Meet the Australians Shaking Up New York’s Art Scene
August 7, 2017 by
“It is important to me that we create an institution that is accessible for the art going public. Too many galleries in New York deliberately foster an intimidating and inaccessible front to the general public.” – Emerald Gruin of Olsen Guin gallery.
Olsen Gruin gallery first opened its doors on the Lower East Side less than a year ago. Since then, it has already outgrown its original space and is relocating to a new gallery space on Orchard St. that is three times the size of the current location. Olsen Gruin Gallery is the collaborative venture of Tim Olsen and Emerald and Adrian Gruin.
We caught up with Emerald Gruin on a hot summer day at the gallery’s Elizabeth St. location and talked to her about the gallery, its artists and the move to Orchard Street. The sunlight-filled gallery was full of colorful abstract paintings by Australian Aboriginal artists from remote desert communities. Emerald explained that while Olsen Gruin is not primarily an Australian gallery, it does not “shy away from its Australian connections and heritage.”
Art Zealous: Why the move to Orchard Street?
Emerald Gruin: When Tim and I first discussed the NY gallery and partnership, we decided to take advantage of taking over an existing lease from Tim’s sister, Louise Olsen, in a beautiful location in SoHo. We wanted to test the concept, working together in partnership and also the market. So far it’s proven highly rewarding, giving us the confidence to continue to partner and relocate to a larger space, within the gallery district of the Lower East side. We are extremely excited about the creative and business opportunities that are now open to us in our new location at 30 Orchard St.
AZ: How big is the new space compared to the old space?
EG: 3 times bigger!
AZ: What sets Olsen Gruin apart from other NYC galleries?
EG: We are committed and able to bring incredible art and artists that New York has not seen before. We are not an Australian gallery. However we do not shy away from our Australian connections and heritage which is distinctive and differentiating. We have an incredibly strong partner and brand with Tim and Olsen Gallery in Sydney, which allows us to share infrastructure, clients and artists. There is a vibrant diaspora of Australians in New York who have been receptive to what we have created here in the NY art scene. This combined with my history in the NY art scene also allows us to attract and foster vibrant emerging and mid-career US based artists.
While we maintain the highest of standards, we strike an approachable and friendly culture in the gallery. It is important to me that we create an institution that is accessible for the art going public. Too many galleries in New York deliberately foster an intimidating and inaccessible front to the general public.
AZ: What will the first show be in the new space?
EG: We are relocating Sharing Country to Orchard St. These big Aboriginal colorful artworks need the space to breathe. We are excited to be showcasing an incredible 5-meter Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri. Nothing like this has ever been seen before in New York.
AZ: How has the gallery been received so far?
EG: Tim and I have been extremely pleased with the reception to date. It has especially been a pleasure seeing great artists and good friends have successful shows, even when they may have had a limited presence in New York prior to Olsen Gruin. It’s a great thing to see (if you have the eye for good art, and the passion is genuine) you can place the works in new homes and good collections.
AZ: You were Director at the Rox Gallery. How long was Rox Open? Was there one show there that stands out in your mind that was particularity memorable?
EG: Rox was open for approximately two years. Rox was always designed to be a flame that burnt very brightly, as we knew the building was eventually going to be demolished for development. For me the stand out show was Chen Jiagang, bringing over such poignant photographic works represented a high point for me and that show was just beautiful. While Rox was a fantastic platform to experiment with new and young artists, Olsen Gruin represents a more mature vision of my role as a dealer. Working with Tim, who has been in the business for over 25 years, has been instrumental in continually developing and improving.
AZ: You went back to work at Olsen in Australia. How long were you there?
EG: Only six months, it would have lasted longer, I just missed New York too much.
AZ: What was the most important thing you learned while working at Olsen Gallery in Sydney that you think will help you in running Olsen Gruin in NY?
EG: I really got to understand Tim as a person, not just an art dealer. He is very good at creating successful artists with longevity. Tim has not only mastered the art of selling, but he also lives and breathes art.
AZ: What roles do you, you husband Adrian and Tim Olsen take on at the Gallery?
EG: We all share roles, and they cross over. Tim oversees both Australian and New York locations. We both partner on selecting artists, shows, curation and key marketing and client management. Adrian is the Business Director for the gallery.
AZ: You will be keeping Elizabeth St. open until the end of August. What will be showing in the Elizabeth Street location?
EG: We are focused on works on paper, for example, we are featuring some new works by Alphachanneling and Koak.
Olsen Gruin will be operating at both locations through the summer. Sharing Country, curated by Adam Knight,will be on view at the Orchard St. location through August 10th. Wesley Martin Berg & Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri will be on view at the Orchard St location as well until September 10th. Alphachanneling (Summer Show) will be on view at the Elizabeth St. location through August 31st.