Pearl Lam, 50, Founder of Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong
Pearl Lam, Collector and Founder of Pearl Lam Galleries.
When Pearl Lam founded her eponymous gallery in Shanghai, back in 2005, few would have believed that six years later, China would overtake the UK as the world’s second-largest art market. But Lam saw the region’s potential from the beginning of her career—and has done much to transform it into the international heavyweight it is today. Now, she operates galleries in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, concentrating on creatives who engage in cross-cultural dialogue, from South African photographer Zanele Muholi to Zhang Huan, who this year is due to become the first Chinese artist to have a retrospective at the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. In the post-lockdown era, Lam predicts, “there will be more online exhibitions and more diverse and global exhibitions in Asia, [with a] focus on diversity and female power.”
Karen Jenkins-Johnson, 60, Founder of Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco
Karen Jenkins-Johnson. Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco and New York
Karen Jenkins-Johnson has dedicated her career to advocating for emerging and under-recognized artists of color—a mission that often involves refusing to back down when the industry’s gatekeepers reject what she has to offer. Last year, after the selection committee for Frieze New York turned her down, Jenkins-Johnson arranged to have the work of Black photographer Ming Smith included in a special section—and went on to receive the Frieze Stand Prize for the presentation. With that momentum, Jenkins-Johnson then mounted a campaign to put “Ming back on the map,” she says, negotiating a solo booth for her at Frieze Masters that fall, after again being initially passed over.
Jenkins Johnson Gallery at Frieze Masters 2019. Photo by Mark Blower.
At this point in her career, Jenkins-Johnson is focused on reinvesting in the Black arts community. Three years ago, she opened Jenkins Johnson Projects, a community-oriented venue in Brooklyn that hosts projects by guest curators of color “so that they can go out, and be hired by these institutions, and have a seat at the table to affect change.”
Magda Sawon, 64, & Tamas Banovich, 69, Cofounders of Postmasters, New York
Magda Sawon and Tamas Banovich of Postmasters. Photography by Manan Ter-Grigoryan. Courtesy of Postmasters.
Leave it to two twentysomethings from Eastern Europe to found what would become one of the most forward-looking American galleries of the past 36 years. Although Magda Sawon and Tamas Banovich only became a team in New York in the early 1980s—he maintains they met in Warsaw; she disagrees—each immigrated to participate in circles producing vital new culture of all forms.
Since its 1984 launch in an East Village storefront, Postmasters has explored how fine art “functions in a broader landscape of society and culture,” the duo say. This enterprise led them to begin championing new-media work as early as 1996, as well as to program boundary-pushing exhibitions with a slew of artists later poached by larger dealers.
Installation view of “Katarzyna Kozyra: Bipeds and Quadrupeds” at Postmasters. Courtesy of Postmasters.
“I don’t think we have a great capacity to be driven by good business decisions,” they say, “but we do have a great capacity to spot things of significance to the moment.” This passion for identifying what’s next is what keeps Postmasters at the forefront of culture today.
Lisa Panting, 48, & Malin Ståhl, 44, Cofounders of Hollybush Gardens, London
Malin Stahl & Lisa Panting. Photo: Anne Tetzlaff.
Lisa Panting and Malin Ståhl are true believers. As dealers who got their start in the noncommercial world (Panting, with the art-book publisher Book Works; Ståhl, as a curator), they have a sharp eye for talent and take the long view in promoting it. Before it became a trend among mega-galleries, they made it a priority to work with an older generation of artists who had previously been overlooked, including some—like British Black Arts movement pioneer Lubaina Himid—who had never worked with a gallery before.
Now, more than a decade after they opened their first space, the rest of the art world seems to be catching up, with Hollybush Gardens artists Charlotte Prodger, Andrea Büttner, and Himid all receiving nominations for (or winning) the Turner Prize in recent years.
Panting and Ståhl hope that, in the future, they are no longer outliers. “It’s not simply the question of gender now, it’s a very deep-rooted question about how artists get selected, who gets what position, how this world is gatekept,” Panting says. “It won’t sustain itself if it doesn’t break beyond what it has been.”
Penny Pilkington, 63, & Wendy Olsoff, 63, Cofounders of P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York
Wendy Olsoff & Penny Pilkington. Photo: Grace Roselli. Courtesy of P·P·O·W, New York.
In some ways, the history of P.P.O.W. doubles as a history of art galleries in New York. Founders Penny Pilkington and Wendy Olsoff opened their first space—the name is a combination of their initials—in the East Village in 1983 before moving to SoHo and then, in 2002, to Chelsea. Now, they are getting ready to move yet again, to the fast-growing gallery hub of Tribeca. All the while, however, one thing has differentiated them from the pack: an unwavering commitment to artists, like Martin Wong and David Wojnarowicz, who grapple with politics and identity, whether or not the subject matter was market-friendly at the time. “We realized along the way that we should stick to our strengths, and our strengths were the artists we showed,” Olsoff says.
Ramiro Gomez, Las Meninas (2015). Courtesy of the artist and PPOW, New York.
