUT ON, WRITING THE CRITIQUES, PRESS RELEASES, INSTALLATION, PAINTING, I LIVE WITH THE WORKS SOMETIMES WEEKS BEFORE THEY GO ON DISPLAY UNTIL I FEEL I CANNOT INSTALL THEM ANY BETTER.  THIS LEAVES ME OPEN TO OPPORTUNITIES OF CRITICISM THAT I TAKE PERSONAL BUT MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, I GET VERY POSITIVE RESPONSES.  I ALWAYS ASK MYSELF HOW THE WORK WOULD LOOK IF DISPLAYED IN A MUSEUM AND WHAT’S ITS RELEVANCE.  WHY AM I PUTTING THIS ON THE WALL?  THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW SHOWS WHERE I OMITTED WORKS THAT WERE NOT UP TO THE HIGHEST LEVEL OR DID NOT SHOW THE ARTIST IN THE BEST LIGHT.  LESS IS MORE! OFTEN, I’VE HAD FOLLOWUP REVIEWS OF MY EXHIBITIONS AFTER THE OPENING.  THIS DOESN’T ALWAYS MAKE PRESS CURRENT BUT IT DOES GIVE THOSE PATRONS WHO MISSED THE EXHIBITION OR PEOPLE WHO THOUGHT LESS OF IT TO ACTUALLY ATTEND THE SHOW.  LOS ANGELES IS DIFFERENT THAN ANYWHERE I’VE EVER EXHIBITED.  PEOPLE TEND TO NOT ATTEND, DUE TO DRIVE TIME, DISTANCE OR BETTER OFFERS.

qi peng: Do you feel that art criticism has changed a lot in its tenor since a few decades ago when Clement Greenberg was on the scene writing about the Abstract Expressionists?

Daniel Gellis: I THINK THERE HAVE BEEN QUITE A FEW MORE RELEVANT CRITCS SINCE CLEMENT GREENBERG. ROBERT HUGHES WOULD DEFINITELY HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY TO YOU ABOUT BRINGING UP GREENBERG! I AM CURRENTLY READING A BOOK BY EDWARD SULLIVAN, THE LANGUAGE OF OBJECTS IN THE ART OF THE AMERICAS IN ORDER FOR ME TO UNDERSTAND BETTER NORTH AMERICAN AND SOUTH AMERICAN ART AS A WHOLE.  NOW A DAYS ANYBODY CAN BE A CRITIC BUT IF YOU MAINTAIN DILIGENCE IN WHOM AND WHAT YOU READ YOU CAN CHOOSE FOR YOURSELF AND BE AS RELEVANT AS ANY CRITIC.

qi peng: On a lighter note, who are some of your favorite artists?

Daniel Gellis: I DECLINE TO ANSWER THAT.

qi peng: Any cool exhibitions that you have seen recently?

Daniel Gellis: COOL IS NOT WHAT I’M AFTER IN ART.

qi peng: What are some favorite music, movies, books, and cultural artifacts that fans of your gallery ought to know about?

Daniel Gellis: I WOULD SUGGEST THIS, FIND YOUR FAVOURITE BAND, AUTHOR OR ARTIST AND READ THE NOTES SECTION OF ANY PRINTED MATERIAL.  USE REVERSE ENGINEERING TO TAKE YOU ON A HISTORICAL JOURNEY WHERE YOU CAN UNDERSTAND WHO AND WHAT IT IS YOU LIKE ABOUT THEM.  FIND OUT WHO THEY THOUGHT INFLUENCIAL AND THEN FIND OUT WHAT INFLUENCED THE INFLUENCERS. FROM THERE, WORK YOUR WAY BACK TO WHERE YOU BEGAN AND YOU’LL SEE THAT NOT ONLY HAVE YOU WASTED A GOOD DEAL OF YOUR FREE TIME BUT YOUR IQ AND CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING GREW AT LIGHTSPEED. ALWAYS LOOK AT THE PUBLISHER OF THE BOOK OR NOVEL.  AS FOR MOVIES, I CHOOSE BASED UPON THE WRITING AND LESS ABOUT WHO’S ACTING IN THE MOVIE.  I ALSO, ALWAYS CHECK OUT WHAT THE ART HOUSES, RETRO-THEATRES, UNIVERSITY CINEMAS ARE SHOWING ALONG WITH SEEKING OUT FOREIGN CINEMA FIRST AND FOREMOST.

qi peng: Also, what are some recommended tunes that you play during gallery hours or
opening receptions?

