Aspen’s White Cube
London gallery opens three-exhibition run in Aspen
What: “Correspondence, Part One”
Who: Imi Knoebel, Dora Maurer, Al Held, Josiah McElheny, Cerith Wyn Evans and Takis
Where: White Cube, 228 S. Mill St., Aspen
When: Through July 4
More info: Part Two of “Corresondence” will run July 10-29, Part Three from Aug. 3-Sept. 5; whitecube.com
The London-based White Cube will be open in Aspen for less than three months this summer, but the gallery has found a way to show 18 of its contemporary artists in this brief stretch. The three-part exhibition “Correspondence,” which opened June 8, pairs artists by twos – aiming to invite comparisons and communication between them.
The long narrow Mill Street space — formerly occupied by the Aspen Art Gallery, which has moved around the corner to the Hyman Ave. pedestrian mall – has been split into three distinct smaller galleries (yes, actual white cubes) for each artist pair in “Correspondence.”
“In each gallery, we’re presenting a dialogue or conversation between two artists, so it’s three pairs in each exhibition,” gallery director Daniela Gareh said during a recent visit, walking through the room pairing three-dimensional pieces by Al Held and Josiah McElheny.
It takes just a glance to see why they are paired, setting the optical wonders of Held’s late 1990s “Crystal Landscape Paintings” next to new illusion-based blown glass and mirror pies by McElheny. Likewise the paring of Imi Knoebel with Dora Maurer, both experimenting with bold color theory pieces on painted wood.
“We’re hoping that people will rediscover artists or think about them in ways that they might not have thought about the work before,” said Gareh.
White Cube does not have a permanent gallery in the U.S. The Aspen pop-up follows its first foray into offsite exhibitions, a winter space in Palm Beach. The travel restrictions of the novel coronavirus pandemic pushed Gareh and the gallery to “work more locally” as she put it, or to go where the collectors go.
“This was a really good way for us to be close to our American friends during this time,” she explained.
White Cube is among a bumper crop of international contemporary galleries planting flags in Aspen in summer 2021. The group also includes Almine Rech, , which already has galleries in New York, London, Paris and Shanghai, and Malin Gallery, which has its main hub in Manhattan, both on Hyman adjacent to the Aspen Art Museum. Across the street from them, a pop-up of the Chelsea-based Mitchell-Innes & Nash opens this weekend with an exhibition of Jack Goldstein, Annette Lemieux and Cindy Sherman. And Christie’s this week announced it will convert its real estate office on Aspen’s gondola plaza into a gallery space for summer, with a similar summer pop-up going to the Hamptons.
The influx is reshaping the commercial art scene in Aspen, at least temporarily, as galleries seek to connect with viewers and collectors who’ve moved here as part of the pandemic’s urban exodus.
White Cube has supported the Aspen Art Museum’s ArtCrush fundraiser and auction for years and has clients with homes here. Now, Gareh said, they’re aiming for deeper connections with Aspenites and the art scene.
“The great thing about going somewhere locally, and tapping into the local community, is meeting people,” said Gareh. “And not just meeting people, but really understanding what’s interesting for people here. That’s not something you get to do to at a fair, it’s not something you get to do in any other environment.”
While the concept of “Correspondence” enables viewers this summer to sample White Cube artists – six per show– and see a lot of diverse work, it doesn’t allow for the museum-quality solo artist exhibitions that has made White Cube a contemporary art tastemaker over the past quarter century.
Gareh said the approach was mostly in response to the orientation of the gallery space itself.
“I felt like the space was telling us to do that,” Gareh said. “To cerate more individual intimate experiences rather than experiencing it as a whole.”
Gareh also noted that she did not want to do traditional group exhibitions here, as she wanted the Aspen gallery to differentiate itself form the West Palm pop-up.
The main attraction of this opening exhibition is that it includes works by Cerith Wyn Evans, who in early June opened the mind-blowing two-floor “Aspen Drift” exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum. The White Cube show is required viewing for anybody touched by Evans’ musical sculptures in the museum installations, as the pieces here – abstract paintings and neons – complement the monumental and interactive works in “Aspen Drift.”
Exhibiting Evans – who White Cube has represented for 22 years – while his show is up at the museum was among the reasons to open the gallery here for the season, Gareh said. They’re shown here beside interactive works by the kinetic sculptor Takis from as far back as 1971 from the “Signals” series including touchable iron levers.
“In a way they’re both capturing energy – movement in energy, shifts in energy,” Gareh said of the pairing.
The influx of short-term viewing spaces for global blue-chip commercial galleries in Aspen has the potential to reshape Aspen’s gallery scene full-time. If it’s received well by artists and collectors, this may be a new business model for galleries and we may expect seasonal pop-ups to be a staple of the post-COVID high seasons in the mountains. The next few months will tell.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Gareh said. “But it is a model that we’re interested in.”
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Former race-car driver, current Lewis Cellars winemaker Randy Lewis hosts Aspen dinner alongside chef Byron Gomez as part of the “Aspen Summer Supper Club Series” at 7908.