Taking on New Role as ‘Mentor,’ Artist Lucien Smith Transforms His L.A. Studio Into a Project Space and Food Bank

The 20,000-square-foot space will host artist residencies and community events.

Lucien Smith. Photo: Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan

Most artists don’t have enough studio space—others, it seems, have too much. The artist Lucien Smith is converting his Los Angeles studio, a former commercial laundry business, into a project space, artist residency, and food bank for the local community.

Earlier this year, Smith was faced with a quandary. The 28-year-old artist—whose paintings made with paint-filled fire extinguishers rocketed him to art-market stardom in 2014—had somewhat retreated from the art world, opting to focus instead on filmmaking and creative direction for his mother’s womenswear label, Vivien Ramsay. He was spending most of his time on the East Coast and only working periodically in his 20,000-square-foot studio in South Central Los Angeles.

To give other artists the chance to take advantage of the two large warehouses, Smith decided to turn them into a project space called Appointment Only. A presentation by the first artist-in-residence, the 24-year-old New York-based artist Alexander Muret, closed last week. “I am primarily more interested in younger artists not showing already. It is nice to be able to give a hand and be a mentor in any way I can,” Smith says.

Alexander Muret’s show at Appointment Only in Los Angeles. Photo: Ekaterina Kovalyova.

Smith is now sending out inquiries to some of his favorite artists for a group exhibition in September called “Group Show,” which will be organized by the young curator Matthew Brown. (No participants had been confirmed by publication time.)

Smith, who splits his time between New York, Los Angeles and Montauk, says he wanted to use the space to offer young artists much-needed exposure in a non-commercial setting. “There is a great art community in Los Angeles, I just think it needs a little something else to help connect it—this has probably to do with how geographically large the city is,” he says. The original name for the space was STP, which stands for “Serve the People.”

The artist is currently working to raise additional funds to develop the space further, and eventually hopes to launch it as a full-on non-profit. With the help of a small group of colleagues, Smith hopes to transform it into an incubator not only for work by young artists, but also for music, performances, and artist talks. For the next six months, the space is under renovation. The first phase of construction will involve converting a good portion of the studio into a food bank with refrigerated storage.

Since leasing the original space—which is not far from Sterling Ruby’s studio—earlier this year, Smith has also put a neighboring warehouse into use. He has dedicated the space to displaying work created by artists during their residency.

A studio for artist residents at Appointment Only in Los Angeles. Photo: Ekaterina Kovalyova.

Muret, one of Smith’s long-time friends, used the inaugural three-month residency to create a new series of six dark monochrome paintings made of vinyl, acrylic and modelling paste. The series, Muret says, was created in response to the venue itself. “What does one do with the given conditions of a huge space?” he asked.

The show, which closed on July 14, marks the artist’s US debut; Muret had two shows in Tokyo last year and launched a 36-page artist book at Taipei’s Waiting Room last February. The designer Hedi Slimane also used one of his works on a leather jacket in Saint Laurent’s March 2016 collection.

The residency program will resume in 2018. In the meantime, the space will be used to host events, like the performances by garage rock bands Helen Hannas and The Pesos last week, which served as the closing soundtrack for Muret’s show.

Smith says he is continuing to work on his own art as well. He is looking to build another studio in Montauk within the next year.

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