Daniel Gellis: I HAVE VERY ECLECTIC TASTES IN MUSIC.  I TEND TO HIT SHUFFLE, STAYING WITHIN EARSHOT FOR FEAR OF SOMETHING TOO HARD OR ABSTRACT.  I HAVE OVER 15,000 SONGS ON MY HARD DRIVE NOT COUNTING MY VINYL COLLECTION (500+). ALL I WILL SAY IS THIS,TURN YOUR RADIO DIAL (IF IN AMERICA) TO THE LOW 90’S AND BELOW AND YOU’LL BE OPENED UP TO A WHOLE NEW WORLD. LISTEN TO YOUR LOCAL COLLEGE OR PUBLIC RADIO STATION.  WITH THE INTERNET AND THE RAPIDITY OF AVAILABLE SOUNDS OR PODCASTS THERE IS LITTLE TO NO EXCUSE FOR PEOPLE TO LISTEN TO TOP 40, POP MUSIC OTHER THAN LACK OF INTEREST AND LAZINESS. DO NOT OBTAIN YOUR MUSIC FROM TELEVISION!!! IF YOU ARE TRULY INTO ANYTHING AND I MEAN ANYTHING, YOU WILL RESEARCH THAT SUBJECT UNTIL YOU FEEL YOU’VE BLED EVERY DROP OUT OF IT YOU CAN.  IT’S ALL ABOUT PASSION.  IF I WERE PRESSED TO NAME A FEW, WHICH I FEEL I AM, I WOULD SUGGEST WFMU (NEW JERSEY) & KXLU (LOS ANGELES), RADIO K (MINNEAPOLIS/ST.PAUL) HAS A FANTASTIC WORLD SHOW ON SUNDAYS.  SEARCH THE WEB FOR A STYLE, TURN YOUR MEDIA PLAYER ON AND CHECK THE RADIO SECTION AND JUST BE OPEN.  NOBODY IS GOING TO HEAR IT BESIDES YOU AND IF COOL IS WHAT YOUR AFTER, NOTHING COULD BE COOLER THAN YOU TURNING SOMEONE ELSE ONTO NEW AND EXCITING MUSIC. I WOULD ALSO SUGGEST PEOPLE BEGIN TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO THE RECORD LABEL WHO PRODUCES THE MUSIC THEY LIKE.  LOOK AT THEIR WEBSITE AND SEE THE ARTISTS THEY HAVE PROMOTED, NOT UNLIKE A GALLERY THEY WILL PROGRESS AND POSSIBLY MOVE INTO NEW ARENAS THEY ORIGINALLY WERE NOT.  YOU CAN LEARN A WEALTH OF INFORMATION THAT WAY AND SEE A HISTORICAL PATTERN AT THE SAME TIME.  YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENT RECORD STORES ARE A FANTASTIC WAY TO LEARN.

qi peng: How would you place the contemporary arts scene within the context of the international art scene/market?

Daniel Gellis: ARE YOU SPEAKING ABOUT THE US VS THE GLOBE? I’D SAY WE’RE VERY RELEVANT. I’D EVEN PUSH FURTHER TO SAY THAT THERE ARE CONTEMPORARY ART MOVEMENTS OUT THERE RIGHT NOW, ESPECIALLY FROM THE PACIFIC RIM OF THE US, CANADA AND MEXICO THAT HAVE YET TO BE DISCOVERED BY ALL AND ARE FOLLOWED HEAVILY BY ARTISTS.

qi peng: Do you believe that globalization has an impact on the visual arts and if so, what do you think this effect is?

Daniel Gellis: GLOBALIZATION IS NO LONGER A CONCEPT, ITS HERE, I CAN WATCH TV IN AUSTRALIA, WHILST IM’ING MY FRIEND IN HONG KONG.  TURN ON INTERNET STREAMING OR PODCASTS FROM SOUTH AFRICA WHILE READING A BOOK FROM GERMANY.  THOSE DAYS ARE OVER!  I THINK THE REASON WHY CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART FOR EXAMPLE HAD SUCH A LARGE RISE AND THUS SUCH A LARGE CONTRACTION IS BECAUSE PEOPLE ON A WHOLE ARE AFRAID TO TAKE CHANCES AND OPEN THEMSELVES UP. WHEN I WAS CURATOR OF CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART IN THE LATE 90’S IN HONG KONG, IT WAS VERY EASY FOR ME TO SEE THE INFLUENCE THAT AMERICA HAD ON CHINESE ART.  YET, IT WASN’T UNTIL MAYBE 5-6 MORE YEARS BEFORE THE BIG BUCKS BEGAN TO FLOW IN. YOU HAD REDGATE GALLERY IN BEIJING 10 YEARS BEFORE PACEWILDENSTEIN OPENED THERE. HANART TZ IN HONG KONG EVEN BEFORE RED GATE.  BEFORE CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART, YOU HAD VIETNAMESE ART AS THE HOT AND BOTHERED TO BE COLLECTED AND NOW WE HAVE INDIA. ONE OF THE BEST EXHIBITS PUT ON OVER THE LAST 12-15 YEARS IS THE APT (ASIA PACIFIC TRIENNIAL QUEENSLAND ART MUSEUM, AU) I ALSO BELIEVE AUCTIONS PLAY A LARGE ROLL DUE TO THE VERY FACT THAT ONE SALE CAN SPARK A BUYING FRENZY AND THUS CREATE A MARKET WHERE ONE NEVER EXISTED.  YET DO MANY PEOPLE ASK WHERE THE AUCTION HOUSE OBTAINED THE WORK FOR THE SALE?

qi peng: What is your opinion of the rise of the fledgling art markets popping up in the Middle East, China, and India?

