JS — Do you mind if I ask how this affects your relationships with artists? Do they leverage their celebrity?
JF — Out of all the artists I’ve worked with in ten years plus, she’s as professional, and as down to earth as it gets. It’s an important thing for a lot of people that there’s an element of name recognition for the artist that they are interested in, but for some of my favorite collectors, and for many great museum curators, it’s not the only barometer they use. I’ve been fortunate to be able to sustain my business and have it grow by not being overly concerned with that all the time. It’s a pretty local tight knit kind of thing.
JS — What was it like to leave Deitch Projects and start your own gallery? Did you do it at a time that felt it was the right time?
JF — It was cool. Yeah, I mean I felt like, I was approaching thirty, and I had gone through in my twenties, there were a couple instances where I felt like maybe I should find a different career path, you know. I felt like I had put so much love into the field, but I didn’t feel I was getting any love back. So, I was definitely at a crossroads. I was pretty much prepared to leave the art world after Deitch Projects. But then basically I found this space that had a sign in the window, it was a two story building, said $2,500, four hundred square foot apartment upstairs, four hundred square foot storefront downstairs, and I visualized this is where I can live, the gallery would be down here, I just visualized it through the fucking window. I was like if this is for real, if I could rent this space, this will be my gallery. So it was really just happening on this fucking space, because in New York so many of our projects are so dependent, and our livelihood and our quality of life is so dependent on space. You know, like space is so important. So I think I had suppressed the idea of opening a gallery in 2006 after Deitch because I didn’t really think it was feasible. I knew how intense it was to be a gallerist, especially after many years, I figured it’s basically the kind of career path that only escalates, it only gets harder the longer you are in the field you know, which is crazy, I always had this idea that I wanted to do something where I could chill the older I got, you know?
JS — That’s probably not the reality right?
JF — Yeah that’s definitely not the reality.
JS — What are the challenges to staying relevant?
JS — So, that PS1 Expo show a couple summers ago, remember that?
JS — Yeah.
JF — At the gallery at the time I had a show by an artist who came up in the 1970s, this guy Richard Nonas, and he was known as the most mystical of the post-minimalist artists. So he kind of came up with Michael Heizer, Richard Serra, and Gordon Matta-Clark, they were collaborators. Literally his sculptures, just steel, readily found steel cut geometric forms mixed, and wood, found wood that he chops, kind of makes little assemblages. And so after the expo show, which was so progressive, very of the moment, and even forward thinking, I mean I loved the show, it spoke about ecology, spoke about post-Internet, it spoke about all of these important really great things, there was 3D printing, and all this stuff, it was great. But then I go back to the gallery, and I see these chunks of wood on the wall, and I realize I’m a fucking dinosaur, you know?
JS — I don’t think that’s true. That’s interesting that you have that perception, because you can’t step out of your body.
JF — Right. But it was a crazy sort of thing.
JS — Like ‘the world is moving fast’ kind of thing.
JF — Yeah. I think it also speaks to the strength of Richard Nonas’ work too, ‘cause something I would say about his work when people would ask me, “Oh how has his work changed over the last thirty to forty years?” was that actually it hasn’t changed, you put a piece of his work from thirty years ago next to a new work you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. But because what he was talking about was almost like a bridge between the industrial era and the pre-industrial era, what’s interesting is how the world changes around it. His work just fucking remains so solid.
JS — And I think that’s a great thing.
JF — I think that’s a great thing too. But it really impacted me in such a way that made me take stock, rethink my program, kind of realize that you know, I like to be both in the past and present, and thinking ahead, I like doing it all. But it made me sort of want to participate in that conversation more again.
JS — The PS1 Expo conversation?
JF — Yeah, the expo. I don’t feel out of touch with it, I feel very connected to a lot of those artists and that work, but it was interesting. I think the best thing that I realized about me and my program, is just like it further made me acknowledge like who I am, I’m a Gen Xer, I’m very analogue. That doesn’t mean I can’t participate in these new conversations, but it’s also really important to realize that.
JS — Downtown New York City...now and then.
JF — That’s my favorite subject. [laughs] That’s a really deep one.
JS — Maybe start with what was up when you entered.
JF — So when I entered downtown in 1977, [laughs] I can say that my earliest memories were like seeing art, Keith Haring chalkboard drawings, like on the subway. I grew up on Madison Street and I saw this very iconic mural by Lee Quiñones on Madison Street. It had this Donald Duck character with a thought bubble and it said “If graffiti is a crime, then may God forgive us,” and it was this crazy scene. So as a kid, growing up I felt like I was absorbing a lot of art all the time, but it was street art, you know? I hate calling it street art cause I feel like that’s only a very recent term. So those were the seeds for my interest in art. Pre- 9/11 and post-9/11 downtown were very, very different. I would say downtown now, as compared to when I started my career, is—I don’t know. Maybe this is kind of what everyone in their thirties who’s been there and done that and is looking at the next generation thinks, maybe this isn’t accurate...but I think that artists right now coming out of school are the most careerist they’ve ever been, to a point where in many instances it’s not allowing for most growth. Amalia Ulman, its almost like even her careerism is part of her work. She’s got it, she’s tapped into her voice, she’s young. But you know Joseph Kosuth was younger, forty or fifty years ago when he had his first show. I don’t think it’s out of the question for an artist in their early to mid twenties to be starting a career. I don’t think that’s out of the question at all. But I do think it’s unfortunate that artists who are in their early and mid twenties right now less and less seem to be able to, or want to afford themselves time to explore, and to take chances, and just be kind of more open to what the world might bring. I see that as an unfortunate by-product of the strength of the art market right now in New York. Particularly, if you’re twenty-five, and you have a solo show anywhere, its like you’ll sell out your show, because there are so many hungry collectors for the newest stuff. And when it’s at a reasonable price point, forget it, you could be cashing in left and right if you want.