‘I Haven’t Seen Anything Cool in So Long’: Painter Jamian Juliano-Villani Is Opening a Gallery to Show Whatever She Wants (and Throw Parties)

The artist says the gallery, called O’Flaherty’s, will be a performance in disguise.

L-R: Lola Kramer, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Billy Grant, Ruby Zarsky. Photo by Lia Clay Miller.

Jamian Juliano-Villani’s surrealist figurative paintings have attracted a cult following and fetched more than $400,000 at auction. But the market demands for her work have left the artist feeling limited in terms of what she can do creatively. Now, in an effort to rebrand herself “beyond my stupid, cheeseball paintings,” as she put it, she’s opening her own gallery in Manhattan.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a while,” Juliano-Villani told Artnet News. “My work is a combination of references anyway, but there’s only so much I can do with painting, and I enjoy ideas way more.”

The gallery, called O’Flaherty’s—an homage to Irish pubs and Juliano-Villani’s own drinking habits—will open in the East Village on September 8. While the space will function as a commercial gallery, she also sees it as something of a performance in disguise. “I’m going to start wearing black, really cool fake Prada suits,” she said.

The first O’Flaherty’s show will be an exhibition of work by Kim Dingle, a 70-year-old mixed-media artist based in Los Angeles. Dingle has shown in New York with Sperone Westwater and Andrew Kreps Gallery, but Juliano-Villani discovered her by accident.

Juliano-Villani ritually collects stacks of weird images to inspire her own work, and has long had a photo of a doll busting through a wall as her desktop background. “I was going to paint it, but then I was like, how could I make this thing any better?” she said. She never knew where it came from so she did a reverse-Google-image search and landed on Dingle’s profile. It felt serendipitous. “That was kind of the impetus for me starting with the gallery,” she said.

Jamian Juliano-Villani. Photo by Lia Clay Miller.

The lease on the space is for one year, after which the artist said she wants to put a pin in the project and kill it “before it sucks.” So far, its programming is booked through January. The artist has lined up a roster of her artist friends, including solo exhibitions with  Anthea Hamilton and Ashley Bickerton.

Juliano-Villani secured the 2,000-square-foot ground-floor space at 55 Avenue C in the East Village, which she will be paying herself. “I have a very distinct vision for this thing, and I’m such a control freak,” she said. “A lot of people wanted to go in to be the partner and I was like, ‘Fuck no!’ Because then what happens? Then they’re like, ‘Can you put just like crappy Peter Saul paintings in the show?’ and I don’t want to do that.”

Visitors can expect a merchandise shop (with everything from fly swatters to keychains) and a party scene, which will involve handing out keys to a worthy few friends to access a mysterious “cool people room,” Juliano-Villani said. “The landlords know that once a month is going to be fucking rager,” she said. 

L-R: Lola Kramer, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Billy Grant, Ruby Zarsky. Photo by Lia Clay Miller.

She plans to run the space with artist Billy Grant, musician Ruby Zarsky, and curator Lola Kramer. Their business cards read: “a fat guy, a tranny, a rich girl, and a guido walk into a bar…” 

The artist said she doesn’t plan to represent artists full time, and will instead offer one-off shows with no strings attached, giving artists free reign to make work that is not limited by concerns over its commercial viability.

“I haven’t seen anything that cool or exciting in god knows how long, and I was like, fuck all the woke shit, like everyone being so careful or whatever,” she said. “Our motto is kind of like, if you were going to die in a month and you had to do a fucked up show, what would it be? You can’t do anything wrong.”

Not all of the work will be for sale. Some will be on loan or consignment, other work will be made for the space. She wants the gallery to feel more welcoming and relaxed than typical Manhattan white cubes. “There’s no pretense,” she said. “Like, the girl at the front desk is going to compliment you on your sweater.”

Still, she will be trying to sell $100,000 works of art. (Bickerton’s work has sold at auction for more than $200,000). She wants to set prices that are in line with the market while still being conservative enough to make sales likely. “I have access to all these major collectors, but if I continue to do this for more than a year, I kind of want to be accessible to younger collectors.”

“I have a weird feeling I’m going to do pretty good, but if we don’t make money, that’s fine,” Juliano-Villani said. ”If we do, that’s a bonus. A lot of this shit is hard to sell. That’s why it’s good.”

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