Art

Fumihiro "Charlie Brown" Hayashi of The Last Gallery, Javier Peres of Peres Projects and Emily Sundblad of Reena Spaulings -- three dealers from Tokyo, LosAngeles and New York, respectively -- do a lot more than provide gallery space.They act as cheerleaders, mentors and drinking buddies to the artists theyrepresent. Committed to keeping business authentic even during troubled timesand maintaining a vision large enough to embrace the most subversive acts andradical ideas, they are THE REAL DEAL.


At first glance, it's hard to imagine that the soft-spoken artist and galleristEmily Sundblad, clad in a white T-shirt with a tan sweater knotted around hershoulders, blonde hair up in a barrette, was once a self-described punk kid. "Inhigh school, I had green hair for a long time, and it was shaved on the sides,"she says in her delicate Swedish lilt. But it's this mix of a little bitsensible and a little bit freaky that has put Sundblad on a perch atop the NewYork experimental art world, as co-helmer of Reena Spaulings Fine Art, one ofthe premiere small galleries in New York and a prominent artist in her ownright. "I think the whole punk thing was really important for me, and I reallythink it still informs what I do -- the whole DIY ethos. Not necessarily in anaesthetic way, but definitely in a philosophical way."

Sundblad, now 32, spent her formative years in Dalsjöfors and Stockholm. Then,at 18, she made for London, which seemed like "the natural place" to escape. Inbetween internships at fashion magazines and nights dancing till the wee hoursof the morning, she met fellow Swede and photographer Hanna Liden. "We decidedwe needed to do something, and we applied to college here in New York," Sundbladsays. A month-long exploratory stay at the Chelsea Hotel later, the two got anapartment in Williamsburg and enrolled at Parsons, where Sundblad studied fineart and Liden photography. Upon graduating in 2002, Sundblad and Liden landed agig curating a group show at Priska C. Juschka Fine Art (which Holland Cotterraved about in the New York Times), but Sundblad needed a way to stay in thecountry. So she started a business in the cheapest space she could find: astorefront on far-east Grand Street. In the beginning, Sundblad says, "there wasno business plan, there was no manifesto -- there was just this space." And at thatpoint, she recalls, "New York seemed to need more experimental gallery spaces,and there were so many artists we knew who didn't have places to exhibit." Sundblad and her boyfriend John Kelsey (a member of the fictionalcorporation/art collaborative Bernadette Corporation) got to work.

Throughout 2004, Sundblad and Kelsey steadily put on performances (musical,dance, conceptual), art shows (their first featured ripped-up pieces of MichaelKrebber catalogues taped to the walls), and parties, essentially creating aclubhouse where their friends could convene -- and occasionally wreak havoc. Suchunderground endeavors are difficult to maintain in this city, and after a NewYork Times reporter kept coming by, asking what this curious space was called,Sundblad and Kelsey decided on a name: Reena Spaulings. According to Sundblad,the name originated in the fact that "Neither John nor I wanted to use ournames, so we let this fictional woman Reena Spaulings, a character in a bookthat was being written by the Bernadette Corporation at the time, be thestand-in. We thought she sounded kind of glamorous and trashy at the same time."

The gallery, which moved in 2006 from Grand Street to a former brothel on EastBroadway, is home to a slew of internationally recognized artists, includingKlara Liden (Hanna's sister), Seth Price, K8 Hardy, Jutta Koether and SonicYouth's Kim Gordon. Then there's "Reena Spaulings" herself, the nom d'art ofSundblad and a rotating roster of collaborators. In 2006 "she" was invited toparticipate at the Whitney Biennial. "In its best form, she's an extension ofour gallery practice," Sundblad says, who is insistent that Reena Spaulings isnot a "collective," but more of an "umbrella" or a "brand," as the collaboratorsinvolved in her output are constantly changing. Whatever or whoever she is,Reena Spaulings has been very busy recently, with solo shows last year at theContemporary Art Museum in St. Louis and Paris's Galerie Chantal Crousel. In themonths ahead, she'll be part of a group show at the Tate Modern and will have asolo show at Sutton Lane Gallery in Brussels. Finally, there's Reena Spaulingsin her iteration as a bluegrass band, consisting of Sundblad and variousdowntown theater types who play their country-tinged tunes around town at venueslike Joe's Pub, the Whitney and BAM.

For a relentless multitasker like Sundblad -- who also shows paintings under herown name, collaborates on video projects with Amy Granat, creates performancepieces with the group Grand Openings and fronts a Swedish synth band -- keepingeverything in order and running smoothly is paramount. Which is not to say thatshe doesn't, in the spirit of her old punk-rock days, appreciate a littleanarchy, too.

"For one of my favorite shows [at Reena Spaulings], Klara Liden invited pigeonsto fly in and take over the gallery," she says. "It was really extreme -- we evenhad to feed the pigeons. For a month it was just us and the pigeons and that washow it was. It just was… totally different."

Hair/Makeup: Khela Tyson @khelatyson.com using Chanel.

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