Interview & Preview: Jan & Bruce Helford for “Art Collectors Starter Kit” at Corey Helford Gallery – April 1st
On Saturday, April 1st, Downtown Los Angeles’ Corey Helford Gallery (CHG) will present their fourth annual “Art Collector Starter Kit” group exhibition, showcasing an array of art from over 50 well known artists and newcomers to the CHG roster.
Four years ago, CHG established what would become an annual tradition — the “Art Collector Starter Kit” group exhibition. The aim was to have the top artists in the New Contemporary art scene create all new 12″ X 12″ works that would be more affordable for beginning collectors. This way, new collectors could own works from their favorite artists rather than settling for whatever was in their price range. It was also a way for artists to show that they weren’t just interested in the big-ticket collectors, but all collectors. The exhibition was met with huge crowds and incredible enthusiasm and this year CHG introduces ACSK lV with an incredible line-up of 50 artists, including world-renowned artists such as Camille Rose Garcia, Shag, Hush, and many more.
Cartwheel Art contributing Writer Dale Youngman catches up with the owners of CHG in this first in a series of local gallery owner interviews:
The concept behind this now annual event, the “Art Collector Starter Kit” is a sweet one for artists and collectors alike. For a new collector with a limited budget, this is an ideal way to pick up a piece or two of terrific contemporary art at an accessible price. For apartment dwellers who yearn for loft space but have normal height ceilings, often small pieces are the only way to accumulate an art collection of decent breadth. And for those completely unfamiliar with LA’s burgeoning contemporary art scene and the wealth of artists living and working here, your show provides a way to experience a sampling of 50 artists worth knowing in one carefully curated show. So, first, we applaud CHG, and say how much we are looking forward to this exhibition. Next, we had a few questions for the owners:
DY: Your move to the “East Bank” of Los Angeles was a brave one, as this area was still a bit of a controversial area a year ago, and to many, remains a place of uneasy nighttime exploration. How did you decide to make the transition, and what has it meant to your business?
Jan Corey Helford:
“We had decided that our Culver City spaces were too small for the artists to really stretch out and explore, so the first task was to find a big space that had the potential to be jaw-dropping the moment you walk in. We also needed to have enough room for the three-galleries-in-one-space concept, but allowing each gallery to have its own exclusive environment without distracting from the other spaces. The Anderson Street spot was the culmination of a two year search. The area is actually very quiet, all industrial, but we wanted to make people from the Valley and the West Side with “downtown phobia” feel comfortable parking and walking to the gallery within a four block radius so we have “crossing guard” security teams set up at every corner. It obviously works because we have large crowds of hundreds of people at every opening.”
DY: As this is now your 4th annual exhibit in this theme, how has it changed since the first one? Has your clientele changed or shifted in age or demographic since then?
Jan Corey Helford:
”The Art Collector Starter Kit group show was the result of talking to younger and newer collectors who said they really wanted to buy originals, but couldn’t afford the artists they loved, so they were collecting prints. Prints are wonderful, but if you really love art, you want something that you connect to more personally. You want something the artist has touched, lived with and labored over. It’s a very unique relationship, the one between an original painting and an owner. So we asked the artists to work in a smaller format and create works in a more affordable range once a year to help new collectors get their dream works. The exhibit has become a kind of “showcase” for collectors, and we’ve added more emerging voices to the roster each year to reflect the growth of awareness of new artists, particularly because of Instagram. The new collectors still remain the 19-30 age range.”
DY: I recognize many of the names in your exhibitor list, but also, there are many I am not familiar with at all. How do you find your emerging artists for this and your other exhibits? Do you have a specific criteria for participation in this show?
“Jan, Sherri our Director, and our special projects curator, Caro, are constantly on the lookout for new artists, through submissions, college art shows, and travel through Europe and Asia. If they fall in love with the work, the artist is invited to one of our group exhibitions. Then we slowly introduce our collectors to the artist’s work. The criteria is having “a voice”; something to say with their work, a point of view, as opposed to just technique. “
DY: I believe, as many of us do, that LA is now the center of the Art Universe with more artists living and working here than ever before, and major galleries from New York and Europe opening every month. How do you stand out – and reach out – to the collectors with all that competition?
“First, we are very specific in the genre that we exhibit. We call it the New Contemporary movement and we believe we show the best artists in that genre, along with emerging artists who exhibit exceptional gifts. It’s pop surreal, it’s street, it encompasses probably the largest group of female artists showing at any gallery in the area, and the art speaks to very brave collectors who are looking for works that deal with the time and society we live in. We aren’t looking for “timeless” art, we’re looking for work that will become “timeless.”
DY: You have always been a very forward–thinking gallery, seeing and promoting new trends in the art scene. Do you see anything important coming down the road at us, or anything exciting that is a new direction in contemporary art?
Jan Corey Helford:
“Watch for the new primitives and the highly sensual figurative work coming from young Asian and American female and male artists. And also the maturing of the pop surrealists of the 80’s and 90’s. It’s a really exciting time in art.”
DY: Do you have any suggestions for that new collector, who is just beginning to appreciate contemporary art, and may actually purchase their first piece at your show this weekend?
Jan Corey Helford:
“The same suggestion we have for every collector — find your soulmate. Find the piece that you want to look at every day, that uniquely inspires you or soothes you, that reflects what you feel and who you are. Your collection represents your take on the world in the one place where you can have your unique say, your home.”
I know I am very much looking forward to seeing this exhibit, and perhaps, finding my soul mate at Corey Helford Gallery this Saturday night!
“Art Collectors Starter Kit IV”
April 1st – April 29th
April 1st 7pm-11pm
571 S. Anderson Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033 (Boyle Heights)
Ewa Pronczuk – Kuziak