Susanne Vielmetter, a stalwart of the Los Angeles art scene, goes from strength to strength as she opens a second space this fall. Vielmetter, who recently joined The Armory Show's Selection Committee, discusses the opening of her new downtown space, and why consistency and innovation are the pillars of her business nearly 20 years on. — Interview by Audrey Rose Smith
“We work hard and we expect the same from every artist in our program”
Congratulations on opening your second space in Los Angeles. Can you tell us a little about the genesis of this venture and why you chose downtown Los Angeles?
The downtown space is an industrial building that has a very different character from our Culver City space. Our space in Culver City has plain warehouse architecture with a bow truss ceiling so it has beautiful uninterrupted 50’ wide galleries. Its neighborhood has greatly improved since we moved in so it is quite walkable with restaurants and coffee shops nearby. The downtown space is an industrial concrete building with tall columns every 20 feet and high ceilings. The neighborhood is rougher and it has a less finished, more raw character. Both spaces have strong, yet quite different personalities, so we are excited that we will be able to offer our artists two distinctively different contexts for their work.
How has the gallery scene in Los Angeles changed in the last decade, with the expansion of numerous New York galleries to the west coast, and what effect do you think that will have on the art scene there in the long term?
I think Los Angeles is finally on its way to becoming one of the most important international art metropolises in the United States. We know the city well and we do well here, much better in fact than in some of the cities that we bring our artists to for fairs, so it made sense for us to expand here.
As someone who has owned and operated a gallery in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years, and with a project space in Berlin from 2007-2009, what do you feel is the most important ingredient for a gallery’s continued longevity today?
Persistence, consistency, and innovation. It is important to balance a commitment to the artists in our program but we also need to stay connected to current important issues that younger artists bring up. We work hard and we expect the same from every artist in our program. Most of all, we want our gallery to make a meaningful contribution to the art of our time, to its political relevance and its potential for societal change.
How will the programming between your two Los Angeles spaces differ? What can we expect to see downtown that we might not see in your Culver City space?
The way we will be planning exhibitions for both spaces will be entirely driven by what each exhibition needs and how it relates best to the respective space. The downtown space is noisier; it has a lot of direct sunlight so it will be less suitable for video and sound work. The interruption of the space by the columns will make it a better context for sculptures. Ultimately, each exhibition will be conceived for each space, and will not be interchangeable. It is important to me that there will be no hierarchy between the two spaces and our senior staff will spend the first weeks with each show as we will alternate openings between the spaces and run shows a bit longer.
"Most of all, we want our gallery to make a meaningful contribution to the art of our time”
Your roster of artists is, by art world standards, very balanced between male and female artists. Has this been a deliberate effort?
Yes, absolutely. It is incredibly gratifying for me to see that people notice and support that we show a gender balanced program. It was not so long ago that the notion of paying attention to this issue would have been thought of as amusing at best, backwards at worst.
As a long-time exhibitor at The Armory Show, what sets this fair apart from other fairs, and makes you come back each year?
We absolutely love The Armory Show, even though the pier itself is perhaps not the most beautiful location for a fair. The support, enthusiasm and commitment of the collectors and curators is unmatched and many of our truest and most committed collectors come back to see us every day of the fair. They buy, they look, they ask questions and they connect with us. We have done this fair from the very beginning and have not once been disappointed!