Daniel Gellis: FLEDGLING… YOUR QUESTION POSITS THE TYPICAL AMERICAN RESPONSE TO THE WORLD.  AS IF TO SAY, THAT THERE WAS NO CONTEMPRARY ART FROM THE MIDDLE EAST, CHINA OR INDIA IN THE PAST.

qi peng: Would you mind telling us the story behind the “Meeting <1.3>: Jesus Cancelled My Art Show” exhibition and the response it caused in the community?

Daniel Gellis: THE JESUS CANCELLED MY ART SHOW CAME ABOUT AFTER THE SCHEDULED SOLO EXHIBITION OF AN ARTIST SENT ME AN EMAIL CANCELLING HIS UPCOMING SHOW WITH THE REASON THAT HE FELT HE WAS A LUKE WARM CHRISTIAN FOR YEARS AND THAT HE HAD BEEN PUTTING ART AHEAD OF HIS SPIRITUALITY. YOU CAN READ THE EMAIL ON MY WEBSITE WWW.THECONFROOM.COM/PASTMEETINGS  WITH SUCH SHORT NOTICE (6 WEEKS BEFORE THE EXHIBITION) I ASKED ARTISTS I REPRESENTED AS WELL AS NEW ARTISTS TO INTERPRET THAT EMAIL (OMITTING THE ARTIST NAME AND CONTACT INFO) AND CREATE WORK SPECIFICALLY BASED OFF “WHY AN ARTIST WOULD CHOOSE TO NO LONGER CREATE FOR RELIGIOUS REASONS).  THIS BROUGHT UP MUCH CONTROVERSY AND EVEN IN FACT CAUSED A SEPERATION BETWEEN ME AND ONE OF MY PREVIOUSLY EXHIBITED ARTISTS.  IT CALLED TO THE FRONT THE AGE OLD QUESTION BETWEEN ART AND RELIGION. I AM CURRENTLY WORKING ON A BOOK ABOUT THAT EXHIBITION WHICH WILL GO INTO MORE DETAIL, DUE TO BE OUT SUMMER OF 2009.

qi peng: Is there anything else which you would love to share with fans of the gallery and the readers here?

Daniel Gellis: TRUE DESIRES TO OPEN THEMSELVES UP THROUGH ART CULTURALLY.  ART IS AN AMAZING VESSEL TO LEARN HISTORY, SOCIOLOGY, RELEVANCE, AWARENESS AND EVEN ABOUT ONE’S SELF. MAYBE I TRY TOO HARD TO BE DIFFERENT BUT AT THE CORE I’M TRYING TO SHAKE THINGS UP.  THERE’S ALWAYS THREE SIDES TO EVERY STORY AND IF WE AS A SOCIETY BEGIN TO OPEN OURSELVES UP, SHUT DOWN OUR REACTIVE NATURE AND LOOK AT ALL SIDES, THE HE SAID, SHE SAID AND THE FACTS. WE CAN THEN TRULY UNDERSTAND AND HAVE COMPASSION FOR THOSE AROUND US.  WE CAN BEGIN TO FEEL THE JOY OR PAIN AND EXPERIENCE ALL THAT LIFE HAS TO OFFER.  LOS ANGELES CAN BE A VERY SHALLOW LAND AND “THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS” (Samuel Johnson) BUT IT’S TRUE, MILLIONS COME TO LIVE IN LOS ANGELES AND I BELIEVE UMBERTO ECO COINED IT PERFECTLY WHEN HE LABELLED IT THE CAPITAL OF THE THIRD WOLRD.  BUT INSTEAD OF REACTING TAKE PART.  GET INVOLVED.  TURN YOUR TELEVISION OFF OR AT LEAST RECORD IT FOR LATER.  THAT GANG BANGER MIGHT BE DATING YOUR DAUGHTER!!  STOP AND CHECK WHAT CAUGHT YOUR EYE OUT, TAKE 5 MINUTES TO ENGAGE WITH A STRANGER.  BE HUMBLE AND NOT AFRAID TO NOT KNOW OR BE AN EXPERT ON A SUBJECT AND ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, INQUIRE AND ASK QUESTIONS.  NO MATTER THE SUBJECT OR PERSON.

qi peng: Are the future plans for the Conference Room Gallery?

Daniel Gellis: THE CONFERENCE ROOM IS ALWAYS EVOLVING.  CURRENTLY WE HAVE SUBMITTED TO ART FORUM BERLIN IN SEPTEMBER 2009, AS WELL AS I AM CURRENTLY WORKING ON PUTTING TOGETHER AN EXHIBITION IN AUSTRALIA, MAY/JUNE 2009.

Unabashedly traditional and radical at the same time, Gellis is a man who bridges the high and low culture, the learned and unlearned, and the known and unexplored. No doubt, a genius of his own category…

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at qipengart@gmail.com
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Written by qi peng

May 12, 2009 at 2:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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