Laura Owens’s Art Nonprofit 356 Mission, a Target of Anti-Gentrification Protests, Will Close

After five years, the venue founded by Owens, Wendy Yao, and Gavin Brown will close its doors.

356 Mission.

The nonprofit Los Angeles arts space 356 Mission—founded by artist Laura Owens, bookstore owner Wendy Yao, and gallerist Gavin Brown—will close its doors this spring, according to an announcement released by the gallery today.

“It was a labor of love, with finite resources, and never intended to last forever,” read the short statement from Owens and Yao. “For both personal and practical reasons, we have decided that 356 Mission is no longer sustainable, but we will continue to support open access to arts programming and the health of existing local economies.”

In its five-year run, 356 Mission hosted hundreds of events and more than 50 exhibitions. However, many know it better as a target of anti-gentrification groups from the surrounding Boyle Heights neighborhood. Activist coalitions such as Defend Boyle Heights and the Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement have repeatedly demanded that the venue leave the neighborhood. Some protesters even followed Owens to New York to demonstrate during her retrospective at the Whitney.

Installation view of Charlemagne Palestine’s “CCORNUUOORPHANOSSCCOPIAEE AANORPHANSSHHORNOFFPLENTYYY” (2018). Courtesy of 356 Mission.

“Some took issue with our impact on the neighborhood—although we don’t agree with their perspective, we respected it, and attempted to bridge that divide,” the statement said. Owens and Yao have said that the protests were not the main reason for 356 Mission’s closing.

“I felt that there was more that we could do there than not being there,” Yao told the Los Angeles Times. “While we don’t agree with the demands of the protesters, we really were trying to show up. But we have a lot of reasons for why we are leaving. It had sort of run its course. Doing the space was always a labor of love and was always really hard on both of us. And the protests added to this weight.”

Named after its address on South Mission Road, 356 Mission grew out of Owens’s studio after she began opening it up for exhibitions, performances, and other public events in 2012. Since then, it has grown into a well-established organization with an eight-person staff.

Laura Owens at the launch for her book “12 Paintings.,”
November 2014
Photo: Alexandra Noel. Courtesy of 356 Mission.

“Our lease was ending and we felt it was the right time,” Owens told the Times. “After five years of doing what we wanted to do, we felt that for personal and practical reasons that we had had a great experience and this is the right moment to close. The lease ends at the end of June. We will be closing in May.”

The three exhibitions up now will be the gallery’s last: Charlemagne Palestine’s “CCORNUUOORPHANOSSCCOPIAEE AANORPHANSSHHORNOFFPLENTYYY,” Alake Shilling’s “Monsoon Lagoon,” and an installation by Victor Rosas. All three are scheduled to come down in May. The on-site bookstore Ooga Booga will also close.

Protesting Laura Owens at the Whitney. Photo courtesy of Decolonize This Place, via Instagram.

Protesters at Laura Owens’s retrospective at the Whitney. Photo courtesy of Decolonize This Place, via Instagram.

Read the full statement from 356 Mission here.


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