In recent years, the gallery has begun working with a number of younger artists who carry on this legacy—among them, Aaron Gilbert, Ramiro Gomez, and Carlos Motta. In light of the recent Black Lives Matter protests, the duo are continuing to seek out new voices—and question their own. “We always showed artists of color,” Olsoff says, “but as two white women, where can we do better and how can we educate our staff and continue to serve as a role model for other galleries?”
We Made You an 'I Voted' Sticker (With the Help of 48 Artists)
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‘I Voted’ Stickers for Everyone Who Needs One
A New York Magazine collaboration with 48 artists.
Graphic: New York Magazine
Perhaps you’re voting by mail this year. Millions of Americans are doing so, more than ever before, and many of them for the first time. What these voters need is I VOTED stickers. And so New York, in partnership with the organization I Am a Voter, asked 48 artists to design them. The cover of the October 26 issue of the magazine will be converted to a sticker sheet, featuring contributions from Shepard Fairey, KAWS, Barbara Kruger, David Hammons, Laurie Simmons, Amy Sherald, Baron Von Fancy, Marilyn Minter, Lorna Simpson, Tawny Chatmon, Rico Gatson, Zipeng Zhu, Adam Pendleton, Adam J. Kurtz, Zaria Forman, and many more. There will be four different covers, each with 12 stickers — enough that each reader can wear a different one daily, from publication through to Election Day.
In addition to the magazine covers, 500,000 more stickers will be distributed free at bookstores and museums across the country, and retail stories including Crate and Barrel and CB2, who, along with Warby Parker and EHE Health, are supporting the project’s printing cost. The sheets will also be distributed by nonprofit organizations including the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and the Campus Vote Project, as well as official polling sites such as the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Brooklyn Museum in New York.
Here, descriptions from several of the artists who participated:
• Amy Sherald: In my lifetime I’ve experienced my share of prejudice and racism. My mother named me Amy with the hope that I would avoid the inescapable and unavoidable fact of race in this country. Time and time again I’ve heard people reference our forefathers in speeches while intentionally omitting acknowledgement of the bodies that were forced into labor in the making of this great country. The pain this causes is like that of a loved one who has never acknowledged their abusive behavior in a relationship, and yet the recipient of that abuse is expected to heal and move on.
Art: Amy Sherald
Growing up in the South, I viewed the American flag as belonging to a people whose patriotism was solely reserved for whites. This idea of Americaness left me ambivalent about where I stood. The Obama presidency encouraged and inspired me to reconsider that notion. As I reflect on the many generations that came before me, I would be derelict if I did not take ownership of the one thing that they died for. I want to acknowledge their undeniable and indispensable presence in our history and in the making of this great country. This painting is about that reclamation. My American flag represents a “whole” country. A flag that conjures hope, empathy, resilience, unity, freedom, and justice. It does not disregard our past sins but stands at attention to America’s original sin and, in doing so, forges a path forward to a more perfect union.
• Christine Sun Kim: In American Sign Language (ASL), we sign “finish” as a way to conjugate the past tense. When you sign “eat finish,” that means “ate” in English, “write finish” means “wrote,” and so on. For the sticker design, I used “vote finish” as my version of the English “I voted” stickers. By connecting the words together, the sticker also visually resembles how you would sign “vote” in ASL.
Art: Christine Sun Kim
• Derrick Adams: I wanted to take the opportunity to mark this pivotal moment in history to highlight American civil-rights activist Bayard Rustin (1912–1987). Rustin fought tirelessly for equality throughout his life and was the main organizer for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Montgomery bus boycotts and the March on Washington. I’m calling for us to emulate his energy to continue the fight for justice and equality.
Art: Derrick Adams
• Hank Willis Thomas: Voting this year can feel extremely daunting for so many who are trying their best to be civically engaged but may feel apathetic or unmotivated, but in the Wide Awakes we understand the importance of collective CIVIC JOY in which we can bring celebration and even fun into voting, talking about voting, and encouraging others to vote. We’re in a moment in which people need to awaken to their own power and potential so we can alter the course of this country, and by voting, we are activating that and going into November 3rd and beyond together with our eyes open.
Art: Hank Willis Thomas
• KAWS: I VOTED. It’s our democratic freedom and right regardless of the powers that attempt to take that away and silence us. 2020 has been full of tragedy and loss. We need to push for change and hold onto hope especially when the system works against us. Vote.
• Hiba Schahbaz: I painted this memorial portrait of Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, a black trans woman, after her murder in June 2020. This was shortly after the murder of George Floyd, whose portrait was the first to be memorialized. Each of these paintings is the portrait of a person whose life was taken too soon. I hope that I am creating a healing space for their names to be remembered. Black Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter.
Art: Hiba Schahbaz
• Shepard Fairey: Our votes determine the policies that impact our lives directly and shape our society. For this sticker, I created a ballot-box speaker because our votes amplify our voices. Our votes broadcast what we believe in, and robust voter turnout builds a more truly representative democracy.