When Davida Nemeroff moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 2009, she found the art scene wanting. The Chinatown galleries that had served as the cool kids in the mid-2000s had grown up and moved out to Culver City. "There was a hole, and nobody was filling that hole," Nemeroff remembers. "At the institutional level they brought in Jeffrey Deitch to run MoCA. On the ground, L.A. needed something."

So she rented an $850-a-month space in a strip mall in Lincoln Heights, painted the walls black, and opened up Night Gallery, a place that is equal parts clubhouse, art project, gallery and salon des refuses. Nemeroff -- a photographer and mixed-media artist by trade -- created the collaborative space to show her work and that of her friends. Over the past two years, it's transitioned from an offbeat experimental space to the locus of cool. Its shows have featured increasingly recognizable names, like Karl Haendel, Charles Long and Kate Levant.

"Every day the gallery exists it is more successful than the day before; either one or more person has signed up to our mailing list, or we have made one more sale," says Nemeroff, who gives equal credit to Mieke Marple, her new partner in the gallery. But that success is not the end in itself. "In reality the 'gallery' is just a front so that my friends and I can sustain our efforts in being artists," she says. "I see myself first as an artist, and second as a dealer."

Nemeroff, the artist, has several shows already lined up for 2012 (at Young Art, Acme and Annie Wharton). At the same time, she has big things in mind for Night Gallery -- a larger space, more programming and a new web series produced by Marple. Both the gallerist and the artist are always present in Nemeroff, a challenge that grows alongside the gallery: "It's really hard, emotionally, to sell your friends' art," she says. "Everyday I battle with these demons -- what would Mother Teresa do, and what would Larry Gagosian do?"