A New York art world unwilling to ackowledge its declining hegemony is the same one hesitant—or unable—to re-formulate its infrastructure and exhibition structures. With gallery sales less than assured, one would think that public institutions might come out of hibernation, and adapt their programming to reflect a less object-oriented, de-professionalized art market. That's not to say that non-profits and not-for-profits are immune from the recession—of course they require donations and annual benefit auctions that can sap their staff resources and often look for funding from the same people who generate sales. But alternate models of exhibition do reflect a de-centralized mode of production in which the sale isn't the end-game, and new ways for artists to enter productive structures.

It has felt like a waiting game for Artists Space, which in recent years has experienced staff changes, and some unfortunate changes to its construction. For longer than that, Artists Space has been mired in a Soho that's felt increasingly like a generic boutique district. The programming itself has often retreaded years-old franchises and curatorial premises. But Artists Space, a figurehead of the heady "hard times" of the late 1970s and 1980s, is back in the news, canonized by the Metropolitan's "Pictures Generation" exhibition, which takes its name and four of its primary artists from Douglas Crimp's "Pictures" show, which took place there in 1977. And as of June it has a new director, Stefan Kalmár, an international curator and former director of the Kunstverein Munich.(LEFT: STEFAN KALMAR)

His first move is to open the loft's 6,500 square-feet to two walls of natural light, and a spirit of bureaucratic transparency: "People complain that there's no interaction with the staff of Artists Space. So you break down the walls." Kalmár is also opening an artist-curated library in the gallery, which will accumulate selections weekly.

Kalmár's first exhibition opens Saturday. "Enough Tiranny Recalled, 1972–2009," is a re-installation of Marc Camille Chaimowicz's 1972 environment, which originally protested the political contest in Northern Ireland—a work that this curator has already installed, in 2007. All of which makes "Enough Tiranny" a re-consideration of both the "new" and the "local" as they impact the New York community. But even as Artists Space examines historical responses to crisis to re-asses the status of the artwork and the object in a contemporary context, that doesn't mean nostalgia, at least by the curator's characterization: "The whole exhibition is post-pop stutter, it looks a bit like a bomb was dropped in a disco."


GARTENFELD: Aside from the re-birth metaphor, or perhaps better put the pun on the history of Artist Space, why choose Chaimowicz for your first show at Artist Space. It is an installation, after all, that you have already done elsewhere.

KALMAR: In my previous work, I always opposed the distinction between established, emerging, old or young. It's simpler than that—it's just good or bad art. For me it's quite interesting to open with someone whose age is a bit of a mystery. We know he's born in Post-War Paris, between '45 and the 50s...

GARTENFELD: Have you asked him how old he is?

Left: Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Installation view from Enough Tiranny, Serpentine Gallery, London, 1972


KALMAR: I don't think I ever did, actually. But let's say he is 65 for our purposes here, because it doesn't matter. This exhibition will be his first US institutional show, and even in a way, his first real show in the states. He had a gallery show in Los Angeles this year, but before that, nothing. At the same time if you talk to artists living and working in New York like Emily Sundblad or Carissa Rodriguez, you find that he has a quite big following. And I want Artists Space's program impacts on the artistic development living here.

GARTENFELD: If this re-installation can be considered a re-contextualization, and a comparison of two eras in the history of Artists Space, who then is the tyrant figure?

KALMAR: It is a question of the market. For a long period of time in its history, Artists Space was a springboard for artists. That was the path it chose. In times of economic crisis, we ask ourselves, "Springboard into what?" I don't think that spaces like Artists Space are predominately a space to test an artist for the market.

That said, we will show young artists. The next show is work by James Hoff, [artist and publisher at Primary Informaiton]. He is producing a sound installation. He worked with an engineering company that developed a program by which you put in data, like a recording. They reproduce it in three dimensions. The software is intended for architects, so they can hear the sound of a building before they build it. They can make you think a fly is flying around your head, so precise is the recording. And he produced a sound collage made out of 40 different riots—ranging from Iran, to the riots that followed a John Cage concert in Italy.

GARTENFELD: Do you think of being in a non profit situation as being in a particular tension with object-making?

KALMAR: It's program making; we are an idea based organization. Compared to other not-for-profits in New York, we do place less emphasis on the object-making.

GARTENFELD: Compared with your time directing a public space in Munich, has it been more difficult to secure funding? Is the scope or range of activities you can pursue differently altered by the availability of funding?

KALMAR: Obviously in Munich, government funding is more secure, and represents a larger percentage of allocated resources. Therefore you have less pressure to raise funds from private individuals or private companies. But there are also hidden sources that the City of New York or the state governments provide: Not-for-profits don't have to pay any tax, on anything. If you look only on the tax relief that not for profits organizations like Artists Space get, it represents 20% of their income. In Europe, you might get quarter of a million funding from your local city, but you still pay taxes in full.

GARTENFELD: How is your role here different from what your role was at the Kunstverein Munich?

KALMAR: The structure of a kunstverein is completely different. It has 1000 members, and every member pays a fee; the members elect a board, and the board elects a director. So it has a democratic moment. And they're old organizations. The organization I worked for was founded in 1823; Artists Space was founded in 1972. But in terms of representing an abstract difference to mainstream or to dominant powers, they are quite similar. Historically speaking, a kunstverein was an organization that was a place for the emerging representation of the bourgeois class in comparison to the local aristocracy, and therefore looked toward the diversification of representation.

GARTENFELD: How is that diversity specific to contemporary New York?

KALMAR: In the 1970s, there were 70 galleries, and now we have 700 galleries. Artists like Klara Liden, who show in September at Reena Spauldings, now show in February at MoMA, in the Project Space. That accounts for a quite large gap in the scopes of viewership—moving from a small gallery on the Lower East Side to an institution with major colectors affiliated, and obligated to attend. One of the biggest achievements of Artists Space has been to contribute to the pluralization and diversification of the local context. This of course has a flip side, as galleries today realize if they work with younger artists, that the turnover can also be much higher, so while we might have contributed to a pluralization, we also not necessarily have changed the existence and the role of capitalism itself.


"Enough Tiranny Recalled, 1972–2009" is on view September 29–November 14. The exhibition opens September 26, 7–9 PM. Artists Space is located at 38 Greene St # 3, New York.