Sarah Watson


Having worked as the director of Deitch and as the director of the Gagosian gallery in Beverly Hills, what brought you to L&M Arts?

I was always a fan of the gallery and I enjoyed every show that I saw there. But professionally, I was always more involved in the primary market and working with young artists. When L&M approached me with the idea of running a gallery that maintained their historical program, but included an equally strong contemporary program, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I think I bring the experience of running several galleries over the years, many from the ground up, and a deep understanding and passion for helping artists exhibit their work… and to try and have fun doing it.

What prompted the decision to open an L&M Arts location in Venice, California? What will it provide to L.A.?
L&M looked at several options and, realized that LA already had an exciting art scene, now and in the past, but that it was still expanding and full of potential. I think they also understood that our type of programming would be a welcome addition to LA. Venice, specifically, was an obvious choice. It’s a destination point all on its own, and has a creative community already in place. Venice has a longstanding association with the arts, with many notable artists living and working here, as we’re just continuing that tradition. [L&M co-founders] Dominique Levy and Robert Mnuchin also fell in love with the building.

L&M Arts oversees a combination of both historical and contemporary art shows, how has this been important for you? How will it be important in L.A?
As I mentioned, it’s an ideal combination for someone who is interested in the past, and its relationship to the present. It’s difficult to do both and do them both well, but the challenge makes it exciting. I’ve found the LA art community interesting and interested. And if there is an exhibition of note, people will see it. So, if we can provide more of that, I know LA will appreciate it.
How do you perceive L&M’s changing image?

I think L&M has traditionally been singled out for its strength of putting together museum quality historical exhibitions, like our recent Calder/Tanguy show. But they have increasingly shown more contemporary artists, alone and in conjunction with their predecessors, and the L.A. gallery will be taking that even further.
Can you talk a little about your relationship to Paul McCarthy? You organized his last show at Patrick Painter: how will his show at L&M differ?
I first met Paul when I worked with Jeffrey Deitch and worked on the “Everything that is Interesting is New” exhibition and catalogue. Jeffrey also owned The Garden which is one of my favorite works of art to this day. So the possibility of working with him was ideal, and this was one of the things that drew me to move to Los Angeles and work with Patrick Painter. I had the chance to work with him on several shows, which I think we both really enjoyed. He did one more show at the gallery after I left.
This exhibit is different in every way. He hasn’t shown in L.A. for 10 years and in that time his work has changed quite a bit. He was free to present what he wanted, and there are always so many ongoing projects in McCarthy world. But in the end, Paul will be showing three monumental sculptures. Each one is a remarkable feat of artistic production. More importantly, however, they are works that are a culmination of several major themes and subjects that have been running throughout his work for many years.
Will the gallery continue to focus locally in the future?
Of course it’s significant that Paul is an L.A. artist. One of the reasons L&M chose to be here was because there were so many great artists working in L.A. that weren’t necessarily showing here. In our first year, in addition to Paul, we will be showing the work of Thomas Houseago and Liza Lou, both of whom live here. We were interested in showcasing LA artists, for sure, but our program is purely based on artistic merit, not geography.
As the New York gallery has been known for its quality shows of modern masters, we intend to continue that conversation in L.A. and include the influential artists of this generation. L&M’s intention is ambitious, but we hope to sum it up in our first year. Paul’s show will be followed by a major presentation of a historical figure, then a young artist whose career is firmly on the rise, and so on.
Advice for a young gallerist?
Wow. I have more to say than this interview allows, but I guess I would say that if you love what you do, really love it, then that alone will take you where you want to go. Start at the bottom, learn as much as you can from a person or people you really admire and then eventually find your own voice and figure out what you have to offer. The greatest thing about our profession is that it accepts all kinds; you just have to want to be part of it. Success is whatever you want it to be and culture has been shaped by as many well known dealers as peripheral ones. This is even truer now. May the force be with you.