Free tacos. Tecate beer. Venice Beach hipsters. Video games on cheap smartphones. A few millionaires. And Team gallery founder Jose Freire. This was the scene at the opening, earlier this fall, of Team’s first exhibition space in Los Angeles. Freire launched the Los Angeles gallery with a show (through Nov. 9) of New York-based artist Cory Arcangel. Titled “tl;dr” (an acronym for the online comment “too long; didn’t read”), it coincided for part of its run with the same artist’s identically titled show at Team in New York. The newly bicoastal gallery also represents a range of artists from young new-media practitioners like Tabor Robak to provocateurs like Santiago Sierra and good old-fashioned painters like Stanley Whitney, whose 2012 show made Raphael Rubinstein’s “Top 10 in Painting” in A.i.A. that year.
The new space is simply an existing beach bungalow with a patio and garage in the back. The entire structure measures just over 1,000 square feet. The small, inconspicuous house at 306 Windward Ave. is hidden behind a bank of shrubbery a few blocks in from the beach. The parade of hippies, geeks and tattooed freaks on the Venice boardwalk is the closest art nearby with the exception of LA Louver, which opened in 1976 and is one of Los Angeles’s longest continually running galleries. Though it has never been a gallery hub, Venice Beach has long been the home of numerous artists’ studios. L.A. icons like Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell and John Baldessari still maintain workspaces there.
Jose Freire spoke with A.i.A. during the debut opening of the new Team (bungalow) space.
CHRISTOPHER WYRICK What inspired you to open a gallery in L.A.?
JOSE FREIRE I’ve wanted to have a gallery in L.A. for, like, 20 years. The [New York] gallery opened in Chelsea in 1996. We were there for 10 years, and then we moved to SoHo in 2006. After five years, we opened an additional space in SoHo. So we’re just like every other gallery—expanding and opening branches. But we didn’t want the expansion to L.A. to be too artificial. We wanted it to be an organic thing. So this is, like, a starter gallery.
WYRICK That is interesting, because a lot of L.A. galleries are now building big-box, Chelsea-style spaces, whereas you have embraced exactly what is here.
FREIRE We were looking at 20,000-square-foot spaces downtown and 5,000- to 7,000-square-foot spaces on Highland. But in the end what you get is a white cube. I already have two of them in New York. Yet there are gallerists like Barbara Gladstone, who has a townhouse in Brussels that serves as a branch. There is wainscoting and she is showing Matthew Barney. We wanted to do something domestic.
WYRICK And you have not chosen the most high-profile of locations. Does that hold advantages?
FREIRE The last show that we did of Steven Parrino, in New York in 2004, had four black paintings in different shapes—a circle, a square and a diamond, and one was shoved into a corner so it was folded and fanlike. And people would walk in off the street in Chelsea and go “Eh, they’re all black.” And they would turn around and walk out. I thought if they had to go a little out of their way to find a show like that then they would say, “Oh, they’re all black, but they are different shapes.” And then maybe they would have a dialogue about what took an artist thought and effort and a year’s time to make.
WYRICK What are your upcoming exhibition plans?
FREIRE We’ll do six exhibitions here between now and the end of the year, including shows by Margaret Lee, Pierre Bismuth and Bradley Kronz. To free up a little time, we stopped doing some art fairs. We used to do five a year. This year we will do only three: Art Basel in Miami Beach and in Basel, and Art Los Angeles Contemporary.
WYRICK Can you envision a future that does not involve showing at fairs?
FREIRE No, though collectors should be sick of them. Because if they go to an art fair to buy an artist, they have to fight however many people to get a work. And there is really no dialogue. But for us there is still something about being able to put artists in public and have 100,000 people see their work. And if you do things like open a gallery in a bungalow in Venice or have a gallery in Soho-decisions that limit the number of people that come into the gallery—you have to let people see your artists en masse.
WYRICK Who else is doing things in L.A. that really excite you right now?
FREIRE Overduin and Kite—anybody who is not up with what they are doing is kind of behind. And I think that the people at M+B gallery are doing a great job and are really lovely. I think that is actually my favorite space in L.A. But you people [in L.A.] need to tell me. That is part of why I am here, right? Because there was this thing, maybe 10 years ago, where artists from all over Europe flocked to Berlin—where there is really no money—in order to have studio spaces. So it became the European capital of art. And now it is not uncommon to hear that X artist from Warsaw that people are really talking about is moving to L.A. You don’t have to be in a rabbit warren in New York City worrying about how you are going to come up with your $5,000-a-month rent. These days, when people do a studio visit with a 26-year-old, they want to walk into a warehouse. Out here you can still do that.