Among the chatter of a lively crowd, heels click and glasses clink. A well-dressed man stands in front of a piece, analyzing it with wine in hand. A gallery worker moves past him holding a clipboard and takes a small red dot sticker, placing it on a work. That artwork now belongs to one of the collectors in the room. With success, more red dots will soon fill the gallery’s walls.
Outside, visitors smoke cigarettes and curious passers-by debate whether to walk in or not. At any given opening, someone, young or old, discovers an artist for the first time, while an art critic takes notes for a review. As a crowd, the visitors and workers take the two or so hours of the opening and transform the gallery space from a quiet atmosphere into a buzzing one.
This is the typical art gallery opening scene. Though some galleries give the standard opening a twist with DJs, giveaways and more, the standard opening night proves an important social event and an even more significant event for the gallery and its sales.
But the glamorous scene does not unfold as easily as it seems. Before visitors show up, there are bags of ice and boxes of wine to buy, lights to check, artwork to hang and press releases to print. There is conversation with longtime patrons, press outlets and the artist him/herself.
For Andy Freeberg, something about the behind-the-scenes of the art world beckoned. Freeberg began taking photos of art fairs — where multiple galleries showcase art in one spot — back in 2009 and created a series called “Sentry,” which simply featured desks belonging to galleries throughout Chelsea, N.Y. and the tops of heads. Impressively, Freeberg managed to take the most unassuming part of the galleries and create a compositionally interesting series of photos.
The photographer is currently showing newer photos at Kopeikin Gallery in Culver City, Calif. in his show “Art Fare.” The scenes in these collections focus on more intriguing backgrounds; the figures go about their normal duties with eye-catching artworks or intriguing colors or objects in the background. Even if the photo doesn’t focus on the subject’s face, each one brings a sense of personality for the figure and the gallery space he or she works in.
The photo “Andrea Rosen,” which shows the interior of the Andrea Rosen gallery in New York, especially captures personality, adding vitality to an otherwise common scene. Here, the female subject idly checks her phone as she sits on a black couch with her laptop and office supplies on the table in front of her. She sits to one side of the photograph, the rest of the space taken up mostly by the brightly colored piece of art on the wall. The work blends bright red with yellow in an eye-catching manner, the movement of the work contrasting the frozen moment in which the woman looks at her phone.
The photograph stands out because it does what a good photograph should — it finds just the right moment and angle to transform a scene. If the same viewer seeing this photograph were to walk by the female subject inside the actual New York gallery, they most likely would not look twice. But Freeberg’s decision to photograph her at that particular moment resulted in a visually intriguing piece.
In the art world today, it proves difficult to think of a new and interesting idea. Yet Freeberg’s photo utilizes the idea of innovation passed down through generations of photographers: The photographer can take his lens and use it to frame the world in an unusual manner. “Andrea Rosen” demonstrates Freeberg’s ability to frame the subject and her surroundings as part of something as exciting and important as a gallery opening.
In the photo, the female subject checks her phone with one hand while keeping the other still on her laptop, a small detail that suggests the busy life of those involved with running a gallery. Whether intentional or not, the color of her shirt almost nearly matches that of the artwork’s background, suggesting some sort of connection between the gallery figure and the art that hangs. At the end of the day, the art that visitors see reflects meticulous attention to detail and is the result of months, if not more, of advanced planning.
Even if visitors to Kopeikin Gallery do not know the story behind the photograph, the transformation of an ordinary scene into a visually intriguing work proves itself undeniable. “Andrea Rosen” serves as a reminder that the best photographs are sometimes taken from simple scenes.
“Art Fare” runs until Oct. 27. Kopeikin Gallery is located at 2766 S. La Cienega Blvd. in Culver City.
Eva Recinos is a senior majoring in English. Her column “Two Cents A Piece” runs Tuesdays.