Mieke Marple joined Night Gallery as a partner after Davida Nemeroff founded the space in 2010. The gallery moved to its new space in 2013, at the forefront of the mass-migration of LA galleries to the city’s Eastside. Night Gallery has become a force to be reckoned with, both in the LA art scene as well as on the world stage, participating in major international art fairs such as Frieze, Art Basel, NADA and Untitled.
What changes and developments have you noticed in the LA art scene since you started out with Night Gallery?
When I was in Paris for FIAC 2016, everyone was talking about LA. Even with the recent market slow-down -which was very needed- LA is still being looked at and talked about. Before this contraction, LA had become a bit too overhyped, whereas now it seems like it’s settling down into something more sustainable on the long run. There’s still a growing market here, and it’s good to know that it wasn’t just all hype. There have been a lot of big galleries from Europe and New York opening locations here the past 2 or 3 years, and it continues to happen.
I think LA is reaching a tipping point, where once there are enough galleries here, there’s this momentum, attracting more even galleries, and then more collectors. This is necessary for a market to grow. It seems like LA is reaching a critical mass, where it’s truly becoming a real global center for art. But there’s still a lot of work to do.
Do you think there’s a big enough collector’s base to support the LA art scene?
There is a collectors’ base here, but right now it’s not strong enough to sustain the galleries on its own. There is a lot of money in California in general which is a big reason why everyone is looking towards Los Angeles and San Francisco, in the same way that people are looking at Asia and the Middle East. There’s all this tech and movie money, and they will be the next big patrons and philanthropists. The richest people have always been the greatest patrons of the arts. It’s important to break into these new markets where there’s money, which is what everyone is looking to do all the time. California is one of those markets where there’s this great potential, but that potential hasn’t been realized all the way yet. Being a serious art collector really costs a lot of time and money, and to dedicate all this time and money requires a leap of faith and a real belief in art, since there are a million other ways to spend that time and money. In order for these people to take that leap of faith, it takes effort to educate them about art, its beauty and benefits, and to bring them into the art world.
How did you create and foster sustainable relationships with collectors at Night Gallery?
Our collector’s base had started local, with friends and family friends, and then selling to other artists, because those were the people that we knew. Then it got broader, with real collectors in LA, and then it expanded even more: suddenly we were selling to Asia, and more recently to Dubai. Maintaining those relationships does always require a lot of travel, but once we grew a bigger team, we didn’t have to do all the traveling ourselves.
The art world is a very social thing, and that’s the biggest reason people want to participate. They want to connect with other people over something that is poetic, and that all requires a lot of face-to-face interaction.
How has digital technology for you played into today’s increasingly global art world?
Technology has definitely made it easier to keep in touch with everyone over the world and maintain your connections. It’s a great supplement that fills the gaps between those face to face interactions, because you can’t be everywhere in the world all the time. In terms of sales, we hadn’t really moved our sales online with Night Gallery. The online art market is a funny thing that I feel no one has totally managed to crack yet. I think it’s because art is expensive, and collectors expect a certain pomp and circumstance with their purchases. I don't know... I mean even big online art platforms like Artsy are having a hard time with online sales.
Maybe it’s also because the art market is really based on community. You want to buy from people that you know and have a relationship with, and you want to know that you can trust them and their eye. It’s also partially what you’re paying for. Not just the artwork, but you pay for the people, the connections, and to be part of that community. Even if the artwork itself goes to a storage, people buy art because they want to meet interesting people, they want to have interesting conversations and be stimulated, and you don’t get that when you’re shopping online. But then again, I’m sure people said the same about buying clothing online, or other industries that have moved seamlessly online, so I definitely think there’s a place for buying art online.
I’m sure it will happen, I’m sure it’s inevitable. It’s just a massive change in attitude, and people really try to hold on to the traditional way of doing business in the art world. Art is an old school field. It’s hardwired in a lot of ways of doing things. The market has been around for a century or two, and they’re reluctant to let that go. There’s a good amount of jobs wrapped up in it.
Do you feel that a city like LA, with a young and developing art scene, is more likely to embrace change as opposed to some more established art capitals?
I mean, LA is a very young city with a young art scene that is not as deeply rooted in tradition as New York or London. There’s not a real sense of history, or legacy, or tradition. LA’s culture is a fast culture, and I’m not sure if that’s always a good thing. People buy into street art, or fashion trends, or blockbuster movies, or something like that. And sometimes, art is more a trend than a real, deep meditation on society and its values. But at the same time, some of the most relevant culture being generated today comes from California, and Asia too. These are the places of the fastest growth, and there is a reason for that. These places are half a step ahead of everything else in that way, and they’re hitting something relevant. Everything that comes out of those places is looking towards the future. I'm sure great art comes from that, but the support system just isn’t quite there yet.
I don’t think the art epicenter will suddenly shift toward the US West Coast very soon. Europe is still very powerful, there is no doubt, but I do think it’s losing a bit of it’s power globally. It’s becoming decentered. I think we’re finally feeling the effects of the end of imperialism. With the final stages of decolonization ending a while ago, there’s this first gesture away from Europe. And now, almost a century later, we’re really starting to feel what that means. It takes a really long time to feel the effects of such major changes. I’m really looking everywhere but Europe, Asia is interesting, the Middle East. I’m maintaining relationships with Europe of course, but it’s not the most interesting place to be right now. Other places are becoming more relevant.