Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Story of Studio 2846: Part Five

This blog post is part of an ongoing series. Click to read Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four

Over the next fifteen months, Wallace worked daily to renovate all four stories of the 20,000 square foot building by hand. In 1992, the space was finally complete, with his studio and living space spanning the top two floors, and the other two floors occupied by a total of 17 rental spaces.

Once settled in his new space, Wallace set about planning his first opening. After losing the New York gallery, he felt strongly that he needed to take control of his own destiny. “I didn’t need to rely solely on the galleries to show my work for me anymore – I had a beautiful new space, perfect for its purpose. I could show my work myself, in a way that illuminates them fully.”

“I was one of the first artists in Chicago to show my work directly from my studio,” he remembers. “People in the industry said it couldn’t be done. As an artist, the most you could do then was to open a gallery with a group of other artists and rotate shows. Showing your own work just wasn’t accepted.”

Wallace sent out 100 invitations to people he knew in the gallery and museum community, as well as collectors, artists and friends in the city. Of those 100 invited, only 12 showed up. “I sold one piece. It was hard. Everyone told me, this is why you can't do this.”

Wallace pushed forward, determined. Twice a year he opened up his studio to show his work. Each time, a few more people showed. Word spread, and soon each opening attracted about 80 people. “At first they were mostly friends and my older collectors, but then word started to spread and artists I didn't know would show up, new collectors who had heard from someone else about the studio would come, and before I knew it, over a period of 10 years, we had over 400 people at each event. Sales got progressively better, it created its own energy.”

Patricia Barber, a successful jazz musician and friend of the artist was interested in purchasing one of Wallace’s pieces. As part of the sale, they figured out a trade, and she and her trio began to play at one opening each year on the studio’s baby grand. The event increased again in popularity. “They were becoming so large as to be time consuming and expensive to throw, not to mention being too hard to talk with everyone about the work. We had so many people we hadn’t invited showing up. It was getting to be too much.” 

“The interesting thing is that when I would open up the studio, I noticed that people really look at the work; they spend time to try and decipher the language of the paint. I look around and see people talking in front of the paintings, or they’ll approach me to ask questions. There’s a connection without pretense that all too often doesn't happen in a gallery setting, where people feel they have to act a certain way, where they feel intimidated or afraid. It was truly a gift to me”.

In 2005, Wallace held one more studio opening, before heading to Montana to set about beginning to build his studio there.

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