When the independent art space Art of This (AOT) closed its doors on Nicollet Avenue in 2010, Minneapolis lost a unique and unrivaled space for scrappy, sometimes off-the-cuff, always smart contemporary art programming. So it's welcome news that AOT co-director David Petersen is back in the gallery biz: David Petersen Gallery opens its inaugural show, Make Hay, this Saturday night in the Whittier neighborhood. A commercial gallery with two artists on its roster so far--Scott Nedrelow and Kristopher Benedict--its first exhibition offers "six distinctive approaches to recontextualizing images, objects and language" by Nedrelow, Jaya Howey, Amanda Ross-Ho, GraceMarie Keaton, Erik Frydenborg, and Gala Porras-Kim.
Interested in the new venue, I asked Petersen about the challenges of opening a commercial space in a town that's not known for robust local buying of mid- and upper-tier contemporary art; the mission of the gallery; and how it'll differ from the late, great AOT.
"The goal is essentially the same as AOT," he says, "to support artists. But the means are different. My philosophy is still very 'pro-artist.' But one thing AOT wasn't able to accomplish was to be accessible for collectors and curators. I want to create a platform that has a higher ceilin. As much cool artist-run, DIY type stuff as there as been here the past 10 years (including AOT), [the model] has always seemed to have limitations. I am pretending those limitations aren't there."
Another aim: "Bringing in internationally-recognized artists and presenting them (sometimes but not always) alongside local artists whose work has been often (but not always) under-recognized."
He says he also wants to create a gallery that's in Minneapolis--as opposed to a "Minneapolis gallery." I interpret that to mean he wants to be rooted to this place but extending far beyond it--to art fairs and artists not based in the Twin Cities. (Also, I'm guessing the mission is strong curation over hometown pride: featured artists are there on their merits not due to a sense of community obligation.) To that end, the gallery has been accepted into the nonprofit New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA).
And the challenges of a commercial project here?
"Changing the culture of the way art is perceived here as just 'art' and not 'for sale,'" he says. "We don't come across it nearly as much as in other cities--New York, LA, Chicago, even Portland and Kansas City--where commercial galleries are more present (and out in the world). The challenge (other than actually selling art) will be changing this mindset without it seeming yucky that I'm selling work."
"It's a positive thing for artists to sell their work," he adds, most importantly. "I'm trying to help."
Artworks, top to bottom: Gala Porras-Kim, Erik Frydenborg, GraceMarie Keaton