Art View – Interview Vol.2

Aneta Glinkowska, Co-founder, New York Art Beat

Aneta Glinkowska started NY Art Beat , a popular New York art guide, with her business partner and husband, Kosuke Fujitaka in 2008. We invited Aneta to our office and asked about N Y Art Beat, New York art scene and herself.

sIMG_5772

Aneta Glinkowska at ISE Cultural Foundation NY Office

I’ve always been more intrigued by people who don’t wear suits to work.

- Could you talk about yourself first? You are originally from Poland. When did you come to NYC?

I came to NYC in 1996 to go to college. I wasn’t sure if I want to live in New York but I had an opportunity to do it and gave it a try.

In college a lot of my life revolved around photography and film, as I took many photography and film classes and really enjoyed them while I was preparing to go to med school.

At that time I met some people who also enjoyed seeing art and introduced me to Chelsea galleries. And so I started going to art shows and opening receptions in Chelsea. It was the late 90’s, the time that Chelsea had started not so long before, but wasn’t a big art scene yet or a destination for tourists, the High Line park.  The industrial buildings looked a lot more raw than today and the high-rises did not exist.

I grew up in a non-artist family in a small town and had no interest in art while growing up, but I like interesting characters I found around me. I’ve always been more intrigued by people who don’t wear suits to work.

That was way before Tokyo Art Beat and NY Art Beat. Because of Tokyo Art Beat, I started going to galleries and museums even more and have been ever since trying to learn how to look and talk about art.

- When did you go to Tokyo and what was your impression of Tokyo?

I met Kosuke, my partner at NY Art Beat and actually now my husband when he was briefly going to college here in NY. I went to Tokyo with him for the first time in 2000. That was a few years before Tokyo Art Beat was launched. I’ve gone back to Tokyo every year or more since.

At that time Tokyo was totally different from New York or European cities I have been to.  Needless to say, it was a different culture, different way of living and different type of architecture, but I don’t remember a terrible culture shock. I enjoyed observing and I still do that.  I’m able to communicate for survival but not too much for socializing, so I do a lot of looking.

On my first visit to Japan I didn’t visit any art galleries in Tokyo, if I remember well. But then on consecutive visits, I started going to art galleries and museums.  Kosuke got involved with the art scene in Tokyo by taking art history classes and thought that meeting artists and eventually people who ran galleries.

Whenever I’d spend more time in Tokyo, I tried to see the culture as much as possible. Art is something one can see without knowing the local language.

One particular thing I remember is the neighborhood called Roppongi of pre-Roppongi Hills skyscraper that brings people for work and art there now. It was very different from now, all old buildings, fewer people, but the same highway cutting through.

- Could you talk about Tokyo Art Beat and how you started writing for Tokyo Art Beat?

Tokyo Art Beat (TAB) was started by Kosuke Fujitaka and two Frenchmen, Paul Baron and Olivier Thereaux. Those two “gaijin” wanted to have access to English language information about art and design in Tokyo which was hard to come by. Since  Olivier is a programmer and Paul designer, they decided to make a website to serve them. Someone introduced to them Kosuke, who thought that this kind of website could be useful in Japanese too.  So, together they decided that the website is going to be bilingual.

When they were starting TAB, I was still in a school. I was studying cinema obviously writing for my classes. So, I tried to write my idea about art as well.  Whenever in Tokyo on vacations, I’d see exhibitions and write a little for the TAB blog. One point I stayed in Tokyo for something like 3 – 6 months. I went to the TAB office. I was studying cinema, I was interested in shooting video. So, I did video interviews. I also wrote some art related stories for Japan Times. Being a foreigner in Japan, you can do this kind of thing. You easily get connected to other foreigners and you write. I’m sure that happens in other places too.

I was coming back and forth in Tokyo. I had a place to stay and had an office to go to.

So, that’s how it started.

sIMG_5779

Wanting to live in New York and having little competition in the art listings we settled here and started NYAB.

- When did you start NY Art Beat (NYAB) and how did you start it?

Kosuke and I started NY Art Beat website only at the time in 2008.

Kosuke was always interested in New York and had lived here and felt at home. He was interested in the big art scene here. Tokyo has never been a big art scene and there is seems like everyone knows each other with much fewer contemporary galleries than NYC. There are 300 galleries just Chelsea and well more in the rest of the city.  We list over 1000 art venues on NYAB while Tokyo has less than half with a lot fewer contemporary galleries and nothing as big as Gagosian, Pace and other big galleries.

Wanting to live in New York and having little competition in the art listings we settled here and started NYAB.

- NYAB has so much information about art events in the city. How do you gather listing information?

Generally, a good press release has all the information we need; a description of the event, when it starts, when it ends and the time of opening reception time.  We also need an image.  We also list what kind of media are in the show: painting, sculpture or photography and so on for our users to be able to search based on it.

By now we have a lot of galleries sending us press releases. So, we don’t have to worry about how to get the information.

Sometimes we have to do research about the galleries that don’t send us information.  And, we try to cover everything that’s happening in New York City art, as long as we have access to the information.

- Since 2008 have you made any big change or development in NYAB?

In 2010 after the iPhone came out, people started making applications for mobile phones. We didn’t have a plan to make an application, but a developer we liked offered services and we were for it.  By now have a small team of programmers and designers for TAB and NYAB and Kansai Art Beat in Tokyo.

