The Art World Works From Home: Monique Meloche Is Hosting Gallery Visits by Appointment and Rewatching the Documentary ’13th’

Here's how the gallerist is making her way as Chicago begins to reopen.

The art world may be on lockdown, but it certainly does not stop. During this unprecedented time, we’re checking in with art-world professionals, collectors, and artists to get a glimpse into how they are working from home.

Chicago art dealer Monique Meloche built her career—and a thriving mid-size gallery—based on a knack for spotting talented artists who would go on to hit it big, including Amy Sherald and Rashid Johnson. Today, she’s spending her time working to foster the careers of artists including Ebony G. Patterson, Maia Cruz Palileo, and Nate Young.

Her gallery in Chicago recently re-opened by appointment only with an exhibition of work by Young, which continues his investigation into excavated bones thought to be from the horse that once carried the artist’s great-grandfather during the Great Migration. This interview originally took place in May, but has been updated to reflect the gallerist’s response to current events.

Monique Meloche's home on Miller Beach. Image courtesy Monique Meloche

Monique Meloche’s home on Miller Beach. Image courtesy Monique Meloche

Where is your new “office”? 

I have recently been going back and forth between our home in Chicago and our beach house in Indiana, depending on whether I’m needed to tend to things in the gallery. Right now, I am writing from my kitchen table in Miller Beach at our mid-century modern home built into a dune staring out onto Lake Michigan—which looks like an ocean from this vantage point. We can see the silhouette of Chicago’s skyline on a clear day. It is quite surreal in our serene setting, knowing all the protests and trauma going on in the city, and we are heading back to do our part.

Monique Meloche's home on Miller Beach. Image courtesy Monique Meloche

Monique Meloche’s home on Miller Beach. Image courtesy Monique Meloche

What are you working on right now (and were any projects of yours interrupted by the lockdown)?

At the moment, we are sharing our message of support and outrage by the loss of Black lives in America taken by those who have vowed to protect us. We have also been encouraging our art community to take real action now and join us in making contributions to organizations including the Chicago Community Bond Fund, the Chicago Freedom School, the Bail Project, Black Visions Collective, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Communities United Against Police Brutality, and the ACLU. We are checking in with all our artists for emotional support and asking any who desire to add their voices to our platform. In the midst of all this trauma, Chicago is now at phase three and the gallery is allowed to reopen. We are doing that slowly and safely and inviting folks to make appointments for private viewings of Nate Young’s solo exhibition… It is a timely exhibition and we hope the conversations we have in the gallery are meaningful and help to heal and move forward toward justice for all.

Monique Meloche's home on Miller Beach. Image courtesy Monique Meloche

Monique Meloche’s home on Miller Beach. Image courtesy Monique Meloche

How has your work changed now that you are doing it from home?

Our team has been really efficient working remotely, and we try to maintain our gallery hours of Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., but of course it is easy to lose track… Our weekly Wednesday morning meetings over Zoom have become more productive and streamlined, although today’s was three hours long, as I think we all miss seeing each other’s faces! My husband and I work out daily, so it is nice to be able to slip out for an afternoon run, bike, or hike in the Indiana Dunes. I also take frequent gardening breaks to tackle the weeds. 

Monique Meloche's home on Miller Beach. Image courtesy Monique Meloche

Monique Meloche’s home on Miller Beach. Image courtesy Monique Meloche

What are you reading, both online and off?

We have paused posting any extraneous content during these past two weeks of necessary protests and many others in the arts community have respectfully postponed online programming. However, I was spending a lot of time watching talks and studio visits on Zoom and Instagram Live. My favorites are Anita Zabludowicz’s weekly chats with collectors around the globe sharing intimate tours of their collections, as well as “PARLOUR” with Larry Ossei-Mensah and Troy Carter, which brings together interesting groups of artists, curators, dealers, and more. Actual books on the bedside table are God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop by Kathy Iandoli and The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Have you visited any good virtual exhibitions recently?

Our Nate Young exhibition of course [which was digital before we reopened the gallery], but I was also amused by Josh Smith’s “High AF” rooftop exhibition at David Zwirner. The current group show at Vigo Gallery in London has pretty terrific virtual tour, which has made our team obsessed with their floor-to-ceiling window view of the “London” countryside.

Have you taken up any new hobbies?

Nothing new, but my gin game has improved considerably.

What is the first place you want to travel to once this is over?

I discovered that a client of mine owns an amazing yoga retreat in Bali, so I’ve been dreaming about that!

If you are feeling stuck while self-isolating, what’s your best method for getting un-stuck?

Jump on the Peloton bike or go out for a run

What was the last TV show, movie, or YouTube video you watched?

Just revisited Ava DuVernay’s 13th, a necessary film exposing how the American criminal justice system got so corrupt.

If you could have one famous work of art with you, what would it be?

Anything by Kerry James Marshall.

Monique Meloche's home on Miller Beach. Image courtesy Monique Meloche

Monique Meloche’s “quickles” in progress. Image courtesy Monique Meloche

Favorite recipe to cook at home?

I cook a lot, but kind of like to wing it! My go-to honey-peppered salmon is a staple—and anyone who has been to our post-opening dinners at our home in Chicago knows that it can easily be scaled up to feed 40 people. Always in our fridge at the beach house are my homemade “quickles.”

What are you most looking forward to doing once social distancing has been lifted? 

Being back in the gallery, taking clients through our exhibitions, and working toward a more just and equitable future.

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