Zach Feuer is one of the most amazing people I know. He arrived at the Museum School in the mid-90’s with a dynamic approach to making art, to looking at work, and talking about what he saw. He constantly amazed those around him with his knowledge, and when he left the business of creating work behind to be a curator and, now, a galleriest, many jaws were on the floor.
Now 27 years old, Zach has his own gallery in New York, has founded NADA, and is considered one of the most impressive gallerists in NYC. He still maintains a connection to Boston, though, where he got his start with a small show in his apartment on Mission Hill, and he has been spotted around the Museum School and the Rose recently, continuing to influece the arts and encourage artists.
Recently, Zach and I conversed via email about his gallery, NADA, and being Zach Feuer.
MN: You studied at the Museum School in Boston, and made quite a name for yourself before moving on to greener pastures. Can you talk about the path from The Apartment Show to having your own gallery in New York?
ZF: Here is the short version of the story. From the Apartment show, I met a bunch of people and got some press and became involved in the Boston scene. A guy who owned a gallery in Provincetown hired me to run his gallery for the summer. It was a seasonal gallery and I was working with artists that I didn’t select, but still managed to do OK. The owner of the gallery wanted to open in NY, so he sent me down with a budget and I became a partner through sweat equity. The budget wasn’t enough. I didn’t know anyone in NY, let alone collectors, and being on a 4th floor walk up, not many people stoped by to buy things. The phone was almost disconected because of lack of payment, when the fax machine broke it was crisis since we couldn’t afford another one. The artists got paid through this and stayed pretty loyal, eventually people started writing about the gallery and our artists, and then collectors started coming by. Then it just kept growing, eventually to the point where I could buy out my partners.
MN: I see that Nick Lawrence is opening a new gallery in Chelsea. Do you see this as new competition, or do you still work together? Do you find his choice of another Boston curator significant?
ZF: Nick was really supportive of me and the launching of LFL, and I hope his new project does well. I try not to think about any individual gallery as competition (unless they are going after a client or artist I work with), the more galleries the better – we have more then 250 in Chelsea now. It’s the NADA thing, promote dealers and galleries and in turn artists, plenty of room for all of us. We’ve collaborated with him on two book projects already, and he is a regular client of ours as well. I think he chose Sean  (his new curator) because he was the most qualified for the job and they got along well, I am not sure if the fact that Sean and I have similar backgrounds was a factor, if he can duplicate the successes, more power to him.
MN: Your gallery seems to show a lot of Boston ex-pats. Can you talk about how you find your artists, what you’re looking to show, and who you enjoy working with?
ZF: When I started, the artists I showed where pretty much the artists I knew closest, who’s work I understood the best. Of course, spending 5 years in Boston meant that most of these where Boston artists. As the gallery grows we have less and less boston artists. Right now, I am really trying to expand my list of international artists to grow the gallery from seeming emerging local to seeming worldwide and established. It’s easier for me to show an established American artist than an emerging European artist since my reputation (good and bad parts) are still mostly local. I find artists through looking, listening and then looking more. I go to lots of group shows, alternative spaces, art fairs and studios when traveling to find out what’s going on else where, also curators, critics, artists and collectors I am close with often give me tips of people to check out. Once we’ve gotten through all the visits and I am sold on the work, the factor of our compatibility comes up, if the artist and I seem like we will get along and trust each other then we go forward. I enjoy working with all my artists, and wouldn’t show someone I didn’t enjoy.
MN: NADA is quite an amazing undertaking. Can you talk about what it is (for those who may not know), the origins, and where things are now?
ZF: NADA is the new art dealers Alliance, its kind of a union for art dealers. It was thought up by Sheri Pasqueralla who then asked me to help. We started by just having meetings with a bunch of dealers and brainstorming on ways to work together. We share lots of information, have an art fair, organize gallery walks, have seminars for young dealers and play mini golf. We are most known for the art fair, since it’s our most public venture, but it’s only a small part of what we do.
We talk lots about friendly competition and working together. It’s more social minded then dealers are normally, but deep down, most dealers do care about promoting artists first.
MN: To change the topic, what artists are you featuring this year? Who really excites you these days? You mentioned more international focus in your future, so what artists can we expect?
ZF: All my artists excite me! New artists for the gallery include a performance artist named Tamy Ben Tor who transforms herself and creates these really complicated characters. We are also hoping to show an English artist, who does some conceptual drawing named Simon Evans, they are very funny. In addition to those two, I hope to be showing Anton Henning, a more established German artist who has a very varied practice. Then in June we will be showing these crazy animations by Nathalie Djurburg. This year we will also be doing second shows for Tal R, Jin Meyerson, Stuart Hawkins and Christoph Ruckaberle.
MN: The recent article in W Magazine spends a lot of words referring to your apartment show in Boston. That show is often viewed here as a point of reference for what can be done by a motivated person. While there is certainly no doubt that it is the start of your rise to the big-time, do you feel you’ve moved beyond the inspiration that made it happen? Or do you still bring that same energy to work every day?
ZF: I try to bring the same energy to work every day, but it’s impossible. I was a little naive when I did the apartment show, and was focused in idealism, now my life is more focused on logistics, but both are still really creative processes. I am no longer motivated by the same goals as the apartment show, I was trying to really do something outside of the system in Boston, something that was an alternative to the galleries and other spaces. Now, some days, I feel like I am more part of the system. My energy goes more towards promoting artists who I think will make a difference. It don’t want my gallery to be the thing that changes the world, just the artists I represent (and it’s my job to make it as easy for them to do that as possible). As the apartment show was really this personalized space, I hope my gallery is almost generic, and can be transformed anyway an artist sees fit, I’d hate to have a “look” for the gallery. I hope the apartment show spawns more projects, the more these alternative projects and curators get absorbed into the mainstream, the more exciting the mainstream becomes, to have the alternative become un-alternative, just means that things are progressing faster, it opens up more opportunities and gives me good justification for being a sell out (or at least becoming galleriest instead of a curator or artist).
MN:From time to time you pass through Boston, speaking at the Museum School or acting as a jurist for exhibitions. Any chance you’ll be in Boston any time soon?
ZF:I am in the process of organizing a show with Raphelpa Platow at the Rose for Dana Schutz. The show will open in January 18th, so I will be in Boston that night.
Zach Feuer Gallery
“Luis Gispert and Jeffrey Reed” is on view October 8 – November 12, 2005 at Zach Feuer Gallery.
Feuer image courtesy of W Magazine. Images of artwork are courtesy of the artists and Zach Feuer Gallery.