With the NYAB app you can click “Nearby” or “Opening Receptions” and you know where to go right at the moment around you.  A lot of our users might not even know NYArtBeat is a website!

So, that’s the biggest development, but we did a major update of Art Beat look twice just to keep the look fresh.

- What is your role in NYAB?

I do almost everything for NY Art Beat. Our team is very small. So basically right now it’s just me and another person who helps me to update events.

Kosuke works for another company daytime, but helps me with business such as our banner ads. Right now he doesn’t have time for much more than and seeing art on weekends.

Also, I sometimes work with contributors to our blog called NYABlog.

And the best part is being able to go to press events representing NYAB seeing museum and gallery exhibitions sometimes before they open to the public.

- Do you write about art now?

I haven’t been writing all that much in New York. There are many committed writers who just write and I don’t see how I can add my two cents at the moment with very little spare time.

- Any difference between art writing in New York and Tokyo?

I can’t really talk about Japanese media, how they cover art. But I think there isn’t much. BT (Bijutsu Techo) is all I know.  No Japanese newspaper writes seriously about art as far as I know.

In New York we have NY Times to start with; we have great writers at the New Yorker, Village Voice. Each newspaper has an art writer or more to  just cover art. On top of that we have many serious bloggers as at Hyperallergic, Art F City. Together with the Observer’s Gallerist  they covering art really well.

I’m pretty sure similar things are happening in Tokyo as well. But I think not as much as here in NY.

- You know both Tokyo and New York. Could you talk about each art scene?

First of all, New York is one of the biggest visual art scenes in the world. There are many different types/size galleries here, big, blue chip galleries such as Gagosian, Gladstone and Hauser & Wirth and so on in Chelsea.  Smaller galleries exist in Chelsea too, but many are moving to Lower East Side or rather to Chinatown. Something is also starting in Harlem. There are artist run galleries in Bushwick. But Bushwick is a hip neighborhood to live so rents are too high for new galleries to move in, unless you’re an outpost for a big Chelsea gallery.  And even that is nor really happening after Luhring Augustine opened few years ago.

In the last few decades there have been art scenes like East Village, SOHO which grew up and moved to Chelsea. Now Lower East Side and Chinatown is the biggest thing outside of Chelsea. Williamsburg used to be the central gallery area in Brooklyn when we started NYAB. But the art scene has moved from Williamsburg to Bushwick, we even had to rename the area.  Pierogi gallery the first on the scene in Williamsburg is moving to the Lower East Side, March 2016. And there is also the Upper East Side with many polished art galleries.

In Tokyo we have lots of venues in Tokyo Art Beat, but these are smaller venues; a lot of cafes, small spaces that have shows sometimes and some galleries. But maybe the number is less than a half of what is happening here in New York. And also art venues in Tokyo are not concentrated in one place. So, two galleries are in one building and one is in another building. You visit three galleries and then you have to take a train for a half hour to go to another set of galleries if you want to spend a day to look at art.

But here in New York staying in one neighborhood and there is often more to see than one can do in one day.

sIMG_5774

We are not artists, but we do the dirty labor around it, we report about art, we list art.

- Can you talk about your favorite art venues?

There are some venues, which used to be interesting and then they got transformed.

I always like to mention Sculpture Center for some reasons. It’s in Long Island City and it’s in an old building. The building was renovated but still has its old charm; for example, they have a basement and if you go down to there, it smells and looks like a damp, old basement, which it is. They always show interesting exhibitions. It’s basically a small museum.

I like Hauser & Wirth on 18th Street too. They have Upper East side location, which is a standard gallery. But the18th Street venue is really big, which used to be a club with a roller skating rink. They preserve some element of what it used to be. It is basically a huge open space and sometimes it gets divided into smaller spaces to make different types of exhibition. But it looks best as the whole space for huge installations. Another interesting thing about this space is that they have a bar called Bar Roth where you can come in and get an espresso for free any time they are open. That was a project by Dieter Roth and Björn Roth. He left it there and said, “Please run it for me. Serve espresso for anyone who wants it.” That’s a kind of permanent exhibition. Of course at the opening reception they serve wine. But on regular days you can come in the gallery, sit down at the bar and ask for the espresso. That’s interesting. That’s the old way of serving the community.

Speaking of serving the community, Pace Gallery, which is a well established gallery still serves really nice wine. They pretty much never run out and use wine glasses! Feels good to stop by. Other big galleries have stopped doing it, some because their openings are too big other just not wanting to bother. Chaim & Read gallery is good too, but with much less pomp, uses plastic.

There are many other great spaces. A little out of the way, Metropolitan Museum has another space called Cloisters for art and music. It’s a nice day trip and you can take public transportation to get there. It’s a beautiful walk from the subway station with the Hudson River below.

- You call yourself “Art Worker” on NYABlog. What is “Art Worker”? And what is your goal?

Hyperallegic’s Hrag once called himself an “art worker” and I thought it was a great socialist description.  We are not artists, but we do the dirty labor around it, we report about art, we list art.

I personally always hope to do some more creative stuff, especially with moving image about art and culture in general. But, I also want to continue running and improving the listings in New York, as long as galleries are opening and move around the city. Ideally NYAB should feature a lot more writing about art in this city, but as long as we deliver what we created the website and app for, the art listings, we’re doing our job. Our users want NYAB app to be filled with events at all times. Running NYAB website and app with reliable information is our priority. If we can do more, we will.

Interviewed by: Mayumi Sarai (ISE Cultural Foundation NY)