The Interview Issue | David Ethridge & Doug Kacena

Two principals in the new partnership between Abend Gallery, Gallery 1261, and K Contemporary talk about what makes the model work

Anthony Waichulus, The Storyteller, oil, 18 x 25.

Anthony Waichulus, The Storyteller, oil, 18 x 25.

This story was featured in the March 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art March 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

In the summer of last year, two of Denver’s best-known galleries began a brand-new chapter. Abend Gallery, long known and respected for its attention to emerging artists, left its sprawling location on Colfax Avenue. And Gallery 1261, curated by master artist Quang Ho, left its home near the Denver Art Museum. The two joined forces in a new downtown space in the popular LoDo neighborhood. They also joined forces with Doug Kacena, formerly of Evergreen Fine Art, and his new K Contemporary gallery. We spoke with Kacena and with David Ethridge, director of Gallery 1261 and co-curator of Abend Gallery, about this dynamic new gallery model.

What was the impetus for this major change in the gallery structure, especially given that both Abend Gallery and Gallery 1261 were so well established in their former spaces?
David Ethridge: We had been thinking about ways that the galleries could adapt to the changing market for some time, and we came up with an exciting concept to better serve our artists and collectors. Pair that with the current real estate climate in Denver, as well as the fact that the former occupant of our new building decided to shutter his gallery, and suddenly the idea of moving became a clear decision. Our new space provides a museum-quality setting that enhances the display of our artists’ works. And the three galleries are strategically positioned to benefit from continuing changes in the art market brought about by social media, the internet, and the times. In addition, we now have the flexibility to expand our programs outside of the gallery.
Doug Kacena: The paradigm of what an art gallery is about has shifted. For example, 70 percent of sales now come from online purchases. The idea of the huge, white-box gallery is working among the various “blue chips” but not necessarily for the rest of us. It was time to think about new ways to engage the public and collectors. Each of our three galleries has a “project space” for smaller solo or group shows. And we have two main exhibition spaces. This year we are planning 24 major in-gallery exhibitions. This is in addition to off-site shows, fairs, and pop-up shows we have planned in Denver and across the country.

How has the new venture been received?
DE: The response has been almost entirely positive. Most of the negative criticism we received was before we opened the new space. But seeing the space and program in action seems to have convinced most of the naysayers. DK: A lot of people hearing about our new gallery model think we are pioneers. We are all partners in each of the galleries and businesses. We share about seven employees and thus, we can take on enormous projects. We have individual staff members devoted to different areas such as social media or shipping and receiving. A strong infrastructure allows us to take our shows on the road to art fairs such as the LA Art Show and Art Basel Miami.

What have been some of the exhibition highlights so far?
DE: K Contemporary’s first show, a solo for conceptual neon artist Scott Young, is one highlight. Gallery 1261’s show titled Legacy, at the Denver Central Library, is another one. That presentation featured works by some of the most prominent realist painters in the country, including Jeremy Lipking and David Kassan, just to name a few. In January we featured a solo show for Kevin Sloan at K Contemporary. And at our off-site location in the nearby SugarCube Building, we hosted a solo show of works by Michelle Condrat.

What exhibitions are forthcoming?
DE: Coming up in March we have scheduled a show for landscape painter Lindsey Kustusch and a three-person exhibition with Dan McCaw and his two sons, Danny and John, as well as a solo show for Gregory Block at the SugarCube Building.

Any new developments coming up this year?
DE: We’re excited to bring our full vision for the three galleries alive this year. We plan more great exhibitions, more art fairs, more pop-up shows, and more innovation. —Interviewed by Bonnie Gangelhoff

This story was featured in the March 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art March 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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