Articles and Features

The Digital High Five


Vielmetter Los Angeles

Esther Pearl Watson, “Hang in There!,” 2020, Acrylic, foil, foil paper, found mirror, graphite on panel 12 x 16 (30.48 x 40.64 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane

The Digital High Five is Artland’s interview series which is published bi-weekly and features one of our partner galleries. We have created this series to connect with galleries, share insight, and shed light on initiatives that are taking place within our community. We had the opportunity to speak with Susanne Vielmetter, Owner and Director of Vielmetter Los Angeles. Vielmetter Los Angeles presents an internationally recognized program defined by political agency, formal rigor, and a diversity of points of view both personal and material.

Targeting and generating audience engagement is at the forefront of most galleries’ agendas. What tools or methods are you incorporating to reach and engage with your audience? Has there been a way that has been the most effective?

We have increased our virtual presence in several ways: through an increase in “online only” exhibitions on our webpage, through social media events such as weekly “garden conversations” with our artists, collectors, and other friends of the gallery to stay in touch with our audience. We have also implemented other initiatives, such as an online shop where we can sell lower priced items and where we present artworks by our art handlers who have been especially affected by this crisis.  We are also beginning to document our exhibitions in 3D format to improve the virtual experience of our exhibitions.  All this requires an active approach.  We have never only relied on our audience reaching out to us, we have always been proactive in generating interest, so we are emphasizing on what has worked for us for a long time.

Have there been certain initiatives that are taking place in the LA arts community that as a gallery you are excited to see and/or be a part of? 

Yes, we are very excited about Jeffrey Deitch’s initiative to create galleryplatform LA, which is a wonderful way to unite the galleries in Los Angeles and which is, strangely enough, the first time this has happened in LA.  I very much appreciate that this platform gives galleries an increased chance to have exposure and to generate business.

Esther Pearl Watson, “Thanks For Always Being There,” 2020,Acrylic, foil, foil paper, graphite on panel, 8 x 10″
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane

How have you been able to foster and encourage growth during the last few months amongst your artists? Are there initiatives that you have implemented during this time that you think will premaritally become part of Vielmetter Los Angeles?

Our focus has been first and foremost to stabilize our artist’s careers and to make sure that we generate enough sales to enable them to keep their studios and their production going in a meaningful way.  Most artists had to cut back in some ways so we are trying to help them to adjust so that their production is sustainable for a longer lasting period of potentially diminished sales. We have also dramatically increased our online and virtual exhibitions and projects so that they have goals to work towards to and to make sure that we are offering alternatives to the potential decrease in art fairs and museum exhibitions.  We want our artists to be prepared so that they can sustain their practices in a meaningful way for the next 2 years.

“What really helps us is to connect with our audience on a personal level and in an honest way – and that can be decidedly off the cuff and low tech.   The spirit is what makes the difference, not the technology.” – Susanne Vielmetter

Sadie Benning, “Untitled 11×16 (YY),” 2019, Wood, aqua resin, casein, and acrylic gouache, 11 x 16″
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photocredit: Chris Austin

Since the pandemic the trajectory of galleries participating in external events has come to a pause, or tragically they have been cancelled.  Some events such as art fairs, are now going digital. How are you handling and approaching these new movements? 

We are learning that going digital can open up new and exciting possibilities because the headaches of shipping and installing are falling away.  Simply translating something from the real world into a digital realm does not always work – a virtual fair is an altogether different experience and it can only be exciting if the content adapts to this new medium.  It is challenging and inspiring to find out how to make this work

What excites you the most when it comes to the use of technology being used in your gallery? What is your biggest concern? Biggest surprise? 

I’m excited about amazing technology that lets you document a show in 3D – but we honestly found that this is not at the heart of what makes this new reality work for us.  It helps, but it is not the key factor.  What really helps us is to connect with our audience on a personal level and in an honest way – and that can be decidedly off the cuff and low tech.   The spirit is what makes the difference, not the technology.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, “Studio (0X5A5038),” 2020, Archival pigment print, 50 x 75″, Edition of 5, 2 AP
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff McLane

How has this current global crisis encouraged you to think outside the box in regards to: collaboration, exhibition design, curation and public art projects? 

We live in an amazing and completely unprecedented moment where every aspect of our daily life is open to reconsideration and potential fundamental change. I have always thought that a good way to run a gallery is to be open to unconventional ideas and to feel comfortable in going against the herd.  This is a moment where you can take this to a new level, where opportunities for positive change we thought would never happen in our lifetime all of a sudden are here.  I feel confident that we will navigate this new situation and make it better and I encourage everyone to put their creative ideas to it – if we do not shape this new world we are about to enter someone else will do it for us.

Currently Vielmetter Los Angeles has an online exhibition, Words of Encouragement featuring new work by Esther Pearl Watson. Their current gallery exhibitions are, A conversation (about) around pictures featuring artist Paul Mpagi Sepuya and Life in Halves featuring Elizabeth Neel. All exhibitions can be viewed here.

By Meghan Corso