The Canvas: I’m wondering how you both describe yourselves to other people. Do you refer to yourselves as dealers? Do you refer to yourselves as gallerists? Do you make a differentiation between the two?
Sam Gordon: Well, that’s really interesting, and many people actually have a lot to say about this. In the press – and we always appreciate it – we’re generally referred to as artists who founded a commercial space. But I sat at a gallery dinner with collectors who told me straight to my face, “You can’t be an artist and have a gallery. It just doesn’t work.” Marcel Duchamp was a dealer for a number of European artists. Betty Parsons, CANADA – there are many precedents. So, when people ask me, I say I’m an artist and I co-own a gallery, and it’s all part of my art. It’s a mouthful but it’s the truth.
The Canvas: You both have mentioned this idea of a gallery as a community. At a time when many people in the artworld claim that such a model no longer exists, you guys have a reputation for fostering, cultivating, and actively growing a local community of artists and collectors and getting them to participate in your program in a committed, ongoing way. Can you help me get a sense of the elements you would point to that have helped you achieve that success when so many others have failed at that?
Sam Gordon: On the one hand, we are artists and have the sensitivity, intuition, and the community networks that go along with that. But at the same time, we bring a level of experience and knowledge to creating exhibition opportunities and building markets for our artists by creating safe spaces for them to work, and actively supporting their visions in any way we can.
Jacob Robichaux: From a business perspective, we’ve been clear from the beginning that we’re not going to borrow money or use credit cards. We agreed that we’d operate with no debt, pay our artists immediately when we’re paid by a collector, and only continue as long as we could work in this way. It’s difficult and there are a lot of challenges in operating a gallery in New York City, but it has actually proven to be a great asset during this time of the pandemic. And we’re certainly operating from positions of privilege in terms of our backgrounds – being white men who had the opportunity to go to art school, live in New York for many years, and have the support of a creative community. But we want to use this privilege to support and nurture other artists.
Sam Gordon: We’re really very fortunate. When the gallery first opened, our initial collectors were other artists. But over the last couple years, we’ve met some wonderful, dedicated collectors who found us through word of mouth, press, friends, or social media. And we now have a base of collectors who are buying work by many of the artists in our program, and who are committed to our larger vision. We really hit our stride in our third year, which was very lucky considering the timing of the pandemic.
Jacob Robichaux: I’ll add that an important part of the success of the gallery is the feeling of intimacy that I think most people experience when they step into our space, whether they are other artists, critics, or collectors. It’s the nature of the physical space, the artists and work we show, and the directness and accessibility of our approach, which is, quite frankly, missing in most of the artworld right now.