It’s fitting that Kathy Grayson named her gallery The Hole, since it filled the one created by Jeffrey Deitch when he shuttered New York art phenomenon Deitch Projects in 2010. Street artist Steve Powers told The New York Times, “Kathy is mother to all the wayward children of Deitch,” and indeed, the curator extraordinaire didn’t wait for the paint to dry before featuring Deitch progeny — Terence Koh, Aurel Schmidt, Nate Lowman, to name a few — at her new haunt on the Bowery. With Matthew Stone’s exhibition coming to a close, we dropped by The Hole to chat with Grayson and her cuddlesome guard dog, Bert, about showing art and picking up poop.
What do you like best about running your own space?
I can’t pretend that at Deitch Projects I didn’t get a huge amount of freedom and latitude, so
it’s not like “getting to do what I want” is the best part, because Jeffrey let me do all kinds of great things. Besides, I like working collaboratively so much more than as a lone curator or as the center of anyone’s attention. The best part about having The Hole instead of Deitch is that I can explore my own diverse art interests and look at things with my own eyes instead of looking at things through the joint Kathy–Jeffrey eye. During the Deitch years, I would look at art in terms of what I thought would be good for Jeffrey’s legacy as well as what I liked, and now I have a non-schizo art brain.
What was the most significant learning curve?
I had to learn how to sell art. I had a sheltered, almost academic post at Deitch, where I got
to talent-scout and curate and write, while Jeffrey and the other directors did most of the selling. Sometimes at Deitch, I would sell a piece by accident, but I didn’t have the hunger for the “art of the deal” or whatever. Still working on that one.
How is the downtown art scene different now than when you were at Deitch?
Deitch was radical because, from 1996 to 2010, Jeffrey was taking chances others wouldn’t,
and always did his own thing without giving a fuck about the haters. Now, there are 200 galleries on the L.E.S. and they’re all pushing boundaries. There is no longer this “boring establishment” to push back on; everyone is pushing for the new and the weird and the groundbreaking. So my gallery is not distinguished by “risk-taking” the way Deitch was. The art market is growing like crazy now, and I think the most important thing about nurturing artists today is to sift through the copycats and the hangers-on to find the true, lifetime artists that you connect with and believe in.
When did Bert enter the picture?
I adopted Bert when my best friend went to Europe for a while, so I was home alone. I thought about my past relationships, how I tried to take care of and “mom” these much younger guys, and how destructive and lame that was. I decided that if I have these nurturing instincts of wanting to feed something and clean up after it, why not get a fucking dog and have a healthy relationship with it instead of a fucked-up relationship with a needy dude?
Is Bert named after anyone in particular?
I’m a collector of P.G. Wodehouse books and his greatest character creation is Bertram
(Bertie) Wooster, a rich and lovable dumb-dumb who is always haplessly trying to help his friends out of scrapes.
What role does Bert play at The Hole?
Bert’s here every day. Currently, our show has a squid sculpture, and he keeps trying to grab
a squid to chew and I have to stop him. He’s so friendly, so he compensates for my standoffishness by wagging his tail at everyone who comes in. Bert came to Toronto with me for the JIM JOE show, tucked in a bag with a bunch of turtlenecks; to L.A. for Ben Jones’ wedding, wearing a wee tuxedo; and to Miami for NADA, where he guarded the booth and sold some art with us.
Do you sneak him into places dogs aren’t allowed?
Duh, I have taken him to gallery dinners and fundraisers and after-parties. I took him with me when Sue Hancock and I went to BAM to see the Anna Nicole Smith opera. He hides in my purse. One time I took him to a gallery and there was a thunderstorm, so he stress-pooped all over their floor.