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 III: You Gotta Breathe

BY Charlotte Burns
executive editor of In Other Words

WITH Tim Blum
co-founder, Blum & Poe

In Films

Blum and Burns discuss the art market; the pressure to produce work and participate in “the machine”. They visit The Underground Museum, which has quickly emerged as one of LA’s most influential art spaces since its opening in 2012.


Scene 1

[Tim and Charlotte continue their drive through Los Angeles to their first destination, the Underground Museum.]

Charlotte Burns: When you work with artists, do you try and steer them and advise them on bodies of work that you think are good or not good, or on editing things, or on taking a second step back?

Tim Blum: Sure, of course. Absolutely.

Charlotte Burns: How crucial is that in the role of an art dealer?

Tim Blum: I think it’s vital. I think that if you’re not doing that, you’re not doing your job as a dealer.

Charlotte Burns: Do you ever feel pressure for product?

Tim Blum: From whom? The market?

Charlotte Burns: From the market, yeah. From the amount of events that you do and—

Tim Blum: Well, of course. That’s the sort of double-edged… the other side of the double-edged sword, you know. The machine that has been created through this explosion in the art market, which includes all the things we’ve been discussing plus art fairs, which are sort of a necessary evil.

Charlotte Burns: Do you think it’s sustainable? Do you think we’ll see big change?

Tim Blum: I don’t know, that really depends. Unfortunately, I think change for that on that level only comes when there’s an economic dent.

Charlotte Burns: Well, we’re seeing a kind of crisis on the mid-level for galleries.

Tim Blum: Well, we’re seeing a big crisis just on every level today. Now does that affect the art market immediately, or the market in general immediately? I mean, no, not immediately. I mean, immediately it does have an effect because people get distracted by that.

Charlotte Burns: Yeah.

Tim Blum: But, you know, nothing can expand forever. It’s like breath. It’s like, it’s got to breathe. You gotta breathe.

Charlotte Burns: How do you—

Tim Burns: And that’s the fucking problem with the art fair circuit and all that. You know, people get on that merry-go-round and they just simply can’t seem to figure out how to get the fuck off.

Charlotte Burns: How do you do that?

Tim Blum: I mean, I don’t go to all of them. And if I go, I usually… I’ll go for a day or two. You can’t… if you start adding it up, it’s sort of repulsive, especially if you have all of this other stuff you want to do, like organizing exhibitions and selling art and doing studio visits and having a personal life and all that.

Charlotte Burns: Do you think the fairs are working in the sense that they’re still attracting the audiences?

Tim Blum: They do. People still… it’s an easy place for people to get a lot of information and look at a lot of art. I think the only the problems come when people are not doing creative, interesting projects for those fairs. If it’s just another group show of things that aren’t interesting or fresh or new, then that’s a big problem.

Charlotte Burns: So, tell me a little bit about the Underground Museum where we’re heading now.

Tim Blum: Founded by Noah Davis, a great artist here in LA who sadly passed away, but he had a vision of creating a space, a museum called the Underground Museum, and he made it happen before he passed. It’s in a specifically African-American, Latino neighborhood. It’s a precise, kind of interesting look at the art world from that viewpoint.

He kicked it off with an exhibition called “Imitation of Wealth”, which was because he couldn’t get loans for certain works. He recreated works of art, like Koons and others that he couldn’t borrow, so they simply recreated them. They wanted a kind of museum in the hood.

Charlotte Burns: Right.

Tim Blum: And they created their own museum and art for the hood, but in a very conscious way because he’s a very—

Charlotte Burns: Very thoughtful.

Tim Blum: Thoughtful study person. Highly educated. And that got a lot of attention.

Noah, before he passed, created a thick book of exhibitions he wanted to do, and they’ve been moving through these exhibitions. So, it’s kind of a profound work of art.

Charlotte Burns: Yeah, and an amazing legacy as well.

Tim Blum: Yeah. It’s pretty extraordinary.

[End scene]

Scene 2

[Tim and Charlotte meet gallery associate Justen LeRoy at the Underground Museum. The camera pans the museum’s gallery space.]

Charlotte Burns: We’re at the Underground Museum now with Justen LeRoy

Justen LeRoy: We sort of want to be a place that is your center of rejuvenation, centering, meditation. So, when you leave home, and then you haven’t been in a really long time, that moment when you come back, and you take your shoes off and your feet are on the carpet. Just that refreshing feeling, every time.  [laughs]

Charlotte Burns: I feel that way when I come in.

Justen LeRoy:  Yeah? Good. [laughs] So, the exhibition that we do have up now is “Artists of Color”, which is really focused on changing the way that our audience really perceives color in the world and applying color to themes of simple mood or nationalism, too. It’s sort of been a portal for people to kind of create their own world in the museum space.

Tim Blum: Is this called the Community Garden?

Justen LeRoy: The Purple Garden.

Tim Blum: The Purple Garden. Can we take a look?

Justen LeRoy: Of course we can.

Tim Blum: Great.

[The three walk outside. The camera pans the Purple Garden.]

Justen LeRoy: And purple was Noah’s favorite color. He feels as if purple is to black people what Yves Klein’s blue is to white people.


Tim Blum: That’s great.

Justen LeRoy: The color purple being linked to royalty and wanting to make sure that anybody that occupied this space felt that exact same way: royal.

Charlotte Burns: Oh, so gorgeous out here.

Justen LeRoy: And it’s so many different worlds coming together to meet and share this love for whatever that it is that we’re doing. So, I think we’ve been able to really develop some interesting conversations and interactions between people who are well versed in contemporary art and people who are coming here as their first museum experience.

[The camera shows more gallery space inside the museum]

Charlotte Burns: It’s so amazing. I feel like Tim, you’re taking me on a tour of the calmest, most meditative spaces in LA. I feel really relaxed after today.


Tim Blum: This is it. If you’re living here like this, you should embrace… we should… right? Dig into it, man.

Justen LeRoy: Absolutely

Charlotte Burns: I don’t feel like I find this in New York. [laughs]

Tim Blum: It shows the best of a community, and it shows the best of this particular town where some people took it upon themselves to make something happen

[End scene]

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