Programming Shake-Up at fordPROJECT


The recently launched art space fordPROJECT, located in a duplex penthouse on 57th Street in New York, has been ruffling art-world feathers, with two consecutive projects canceled, for disputed reasons. The gallery was the brainchild of Guerman Aliev, CEO of Altpoint Capital Partners, which owns Ford Models.

Art in America recently learned of the cancellation of the gallery’s third scheduled show, “Affinities: Painting in Abstraction.” It was to have opened on Apr. 26 but was canceled late last month. The multigenerational exhibition would have featured new work by Polly Apfelbaum, Nicole Cherubini, Suzanne McClelland, Jenny Monick, Rebecca Morris, Carrie Moyer, Dona Nelson and Laurel Sparks, in an effort to examine similarities in the artists’ process and practice despite their disparate styles.

As it turns out, a show curated by art consultant Joyce Varvatos (wife of designer John Varvatos) was also canceled, according to Varvatos. That exhibition, based on LSD culture, was to have featured about 14 artists, including Leo Villareal, Alexis Rockman, Gandalf Gavin, Jennifer Steinkamp and Ryan McGinness. Varvatos told A.i.A. that “every inch of the gallery would have been covered” to create a psychedelic experience.

Tim Goossens, creative director, was a former assistant curator at PS1, and, prior to that, served as an intern for Klaus Biesenbach at MoMA. Managing director Rachel Vancelette, formerly of Yvon Lambert New York, brings sales expertise and a client list.

The gallery is for-profit, showing works on consignment (and sometimes loan); Goossens told A.i.A. that he is eager to learn about the sales side of the business because “so many people go back and forth between museums and galleries these days.”

“Affinities” curator Kate McNamara met Goossens while the two worked at MoMA PS1 as assistants. She is now director and chief curator at Boston University Art Gallery and runs the Brooklyn project space Cleopatra’s, founded in 2008, with three colleagues.

According to McNamara, the show was canceled when she refused to add an artist, at Aliev’s request, at the last minute.

It was “a complete insult to the curatorial intention of the exhibition,” she asserted, adding, “I was denied any dialogue with the gallery as to my decision not to include a random artist’s work at the very last hour. There has been no follow-up from the gallery and I very much regret working with fordPROJECT, however briefly.”

When asked why the show had been canceled, Goossens explained that “there was a difference in curatorial vision, and, given the timeline, we mutually decided it was better to wait.”

McNamara’s exhibition has had several previous iterations—at the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College in upstate New York; at Ramapo College Art Galleries in New Jersey; and at the Rhode Island School of Design. She’s looking for another venue for the aborted New York show, for which all the artists were contributing new works.

According to Goossens, Varvatos’s show had not been confirmed and was in an even earlier planning stage than “Affinities.” Varvatos attributes the cancellation to budgetary constraints. After Aliev deemed her initial proposal too expensive, she said, she cut down the cost and got dealers to pitch in on the more expensive installations. Goossens denies that the budget was the issue and said that the gallery decided that the show “didn’t feel right at this point in our program.”

fordPROJECT launched with “When the Fairytale Never Ends,” curated by Brussels-based Lara Pan and featuring work by such artists as Eleanor Antin, Henry Darger, Wim Delvoye and Kenny Scharf. On view through Friday is “Involuntary,” organized by Neville Wakefield, who is ever-present at the intersection of art and fashion. His show, which closes this Friday, includes Claire Fontaine, Liz Magic Laser, Miranda Lichtenstein, Laurel Nakadate and Hank Willis Thomas, among others.

fordPROJECT has announced the show that will replace “Affinities.” “Heading for a fall: the art of entropy,” curated by Goossens, will contain 10 works by emerging artists Lisha Bai, Lucy Indiana Dodd, Alexander May and Naama Tsabar. Two works by Sislej Xhafa-Theatre who know everything (2009) and Still Untitled (2003)—will be in the gallery’s upstairs project room. The shows open on May 4.

Says Varvatos, “It’s a young gallery, they’re still figuring it out, but I’m not really sure what the premise is anymore. I wish them well.”