Dealer Spotlight: CRG Gallery and Dealing as a Team

How do you curate when you have three co-founders?

CRG Gallery has the unique distinction of being the result of a true collaboration. Its three co-founders work together every day, and strive for a consensus in all their curatorial decisions. Recently relocated in the Lower East Side, the gallery represents a roster of fresh emerging and established artists from around the world, such as Angela Dufresne, Leoncillo Leonardi, and Saloua Raouda Choucair. Its current exhibition, “Butt Johnson: Quaint Abstractions,” opened yesterday and features quietly unfolding drawings rendered in everyday tools like Gelly Roll pens and crayons.

Here, the three partners discuss what brought them together, and what it’s like to deal as a team.

 Tell us about your background in art and what led you here.
CRG Gallery is a partnership between Carla Chammas, Richard Desroche, and Glenn McMillan. We met in 1985 at the Marisa del Rey Gallery in New York, where we all worked. Glenn started working in the art world right after college where he studied art history, Carla has a background in art history and political science. Richard studied political science and also has a degree in education. Carla and Glenn moved to New York to work in the art world. Richard moved to New York to be an actor.

Butt Johnson, The Waterfall Effect (2011) Image: courtesy of CRG Gallery

Butt Johnson,
The Waterfall Effect

Image: courtesy of CRG Gallery

What type of art does your gallery focus on?
We represent established and emerging contemporary artists from the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and South America. We do about six exhibitions a year, and the artists range in age from their late 20s to 100. We also do exhibitions of a more historical nature including, for example, Lucio Fontana ceramics, Carol Rama drawings, and more. We are currently working on an exhibition for this November of a Lebanese Modernist artist, Saloua Raouda Choucair, who will be 100 years old this year. At the ADAA next year we will present works by Leonardi Leoncillo, a contemporary of Lucio Fontana.

You recently moved from Chelsea to the Lower East Side. What prompted your move? Why do you think being in the Lower East Side right now is important for your gallery?
Our building in Chelsea was sold, and we had to move. The availability of street level space at an affordable price was scarce and so we decided to look outside of the Chelsea area. The Lower East side, with its proximity to the New Museum, the new International Center of Photography, and several other galleries—as well as the energy and diversity of the area—appealed to us.

What have you loved about all of the spaces you’ve been in, from your Upper East Side location to your Chelsea location?
Each space has had its own personality and we have learned to expand and contract accordingly. Our first gallery was located next to the Frick Library and had a fireplace! We next moved to south Soho. There were three galleries opening in Chelsea at the time, and we were uncertain if it would work! After three years, we moved to 22nd Street in a Dia Building, and had galleries on the second and third floors until moving to the original Dia Building across the street. That building was eventually sold too, and so our most recent move to the LES. Our new space is more intimate and full of light.

How do you choose which artists you work with? What is your favorite part of working directly with artists?
Because we are three partners, there is always a discourse around the artists we seem to be drawn to. The selection process can be slow as we aim for a consensus among the three of us, which is time consuming. I would say our favorite part of working with the artists is seeing the transition of a body of work from the studio to the gallery, going from the intimacy of the relationship in the studio to the profile of showing works to the public. We have close relationships with many of the artists of the gallery.

Butt Johnson, The Base Rate Fallacy (2014) Image: courtesy of CRG Gallery

Butt Johnson, The Base Rate Fallacy (2014)

Image: courtesy of CRG Gallery

How do you develop your relationships with artists?
The relationship develops over time. The process of working on exhibitions and other projects deepens the relationship, and we come to rely and depend on one another. We also try to be present for all the artist’s projects outside of the gallery to show our support.

What has been the biggest lesson that you’ve learned about running a gallery since opening your first space? Every day is a learning process. Because our business does not have written rules, does not depend on contracts, and is not regulated we must often follow our intuition and common sense. The biggest lesson: NEVER PICK UP THE PHONE OR HIT THE SEND BUTTON WHEN YOU ARE ANGRY.

If you could have dinner with any artist, living or deceased, who would it be and why?
Glenn would have liked to have dinner with Pier Paolo Pasolini, Richard with Joseph Beuys, and Carla with Lou Salome.

If you were not an art dealer, what would you be doing?
Glenn would be a gardener or an architect. Richard would be a chef or a singer. Carla would be an athlete or an ambassador

Butt John: Quaint Abstractions” is now on view through February 21, 2016.

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