This month I'm excited to bring you Leta Grzan, one of the top Artist Liaisons at the legendaryGagosian Gallery in Los Angeles. 

For over 30 years and counting, the Gagosian Gallery has been one of the dominant players in the contemporary art world. With the explosion of social media, it's clear the business is in the middle of a large scale transition to digital first. As artists and the art business increasingly move into the online space, it's fascinating to get a glimpse into how the brightest young minds in the art business embrace new opportunities. 

So let's get started!

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What do you do?
 
I work as a liaison to artists and artist estates for the Gagosian Gallery, specifically with Ed Ruscha and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, among others. The job entails overseeing, managing, and facilitating all of their business for the gallery. So everything from exhibitions to sales and PR to museum shows.
 
What are you working on right now?

At the moment, I'm finishing up work on a Roy Lichtenstein exhibition that recently opened in our Chelsea gallery in New York, Greene Street Mural. For the show, we recreated the mural that Roy did in 1983 at the Leo Castelli Greene Street Gallery. This is a 100 foot long historical mural that Roy painted on site, which was then destroyed at the end of the exhibition. There was never any intention for this to be a commercial piece. At the time, he was quoted as saying, "It was my Christmas gift to Leo Castelli and to the visitors of the gallery." Check out the video of the recreation of the mural.  

Amazing. Today there would be millions of social media images.

There are so many people that never had the opportunity to see this in 1983. Our generation now sees everything. Everything before 2005 or so is just not as well documented in the art world.

It’s a different world. How do you handle social media at Gagosian?

We had to come up with an aggressive strategy on social media, so that we can control the message. We now function as our own “media generator” in the way we release artist news.
 
In the past, it was all about print advertising and mailers. Often people wouldn't even know what was in an exhibition if they couldn't physically be in the space. They would have to wait for one of the arts magazines to come out and write a review about it, which usually comes to press after the shows close. Shows tend to wrap between 4 to 8 weeks maximum in a commercial gallery, typically 5 to 6 weeks.

Today we'll still have traditional press coverage in the newspapers. But now so much information is instantaneous, news generated about a show is almost immediate. So social media has become a big part of how we promote our artist and exhibitions. Some of our artists are quite talented in how they use social media; it is changing how they interact with the public as well.



Which artists are great with social?

It’s wild-- everything has become accessible. You have artists such as Richard Prince who are using Instagram and social media as a means of promotion and it directly is influencing their art. Recently Richard Prince did a series of Instagram paintings.  Mark Grotjahn, another artist that is of a younger generation, uses it as a tool for showcasing his process. Then there are artists like Murakami, who did the amazing Instagram campaign called InstaMeet. It was global; the level of exposure the project gained was fascinating.

There's a new strategy to exposing the images and the work in itself. Gregory Crewdson, for example, employs social media as a means of previewing new projects as he works up to the release date.
With artists on Instagram and the like, the public not only gets access to the work, but gets a sense of the artist as a person. I think that's opened art up to a new generation of people that are active in social media in general, the 40 and under demographic.

Who are the hot young artists?

Jonas Wood from Los Angeles is getting lots of attention right now. He's just opened a show in London at our space on Britannia Street. His social media is quite strong. You get to see into his personal life. He posts images in the studio, of his family, or his trips and vacations. He's somebody that you really get to understand who he is, as a person, along with his practice and his art and what he's making in the studio. I think his social media is changing the way his work is seen.

What are you reading, or recommending?

I’m always reading several books at a time.  At least one novel and several art books.  Currently I’m reading the novel “The Remainder” by Tom McCarthy.  I have several art related books I’m reading through – the Duchamp bio by Calvin Tomkins, Call Me Burroughs by Barry Miles and the new Broad Collection publication. I also always love to read through the Gagosian exhibition catalogues.  People don’t know that the Gagosian Gallery has a full publications department, and produces beautiful art books. Last year for the holidays, I gave away a ton of books on Richard Avedon, from our Women show. It's this beautiful unbound book of images of Richard Avedon's female portraiture, spanning half a century. We co-published it with Rizzoli. Gagosian does a lot of partner publications as well. I can't count how many of these I gave out last year, maybe 20?! Not only to clients and artists, but also to family members and friends. I never give out novels as gifts.  I'll always give an art book.  

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As a reminder, the purpose of QTime is to learn how talented people in our industry and beyond are great at what they do. No one ever asks the really unique, fascinating people in our space these types of questions. So I decided to find these people and share super short profiles. They are meant to be a small, happy part of your day.

If you have any comments or ideas, please reply to me. I answer every email personally. Hopefully you find QTime to be a community of thoughtful, smart people coming together to share insights. 

--Ben.
 

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