Gallery Guru

Why Manhattan's Marianne Boesky Has Headed West

Plus, the latest happenings on the visual arts scene.

By Andrew Travers May 24, 2017 Published in the Summer 2017 issue of Aspen Sojourner

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Image: Craig Turpin

With two galleries humming along in Chelsea and a roster of celebrated contemporary artists—Thornton Dial, Sanford Biggers, and Barnaby Furnas among them—Marianne Boesky planned a westward expansion to Aspen.

She had gotten to know the local scene as a regular visitor over the past two decades and counts many local collectors and curators as friends. Two years ago, she bought a building downtown and began plotting to open what would become Boesky West, which opened in March with a splashy show of new works by Frank Stella and Larry Bell.

“I have long been inspired by Aspen’s extreme landscape and the creativity that it has fueled among artists, musicians, writers, and so many other individuals of diverse background and interests,” Boesky said when she announced the new gallery’s opening.

The Boesky West team is planning four to five shows per year—sticking to the winter and summer high seasons—including an August exhibition by California photographer John Houck.

Boesky’s international stable of artists, as well as those represented by competing New York galleries, are eager to book openings locally. “Every artist wants to do a show in Aspen,” gallery director Kelly Woods says. “It’s a little bit less pressure than doing a show in New York. You can experiment and play more here, and they love the community aspect of it.”

Another advantage: the community that has already taken shape around Boesky West, where collectors (often greeted upstairs by Woods’s friendly labradoodle, Maggie) enjoy the laid-back mountain-town vibe.

“Literally every person who walks through the door, I get to spend time with,” says Woods. “In New York, you get five minutes. Here, you get five hours. It’s a whole other way of engaging with people. It’s more intimate and conversational—it’s a deeper interaction.”

Situated on the fringe of the downtown core, at the corner of Spring and Main streets, Boesky West is unlikely to draw the same level of passerby traffic as galleries on the pedestrian malls. But the Boesky name and the caliber of shows will motivate collectors and art lovers to seek it out. Also, it’s just two blocks from the Aspen Art Museum, with which Boesky and her team plan to partner with regularly for events and complementary shows.

The building itself offers a link to some little-known Aspen art history. The mining-era cabin attached to the two-story gallery originally belonged to a photographer named James “Horsethief” Kelly and functioned as his studio in the late 19th century. (Some of Kelly’s glass negatives are housed at the Aspen Historical Society.)

In addition to showcasing contemporary art, Boesky West is formulating plans for an offseason residency program, aimed at hosting writers and curators at the gallery in the fall and late spring. “We have this great space that’s going to be empty—somebody can use it,” explains Woods. “It’s a place for ideas, a place to think and write and live in Aspen.”

Don't miss:

Mr. Brainwash, the controversial videographer-turned-street-artist-turned-international-artworld-superstar, and beguiling subject of the 2010 Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, takes over the Cha Cha Gallery this summer with a show that includes work from the past decade. His paintings go up June 15, and Mr. Brainwash himself will be in town for a can’t-miss official opening July 20. 

Three locally based artists—Nancy Lovendahl, Ingrid Magidson, and Dina Sheldrake—have been mentoring local high schoolers considering careers in the arts through the Art Base’s Claudette Carter ARTmentors program. Since late last year, they’ve shepherded the young artists through the conceptual and creative processes. On June 9, they’ll guide them through their first opening, as the Basalt gallery hosts an exhibition of new works by the three mentees: Natalia Plascencia, Megan Rusby, and Mae Houston.

Walead Beshty, the Los Angeles–based artist who for the last 12 years has been shipping shatterproof glass boxes to art galleries in FedEx containers and exhibiting the cracked and shattered results, comes to Anderson Ranch Arts Center to talk about his work on July 13. The ranch’s Summer Series also includes talks by ceramicist William J. O’Brien and Independent Curators International director Renaud Proch.

The Aspen Historical Society’s (AHS) long-awaited archive building renovation is done, and the nonprofit’s Wheeler-Stallard Museum is celebrating with an exhibition of photos from its voluminous collection of more than 30,000 images. The show is community-curated, with images selected by AHS donors, who have also written short stories about what the pictures of Aspen’s past mean to them. The new exhibit opens July 14, followed by a lawn party to toast the archive’s new home.

The Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s 2017 National Artist Honoree is Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu. A giant of contemporary African art whose work hangs in major museums worldwide, Mutu’s incisive work has taken an unblinking look at colonialism and sexism through collage, film, performance, and sculpture. She’ll be in Snowmass Village to accept her award and give a talk on July 20.

Wade Guyton, Peter Fischli, and the late David Weiss are taking over the Aspen Art Museum this summer. All six museum galleries—along with the outdoor commons, roof deck sculpture garden, and some spaces where art has never been presented—will be filled with a single exhibition of works by the trio. Opening June 21, the show pairs installations from the decades-long collaboration between Fischli and Weiss with digital paintings by Guyton.

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