More than a year after Lauri Firstenberg stepped down as the director of LAXART, the Los Angeles alternative art space she founded as a Ph.D. student in 2005, the curator has announced a new initiative that moves beyond the nonprofit model. The new project, dubbed there-there, is an art production company that will work with artists, institutions, and foundations in an advisory capacity to fund and produce work, while also exhibiting work in a gallery built into its East Hollywood headquarters.
Her partner in the endeavor is Anthony James, the L.A.–based artist who shows locally with Patrick Painter.
“We tried to create a new model that’s pretty hybridic,” Firstenberg said during a telephone interview. “I was doing a lot of consulting for tech companies and startups, helping people start foundations, and I tried to create an umbrella.”
While folding in consulting and advising into the mission statement, the primary focus of there-there will be a top-to-bottom approach to dealing with artists to get new work made, greasing the wheels to see potential projects to get created.
“We’ll be sitting down with artists and seeing what their priorities are, and seeing what’s missing in terms of what they can do within themselves, and what’s outside of traditional gallery priorities,” Firstenberg said. “Let’s say William Leavitt is producing his first feature film, we’ll do everything we can to help produce it and promote it. We’ll debut the film at there-there, and then it will be seen at, say, the Kitchen in New York.”
Firstenberg said she spent a year “incubating” the project after leaving LAXART, during which time she realized that, for all of its rapid growth since she arrived in the early 2000s from New York, where she was a curator at Artists Space, the Los Angeles art scene still had some major gaps.
“Over the course of 14 years things have evolved tremendously, but some things haven’t changed,” she said. “For example, there’s an international artist and filmmaker who I’ve worked with for over 20 years, and his visibility in L.A. is still very scarce. There’s so much to do if you think about so many international artists who have yet to work in Los Angeles.”
And she thinks that given the cross-platform pollination that exists between artists in Los Angeles and its dominant entertainment industry, there-there can provide a new model for all-inclusive artist representation, especially at a time when brick-and-mortar shops are closing.
“My generation of artists in L.A., if you really break it down, a lot of their galleries have closed, they don’t have the support structure that they need—and so, they can come to there-there. And there’s a generation of emerging artists who have yet to come to L.A. and produce projects, and that’s something that I’ve been committed to since I started curating in my early twenties.”
The offices will be housed in an Art Deco building at 4845 Fountain Avenue, in a neighborhood that’s close to the main cluster of Hollywood galleries while also not too far from the emerging circuit downtown. It also happens to be directly next to the iconic blue Church of Scientology building.
In a statement, James said, “I view this partnership as a way for me to extend my practice, utilizing our new space to present dynamic programs. From both of our perspectives, artists supporting other artists can be a generative and powerful gesture.”
The space will open in the spring, with programming beginning in September.