Museum Stories

We Are Showing Artists that We Believe in: Marlee Katz and Danielle Dewar on the New Tchotchke Gallery

Yasmin Ozkan 3 October 2020 min Read

The founders discuss Tchotchke Gallery’s launch, its inclusive ethos, and how they came to grips with their artists’ quirks.

While 2020 has been a year of upheaval, the launch of Tchotchke Gallery‘s inaugural show echoes a message of motivation. When Life Doesn’t Give You Lemons sees twenty artists reflect on what drives them through adversity, forming a multifaceted picture of determination in difficult times. The exhibition, consisting of evocative, figurative works, explores each artist’s personality as much as their practice and inspirations. Participating artists are Maddy Bohrer, Sydney Bowers, Lisa Armstrong Noble, Daisy Dodd Noble, Kady Grant, Nancy Grimes, Sevde Hallaç, David Heo, Sarah Kim, Robert Levine, Hannah Lupton Reinhard, Christie Macdonald, John Madu, Austin Moule, Caitlyn Murphy, Christian Perdix, Edd Ravn, Joani Tremblay, Laura Wetter, and Mikey Yates.

Since launching on September 8th, Tchotchke Gallery has bravely asserted itself as a platform for storytelling, discovery, and education. With an emphasis on creating a community of collectors and artists, the founders harness their blue-chip experience to mould their own vision. We find out everything Tchotchke from the women who know it best, founders Marlee Katz and Danielle Dewar.

Maddy Bohrer, Hoarding II, 2020; Tchotchke gallery
Maddy Bohrer, Hoarding II, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 22 x 28 inches. Tchotchke Gallery.

If you could introduce Tchotchke Gallery in three words, which would you choose?

Sagacious, engaging, dynamic.

A digital opening in the current climate is a great idea. Does the gallery have plans to occupy a physical space, or will it remain online for the foreseeable future?

Our goal is to open a physical space on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. Viewing art in person and engaging with collectors, artists, and members of the community intrinsically drives us.

Joani Tremblay, Hope in the Dark, 2020; Tchotchke gallery
Joani Tremblay, Hope in the Dark, 2020. Oil on linen, 18 x 20 inches. Tchotchke Gallery.

Tchotchke Gallery rightly places great emphasis on inclusivity. Can you elaborate on how the gallery fosters this value?

Whether you are a versed collector or someone who is simply curious, conversing, and making connections with those interested in art is our paramount commitment. We never want anyone to feel intimidated to reach out or visit our forthcoming gallery space. We are conscious of how polarizing the art world can be and our aim is to actively change the stereotype. For example, the artists we have chosen for our inaugural exhibition are from all over the world and come from varying educations and backgrounds. We believe this makes for a dynamic and holistic show and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Education also seems to be a key value. What kind of educational efforts does the gallery have planned for the future?

Our goal is to educate collectors and those curious about the artists we are showing. Each exhibition has a component that allows the viewer to delve deeper into the artist’s body of work, practice, and personality. In When Life Doesn’t Give You Lemons, we spent time visiting each artist’s studios to learn more about what keeps them motivated to paint and what the wallpaper is on their cell phone or their all-time favorite dish, for example. Through this, we created a social media campaign that highlights the personality of each artist allowing them to shine through in both the visual and textual aspects of the show.

Mikey Yates, Hoop Dreams, 2018; Tchotchke gallery
Mikey Yates, Hoop Dreams, 2018. Oil on canvas, 60 x 72 inches. Tchotchke Gallery.

How did you both meet, and what made you want to start a gallery together?

We met while working at a gallery in Manhattan. Through this, we formed a strong personal relationship alongside our initial professional connection. By navigating the ins-and-outs of secondary gallery life, we often found ourselves daydreaming and planning what it would be like to create our own space. We immediately discovered that we had similar goals supporting the trajectory of emerging artists; thus, our objective came to fruition with the launch of Tchotchke Gallery.

Danielle, you’re also a practicing artist who has worked across a variety of mediums. Since setting up Tchotchke, how has your own experience as an artist influenced the way you’ve approached gallery-making?

I think that both Marlee and I agree that I can be highly-specific, and sometimes inconveniently so, when it comes to the creative and aesthetic side of our gallery. Unsurprisingly, this also parallels how I approach my artistic practice. Oftentimes, I’ve been told that I’m not satisfied with my work until it looks like a machine made it. Being hyper detail-oriented has been an asset to assisting in co-creating and managing the brand of our gallery but it can certainly become a hindrance when it comes to the other facet of my life, which is creating art.

Hannah Lupton Reinhard, Right of Passage, 2020; Tchotchke gallery
Hannah Lupton Reinhard, Right of Passage, 2020. Oil and crystals on canvas, 40 x 60 inches. Tchotchke Gallery.

Marlee, you’ve curated several exhibitions and placed works by some of the most sought-after artists. When considering which artists for Tchotchke to represent, did you have a particular style or medium that you were keen to promote?

I have always been drawn to painting and have had the privilege of working with both new and well-versed collectors. Danielle and I initially come from studio backgrounds and understand the time, patience, and skill that goes into mixing colors, working with paint, and overall, feeling satisfied with a finished work of art. It is our goal to always show artists that have a strong painting background and an upward momentum in their practice. We are showing artists that we believe in and we want to place their work in thoughtful collections while helping propel their career as a living, practicing artist. Relationship building and working with artists and collectors that have the same values as us helps make a lot of our decisions in regard to whom we work with.

Sarah Kim, Nowhere To Go But Up, 2020; Tchotchke gallery
Sarah Kim, Nowhere To Go But Up, 2020. Flashe and acrylic on fabric with embroidery, 18 x 16 inches. Tchotchke Gallery.

For When Life Doesn’t Give You Lemons, you asked two eclectic questions of each artist. What were they?

In an effort to get to know our artists both professionally and personally, we asked them to answer one question from a curated art-related list as well as a quirky, personal list. An example from the practice-driven interview questions was, ‘Is there something you can’t live without in your studio? What is your most important tool?’ while a personal example would be ‘What’s your cellphone wallpaper?’ Needless to say, we’ve received some enlightening and comical responses from our artists. You can view each artist’s response by clicking on their name in our exhibition’s viewing room online.

Love everything Tchotcke? Make sure you catch When Life Doesn’t Give You Lemons. The show is accessible via the gallery’s virtual viewing room.

When Life Doesn’t Give You Lemons, Tchotchke Gallery, 8 September – 30 October.

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