in other words

Everything you ever wanted to know about the art market but didn't know who to ask
Special Issue: Secrets of the LA Art World

Part V: The Gallery

BY Charlotte Burns
executive editor of In Other Words

WITH Tim Blum
co-founder, Blum & Poe

Published
In Films

In this final episode, Blum and Burns talk about the business of running a gallery—and staying relevant—over several decades. On a tour of Blum & Poe, Tim Blum talks about how he likes to stir controversy.

Transcript

Scene 1

[Tim and Charlotte drive through Los Angeles to arrive at Blum & Poe Gallery. They pass sites along the way, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.]

Charlotte Burns: You and I were talking recently about like if you could reduce a gallery survival these days to a kind of equation, it would be something along the lines of capital plus vision in in terms of being able to look at the right art, and contacts. But without those three, it’s kind of difficult to survive. You can have capital and contacts, but if you don’t have good art it’s not going to work. If you have good art but no capital, it’s going to be hard. Do you think that’s true?

Tim Blum: Yeah for sure, but if you had to choose, you’re always going to want to have good art. Like that’s just… you know, I think people get confused sometimes, and it’s actually the one simple rule is to keep it focused on great art and great artists. That should always be your primary focus.

Charlotte Burns: So, when people talk about galleries, there’s this idea that galleries often have a couple of artists that essentially bankroll the business, and then that allows them the capital to take more risks. Have you ever been in that position? Or have you had a different kind of strategy?

Tim Blum: Well, it was no strategy. I mean, when you’re starting with young artists that have literally no career, you’re not thinking: “Ok, here’s how it’s going to work.”

Charlotte Burns: A lot of galleries don’t last as long as you guys have. How do you keep a gallery going for almost a quarter of a century?

Tim Blum: I mean, look, it’s a lot of very intense hard work. I mean full stop.

Charlotte Burns: Is it getting easier as you are more established?

Tim Blum: When you have 25 years plus in the business, and you have built something that has a real history to it, that’s something you can touch.  And I think people can feel that as well. It’s not just us touching it.

Charlotte Burns: What were the what were the hardest years and why?

Tim Blum: Fuck. Jesus, I mean it was quite brutal for quite awhile, I mean it was we were in the small space in Santa Monica from ’94 to 2003, so 9 years we were in a very small space trying to make shit happen, and trying to do it from LA at a time when LA was not a center. It’s just a vision and a and a diligence. Like a blistering, intense focus for a long time.

Charlotte Burns: Did you feel concern about putting down roots in a city that moves around?

Tim Blum: No. No. We’re like the post office now. I don’t like to chase a good time, as they used to say.

Charlotte Burns: Right. [laughs]

Tim Blum: Like, we have our own good time, so we’re here. Things move and come and go, you know. At that point, it was constantly about rolling into the next thing, so you’d make money and you’d put it all back into the business. So, we rolled it into the building. And yeah, look, it was a good thing to do. It’s a 22,000 foot building on an acre of land in the center of LA.

[End scene]

Scene 2

[Tim and Charlotte arrive at Blum & Poe Gallery. The camera pans the exterior of the building and the interior gallery space.] 

Tim Blum: So, this is the what we call the PVR, private viewing room. The scale of this gallery is exactly to the millimeter the same size as our first gallery in Santa Monica. We’ve carried it with us.

Charlotte Burns: I like that. Kept it in your pocket.

Tim Blum: Yeah. For sure.

[Tim and Charlotte move into a gallery space where the work of PascALEjandro is on display]

Charlotte Burns: So, tell us about this body of work, this artist

Tim Blum: Yes, so this is called PascALEjandro. It’s a collaboration between Alejandro Jodorowsky and his wife Pascale Montandon Jodorowsky. For those of you who don’t know who Jodorowsky is, shame on you.

So, Alejandro lives in Paris. His wife Pascale is 47; he’s almost 90. They have a very deep true love, and in trying to celebrate that love, they’ve created this project PascALEjandro. Alejandro makes the drawings, and Pascale colors them. And it’s called “Alchemical Love”, and it becomes a kind of baby. It’s like their baby.

All the great directors who are based here have been through.

Charlotte Burns: Yeah, I’m sure.

Tim Blum: From P.T. [Anderson] to [Darren] Aronofsky, Alejandro Iñnáritu, Quentin [Tarantino]. They’re all like this is an important person for them. So, it’s always fun to try to cross pollinate into those worlds, too.

Charlotte Burns: Is that successful thing to do?

Tim Blum: Yeah, it’s successful in as much as it creates energy.

Charlotte Burns: Did you find that when you did the Kanye show that you got a new audience? Did you retain that audience?

Tim Blum: [laughs] No. It was a pop-up project, invite only because of the nature of it. We didn’t get a new audience, we got… It was just a shit-stirrer, which we like to do. I certainly like to do.

Charlotte Burns: Yeah? Why?

Tim Blum: Because I think people get comfortable in their own little worlds, and they need to be disrupted. So, there’s a lot of criticism of me doing that show. There’s no viable argument that’s been propositioned by anyone as to why I shouldn’t have hosted that show because they don’t know the project nor Kanye nor his relevance.

Charlotte Burns: I thought it was fun.

[The camera moves throughout the other gallery spaces.]

[End scene]

Scene 3

[Tim and Charlotte sit at a table in the gallery’s garden, closing the day.]

Charlotte Burns: So, at the end of a uh very busy and productive day, we’re ending where I guess it all began in a way, which is your gallery, Blum & Poe. Thank you so much for giving us a tour of the space and, indeed, your LA.

Tim Blum: Yeah. You’re welcome. Pleasure, anytime.

Charlotte Burns: We’ll probably be back.

[Laughter]

Tim Blum: I hope so. I’m sure you will be.

[End scene]

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