Building an Accessible Art Market in LA With Wallspace
LA art season - albeit not a new phenomenon but one enjoying newfound vigor owing to the expansion of international art fairs to the city of angels - is upon us.
The Superfine! team got the chance to sit down and chat with Valda Lake, the founder and director of Wallspace LA, to learn what makes her tick as a new contemporary art gallery. While the gallery has had physical iterations, Wallspace is primarily a mobile platform at the moment and has succeeded where others have failed: in building an inclusive, accessible art market in LA. In this Q+A, Valda drops major bon mots about the LA art market, how she’s built a loyal audience for her artists, and even canine art collectors. Read on, learn, and enjoy (then come see Wallspace in their booth at Superfine! LA!)
At Superfine! we believe that a more accessible art market is a more prosperous one and a happier place for artists, galleries, and collectors. Have you faced any challenges in making art more accessible in LA, and how have you overcome them?
I agree with your philosophy completely. I have always wanted to introduce new collectors to the exciting world of art and not have them feel intimidated by galleries. I think that is very limiting.
In Los Angeles, art and culture are very accessible. As there are so many creatives living here and working in all sorts of genres, the main challenge is to keep up with the cultural noise and stand out. My goal is to have the audience grow with the artists and their careers and also with Wallspace, so I have been mixing smaller community pop up events and then also art fairs in the last 18 months which has provided a positive format for Wallspace and me as a curator.
Do you have a favorite “new collector" story - someone who hadn't considered themselves one but was inspired to begin collecting at one of your shows?
It is always fun first talking with a nervous new collector and urging them to just “feel” the art. I love it when it speaks to them - that guttural feeling when you first see a piece and know you don’t want to leave it! I had one such person. We were heavily discussing a piece hanging on the wall in front of us, and we were both happily absorbed whilst she had her gorgeous Golden Retriever next to her. I noticed a knocking sound behind me but kept talking as she was enthralled with the art conversation and the artists’ story. After more noise we finally did turn around to see the gorgeous Golden Retriever standing on hind legs with part of a sculpture on a plinth in its mouth just gently slobbering all over it. This person bought the art though! (the one on the wall!)
What advice would you give to a person opening a new contemporary art gallery in LA or any other market, today?
Ha! Well that is quite a question, now that it is all in hindsight. I think what is great when you are about to embark on this challenge is that it is about a vision you have, a love of the art, excitement, and a drive. If you have those elements I believe there is room for everyone.
What specific curatorial strategies do you use to ensure that you and your artists see sales across the board during your shows and booths at fairs?
I always show new works, so if a client visits they can be excited seeing where the artist is right now. Our attitude is always friendly and informative to all people, whether they are first-time buyers or savvy collectors. I also have information on each artist readily available in an art card form - as a “take away" - as some people do not want to have a conversation at that point but are wanting to mull and research the artist in their own time.
How does art fair participation help new contemporary art galleries like Wallspace market their artists’ work and reach a broader audience?
It tremendously helps. My goal is to reach new audiences in person and also digitally, so having an environment where thousands of people have come specifically to see art is ideal for us as a gallery - and also for the audience to expand their view and gain confidence having an opinion.
What does an LA art collector look like in 2019? How should he or she be thinking about art when they consider making a purchase?
To me an art collector for 2019 can be near or far from us here in Los Angeles, the digital platforms have enabled that art market growth - we ship quickly and easily anywhere in the world. We have an online platform presence where you can zoom in and really see the art closely with Artsy and Artsper. The audiences are researching the artists and are interested in their story and history of their work - if you think of it, this is something you may never let go of in your lifetime - so to me there is no need to rush the process. Rather, collectors should enjoy it, support an artist, participate in that artists career and generate growth too for everyone.
This spring is an exciting time for LA with 10 (!!!) art fairs hitting Southern California in the space of just a few months. How would you like to see this energy transfer into the rest of the year?
This is a fun fun time of year, I am so happy to be in Los Angeles for the start of it and at Superfine! Art Fair kicking off our year for Wallspace. We are looking at other art fairs in the States with a continued local presence so lots ahead. If there is a way to make the days longer that would be great to fit it all in!!
We're all thrilled to see the Wallspace booth at Superfine! LA. What can our visitors look forward to in your presentation?
Bold, strong and unique works with quite a spread of styles, all hanging symbiotically together (that is the plan!)
Besides Wallspace's own artists, are there any galleries or solo artists at Superfine! LA whose work you're specifically excited to see?
I have been following the Superfine! social media presence for over a year so I am super excited to see in person the artists’ works you have been bringing to us. I would feel mean singling out anyone in particular, when really for me it is the whole event that’s exciting.