Right in the heart of L.A.’s innovative art district lies the gallery of Paul Loya. It just opened in April 2013 but has already gained quite a reputation. The basement room and the simple atmosphere narrows the gallery down to the presentation of art at it’s finest. In this place you don’t need to be a rich looking billionaire (of course it could help) – it is about art at its purest and the gallery is open to everybody who is drawn to it, curious or just passing by the neighborhood. Paul Loya, a young smart man with the right intuition, sat down with Carolina Vinqvist and spoke about his views and secrets on keeping up with art in L.A.
You’re the expert: What do you think about contemporary art?
It’s an expression of the artist who has an interesting idea and wants to convey that to an audience. Artists have such a strong opinion but can’t express it verbally or through language – their language is art. Take a piece by Erik Foss for example: He did a painting based on his bar in New York. He found the bathroom of that bar completely destroyed by a vandal – with toilet paper on the ceiling and dirt everywhere. For him to express this story he did a piece with toilet paper, glue, paint and we had to locate it on the ceiling. He named the piece „I did more drugs than you“. For me that is art. The genuine expression._____
A gallerist has a powerful position within the art world. He gives artists an opportunity to express themselves and is part of the creation of their success. A lot of people, especially here in L.A., call themselves artists. How do you define an artist?
With each one of my artists I made sure that our relationship gelled. Everything has to connect. I get a lot of E-Mails from artists wanting me to look at their works and that’s good. It’s hard to be an artist. You go through a lot of negativity and rejections so I want to make sure I give them a lot of credit and take my time to look through it. I think that is due to my artist background so I can relate to that and whats its like to be in a studio and that push and pull that comes with it. Understanding where the artist is coming from plays a vital role in this whole dynamic.
Is there a certain feeling you want to experience when you engage with an artist?
I trust my gut. When I see something and get a genuine reaction to it thats when I know „I want to show that“. It has to trigger something in my brain. I think that’s how it’s with most people: you either love or hate it.
Did you ever have to reject someone?
Yes! You get a lot of stuff. There’s artists who submit something and you’re like: „That looks exactly like a Basquiat“ or „Okay that is a Pollock Painting“. A lot of artists come out with work but they can’t really tell you the idea, the purpose behind it. It is not enough to think „I made this because it’s a cool painting“. For me it has to have depth. I have to know it’s GENESIS. And I don’t want to show hip art. I want to show something that has a true meaning so that people can connect with it when they see it.
It’s very noble of you to aim for true art and not necessarily for the big bugs.
I wanted this gallery to be real. When I got this building I didn’t hire contractors, but my family came and helped me. Me and my dad did the floor etc. I want to come strictly from the heart. Even if this idea is romantic, it’s what I want. A community place where artists, friends and everybody can come and feel at home. Through other people that’s also what I got as a feedback and I did not make an announcement or had a huge sign saying „feel at home“. People just came in and this is how they honestly felt. And that makes me happy.
What about Matt Maust? What do you like about him?
His drive. He has so much energy and so much going on with his band. Recently he came back from a tour in Europe and has already new ideas for his art. It’s amazing and I love that.
Your gallery is quite known. How did you achieve that reputation?
The website was crucial to us. With the fast technologies these days websites might be even more important than physical locations. If for instance I would have to close the doors I could still have my website and could run my business from that. We have Instagram where one can see how everything works, whats new etc. It’s constantly moving. I have been working in galleries for the past 11 years and 3 years ago I decided to open my own. So that was my goal. Then we got the place in February, renovated it for two months and then opened the doors in April. By then I already had every artist to go, because I spent a lot of time in advance to prepare my repertoire.
Having a gallery means to build up a creative as well as economic relationship with your artists. What is your secret to keep it running in the middle of the crisis?
My family and friends are amazingly supportive and this is what gives me strength. And besides that, it’s keeping everything interesting. It’s a little bit like teasing mixed with good artists where people want to get to know his work better. We get new people in but the old ones always come back. And this is the family feeling we spoke about earlier. They feel comfortable, everybody is polite, it’s not stiff where no one says „Hi.“. When somebody comes in I always take my time to say greet them and if I can’t, I make sure my receptionist does. All those books that tell you how to run a gallery are crap. I don’t want white walls and people not being nice. This is not what art is about and maybe it’s what makes us so successful. Being accessible, being easy going. The mysterious thing that galleries aim for I have too in my marketing. But if somebody comes in and wants to have a conversation I am open for it. Maybe he has something interesting to say that I can learn from him. Even if it goes no where – it’s fun to talk to people and be open.
What about art as an investment?
Buy what you love. Don’t think of it as an investment. This is how my wife and I started. I saw that spider web painting by William Binnie that said „Welcome to hell“ and I had to have it. So we spent our last savings for it, not because we thought the price would go up, but because it fascinated us. And I didn’t just buy it, I thought about it and when I finally decided to actually get it I had that excitement – my first piece. That’s beauty and not an investment character.___
Recently we had an interview with a gallerist from Vienna. She said it’s obvious that the Eastern European market is on the rise. You also represent Dimitri Drjuchin in your gallery. Do you think that his cultural background delivers any advantage for his art?
He lives in New York, but his roots are in Moscow. What I love is his pop cultural iconography. It’s fascinating. I found his art through music because he did an album cover for a band. He adds white to everything and gets this amazing color and consistency in every piece. So I am definitely open for European art.
What do you mean with „blank canvas“ in connection to your gallery?
Blank canvas means that the gallery is a blank canvas for the artist. They have freedom to do whatever they want. When I went to art school I loved installations. That was my thing and I want to give this freedom to my artists. For the next show Joan van Barneveld sent me 18 pages of how to frame his new pieces and I’m ok with it if that’s what he wants. I trust the artist. They have a vision and you have to trust it, because if you don’t then the installation or the pieces won’t read the way the artist intended them and it won’t be genuine to the audience. Of course you have to draw a line somewhere when it comes to expenses, but for the most part we take pride in listening to what the artist wants.
What do you think of live paintings during the artist´s exhibition?
If they wanted to, sure! We are all about events here as well. A live painting is no problem if that’s what is their idea. As long as the audience is captivated on that. Sometimes it’s hard to keep them focused. The audience notices it for a little bit but then they’re off and just want the painting to be done. The attention just slips. And it’s unfortunate because it’s so hard to get people interested in shows. Marketing-wise, I don’t want to spam my contacts with announcements because people just don’t read it. So I have to make sure my E-Mail sticks out, even if it comes in little doses, it gets noticed.
If you could have any artist in your gallery – dead or alive – who would it be?
Hands down Caravaggio. My favorite piece is “The calling of St. Matthew“. The whole setting is just so magnificent, brilliant. He really is one of my favorites.
What are your highlights for 2014?
Joan van Barneveld is one of them. Actually it was one of his pieces we first had in our art collection. We brought him here through our cooperations in New York. In April we are doing a show cross-over with London, meaning we will be showing our works in London and they use our space here in L.A. In June we’ll be having an amazing photography show and since I worked for photography galleries I am happy I can use my knowledge for my own Gallery. Brendan Donnelly will do a solo show in September and that will be great too. He is very funny and smart through his work.
Thank you so much for your time!
Interview by Carolina Vinqvist