Altered Space – Los Angeles
Located on one of LA’s hottest streets, Altered Space Gallery on Abbot Kinney Boulevard features custom made works such as fine art, jewelry, furniture, and ceramics, making it a must-see when visiting the trendy neighborhood. While we were unable to speak with gallery owner Sand Brim, we were able to sit down with gallery director Valerie Emanuel to talk about all things art. Emanuel, who primarily works with customers and artists, talked about the gallery’s new online store, events, her experiences at Altered Space, and featured artists including Michele Mikesell, Todd Reed, Eric Silva, Sarah Graham, Victoria Cunningham, Dara Dubinet, Jill Platner, and Margaret Solow.
BANGSTYLE: In the ‘About Us’ section of your website, you explain that you select artists to feature in your gallery by their excellence in design, artistry, and craftsmanship. Can you elaborate? How do you decide which artists to feature?
Valerie Emanuel: This is actually a good question because last week I did my first buy. It’s all done on jury—I don’t make the decision, Sand doesn’t make the decision, Eric Silva doesn’t make the decision; we all have to agree that the artist is great. We have this artist, Eric Silva; he’s at the Smithsonian, he’s at the Getty, and his art and his jewelry are everywhere. So we really trust his opinion. He did the whole layout of the store and designed all the cases. He’s pretty amazing, and he usually just sees people—he travels.
For instance, he’ll go to Bali for a month or New York and go to the trade shows. Sometimes he’ll shoot us an email telling us to check a certain artist out, and, if we all agree that that person’s great, they’ll come to the gallery, and we’ll do a consignment or a buy. It depends. If we don’t know how well the stuff will sell, we’ll do consignment. If we know the work is a guarantee sell and people will love it, then we’ll buy it.
BANGSTYLE: You have several events comings up. Can you tell us a little about the Todd Reed Trunk Show, Graceann Warn Opening Reception, and Sarah Graham Metalsmithing Trunk Show?
VE: I know about the Todd Reed and Sarah Graham Trunk Shows; the other one is more in the works. Todd Reed works with raw diamonds. I remember the first time I saw his work—they’re not cut in any specific way, it’s not like when you see big blingy diamonds—it’s really modern and put together. He was an architect and became a designer, and when he builds a ring, every single ring is custom so people come to us for Todd Reed.
With Sarah Graham, she uses cobalt chrome. A lot of people come and figure why spend a couple hundred dollars on a chrome ring when I could get palladium, silver, diamonds, but they don’t realize that when you put on the ring, you get such an experience from a different metal that’s not used every day and lasts just as long. We just want to showcase this stuff because we can’t have it all in the gallery. We’re having trunk shows so people can see what we have because we’re trying to get our online website moving.
BANGSTYLE: On that note, we love that you have an online store that actually sells work by the artists featured in your gallery. Can you tell us a little about why you chose to include this option?
VE: Abbot Kinney has so many tourists now—GQ even voted it the hippest street in the United States. We just feel like so many people come through, and since we don’t have everything at the store, we put it online so they can see what they can build, what they can make, the different materials and metals. It kind of gives people ideas, like how people search for style inspiration online. What we’re going to do now, now that we have a smaller space, is get an iPad and have an online catalog so that people can browse through and order from there.
BANGSTYLE: What was your inspiration for opening an art gallery in Venice Beach?
VE: Sand has had a gallery for 16 years now. She was on Montana at the Bergamont Station for a long time, but Venice was so much cheaper then. She’s been here for eight years, and eight years ago getting a place on Abbot Kinney was more affordable.
BANGSTYLE: Currently, which artist’s work do you have featured in your gallery?
VE: Right now, Michele Mikesell. We just had her show last night. We’ll probably have her up for two months. We also have Eric Silva, Todd Reed, Sarah Graham, Victoria Cunningham, Dara Dubinet, Jill Platner, and Margaret Solow.
BANGSTYLE: What type of art is Altered Space currently focusing on?
VE: We feature basic contemporary work. A lot of galleries in Venice are going for street/graffiti art, but that’s something we definitely don’t do.
BANGSTYLE: Which events/exhibitions have been your favorite and why?
VE: We had a Claudia Endler Trunk Show; that was my favorite. I’m wearing Claudia Endler rings right now; they’re really cool. She has these stackable rings in all of her designs. I’ve just never seen anything like it, and I think she was the first artist that I ever met who had her stuff at the gallery. Getting to meet her and the fact that she explained to me why she made what she made and the philosophy behind each piece was really great.
BANGSTYLE: What kind of advice would you give to someone who really wants to be featured in your art gallery?
VE: I would say know what the gallery does because we get submissions every single day, like ten submissions a day. People send us stuff that wouldn’t fit well with us, so I would say look for a gallery where you fit, and then send them your work. You will have a much better chance that way.
BANGSTYLE: Do you feel that Altered Space has a style of its own?
VE: I do. There’s no other gallery like it on Abbot Kinney. Because Sand has had a gallery for so long, and she’s been here before Abbot Kinney got really popular, it’s not trying to be anything. There’s nothing wrong with New York, but there’s a lot of New York transplants who come out here and try to make it this scene that has this really urban vibe, but it’s not organic.
BANGSTYLE: When did Altered Space open?
VE: Altered Space opened eight years ago.
BANGSTYLE: Can you give us some background on yourself?
VE: I started here as an intern. I’m from LA, lived in San Francisco, but came back to do an internship with Mary Cornowski. I knew that Abbot Kinney was happening, so I emailed all these galleries. None of the galleries wanted interns, but Sand let me start out as an intern, and after a month, she hired me. She’s just amazing. I’m also studying art history at Cal State University, Los Angeles.
BANGSTYLE: What is the greatest thing about being able to work at an art gallery?
VE: For me, the people I get to meet and the responsibilities I have here. I’m going to college to be able to work in a museum; but here, since it’s more than just a gallery, and we do a lot of custom orders, I’m talking to artists every single day. I’m usually checking up on orders and talking to customers and seeing what they want. It’s more than just a normal gallery; people come in here with a open mind because they don’t know what they want a lot of the time, and we’re helping them with the process. We do a lot of wedding rings—alternative wedding jewelry—so that’s really exciting.
BANGSTYLE: Where do you hope to see Altered Space in five years?
VE: I really want our online store to jump off. Hopefully, we’ll also be able to have the entire space back again.
BANGSTYLE: Aside from street art, what are some works you would not feature in Altered Space?
VE: We have sculpture, but I feel like we’re trying to move away from that. Abbot Kinney is turning into a place where you go to eat more than you go to shop, so everything you feature has to be on point—it’s a hit or miss. We can’t carry stuff that just takes up space anymore; we have to carry stuff that people come to buy.
BANGSTYLE: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
VE: Probably Michele Mikesell’s circus-themed show. It was so amazing; we had a really good turn out. Mikesell has a really interesting story, actually. She is from Hugo, Oklahoma; she was adopted, moved there, and every single painting has a story behind it. There were a couple older women who had flown in from Oklahoma, and they had paintings that were dedicated to them. She turned the foster people who took care of her and raised her into these circus animals and painted them. I thought that was really cool. Also, we’re going to do a politically-themed show in August and September. We’re still brainstorming ideas.
Be sure to check out the Altered Space Gallery online store for fine art, jewelry, furniture, ceramics, gifts, books, cards, and more.
Photos of Michele Mikesell’s “Hugo, Oklahoma” courtesy of the Altered Space Gallery blog.