Last week, Vancouver’s the Apartment gallery, co-operated by Lee Plested and his partner Erik von Muller, announced its impending closure.
With Toronto’s Jessica Bradley Gallery doing the same roughly two months ago, it’s hard not to perceive Plested and von Muller’s decision as symptomatic, even ominous. But in a recent phone interview, Plested addressed weak-market speculation quickly and clearly: “We were actually making more money this year than we’ve ever made. My decision was personal, not financial.”
Originating in 2006 in Plested and von Muller’s home with happenstance Canadian and international projects, the Apartment eventually moved into a storefront that demanded a roster and, assumingly, a profit. Yet the gallery was never a typical commercial space, offering talks, performances, screenings and more.
Plested has just been brought on as coordinator for Griffin Art Projects, a new initiative by the Freybe family to make exhibitions from private collections. “They’ll eventually do exhibitions with other people, living artists and other things,” says Plested, “but basically it’s about creating context and scholarship for works that are held in private collections.”
Plested is also preparing, for the third time, his curriculum for the Contemporary Art Gallery’s Night School program, which he has instructed since its inception.
“I’ve learned that I’m really drawn to history, teaching and thinking about art in that scholarly context,” Plested says. He plans to bolster his linguistic and critical abilities in preparation for a possible PhD program.
Plested takes pride in his artists’ achievements; the Apartment’s closure will not end his relationships with them. He’s known Derya Akay, nominated this year for the RBC Emerging Artist People’s Choice Award, since he was “a total kid and still in school,” and is pleased that the last curatorial project he’s working on until further notice has led to Wayne Ngan’s newly announced representation by New York gallerist Nathalie Karg.
“I’ve worked with a lot of artists at the Apartment for over 10 years. I’ve always seen myself as a person who believes in this sort of curatorial locality as opposed to mobility. I’m invested in the relationships we have and would like to keep up with what they’re doing and continue to work with them through their careers.”
Plested and von Muller will close by the end of the month. “We had a picnic on Sunday,” he says. “And now we’re just packing stuff up.”