An Interview with founder Phil Grauer of CANADA: Part One of Two

by Art Fag City on February 22, 2007 Events

Phil Grauer of CANADA New York at the Armory Show

This week my colleague Steven Stern details CANADA’s fight to get into the Armory Show in Time Out New York. The article reveals no real scandal or conspiracy, but it does shed some light on the pitfalls of the art fair selection process. I similarly interviewed the gallery founder, Phil Grauer prior to the show’s opening as part of our fair programming, and as such have a few words to add to the developing discussion. What you are about to read constitutes the first of a two part interview.

Art Fag City: So, tell me the story!

Phil Grauer: Which one?

AFC: The one about how you fucked your way into the Armory!

PG: (laughing) Slept my way”¦

AFC: Yeah.

PG: No, it's not really a big story. There were a couple of Europeans that were showing our artists, some New York-based kids that we had done solo shows with, you know… introduced these artists to the Parisian dealers. And then”¦Rosson Crow would show up at art fairs we weren’t at and that kind of thing. And so it just gave me a reason to kind of go up to the committee members, and tell them”¦

AFC: Are they based in Paris?

PG: The Armory committee?

AFC: Yeah”¦

PG: No, no the committee's just made of”¦I don't know much about how this committee gets chosen….Um, but they're dealers, so I went over to Frieze and complained to the committee,. The committee's just like Anton Kern and Lisa Spelman, whatever, you know, the guys, right? [Editors note: The 2007 selection committee members are Ciléne Andréhn, Stockholm, Matthias Arndt, Berlin, Marc Foxx, Los Angeles, Anton Kern, New York, Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, Stuart Shave, London] And so I went over to Frieze because that's where they're all congregated, so I can go talk to them all…I was trying to get myself off of a wait list.

AFC: Wait, were you at Frieze? Were you showing there?

PG: No, no, I was just a tourist.

AFC: Just visiting”¦

PG: Yeah, I was just a backpacker. European ehhh”¦

AFC: Backpacker at the art fair?

PG: Yeah, Eurorail pass.


PG: And so I got to Frieze, and there they all were, so I could just kind of go like, the problem I'm having with your Armory thing, folks, is that my artists are now being shown at the fair without me through these European dealerships, and it's a sort of a misrepresentation of where they come from and who engineered their beginnings. So could you stop doing that or let me in your fucking fair? (Laughter) It just gave me an argument, rather than, oh please, but we have such fine art, which I think is the problem a lot of galleries likely have. It's like then they likely have great works that should been seen and sold at art fairs, but I mean, this is the avenue that we kind of took. The New York art fair is kind of eroding the young New York dealers and gallerists and galleries like this one. Because it's misrepresenting, it's not covering this work that's already being seen internationally.

AFC: Right.

PG: So what the fuck, sort of thing. And I think that they sort of had to go, oh, that's a pretty good point. Oh yeah, that would suck, if I was in your shoes, that would suck. So then they kind of rethink it. I don't think it's a conspiracy or anything of the like. I don't think they are trying to pull, and I'm a paranoid person by nature, so I start to think, oh, this is about suppressing me. It's removing the guts of my program, the bread and butter from my table. You suddenly start feeling, because if you don't get into the international art fairs, you're going to lose your artists to these dealers, because you're a gallery that can't swing with the sharks. They might as well split, which did happen to us, you know, that sort of scenario did happen to us. I also had that to say, “I've already lost an artist,” you know this artist, and they're like, oh yeah, because of your art fair”¦You know, the artist is going to say, “oh you didn't get into the Armory? What the hell? I'm a great artist, I'm a superstar. My work's in the Whitney Biennial, and my art gallery's not in the Armory, well fuck you”¦”

AFC: Yeah, “I want my work to sell”¦”

PG: “I want my work to sell, and I want to be really famous. I want that room at MoMA. I'm the guy, and my art gallery's not in the Armory. Fuck ya'll,” so then they walk. Like sure, some artists aren't going to do that and are going to fight kung fun style the dealer until we get into the fairs or don't or whatever, but I think a lot of the artists are looking for the exposure that they see coming to the other artists at these fairs, be that the Armory or Basel or whatever. So it becomes part of the criteria to maintain a staff of artists, this type of exposure becomes ”¦that was the thing, you have to, it seems, get in there, and I just didn't think the New York art fair of all art fairs should be eroding the kind of landscape of young art dealers by using their artists but not using the galleries, like what the hell's that? You know I'm the poor sucker who sat down here on the Lower East Side in the cold showing this motherfucker without a track record four years ago, and now that he's in the Whitney Biennial and showing in Europe or whatever, you know, you're able to use him and I can't or something.

AFC: Right.

PG: That kind of imbalance.

AFC: Do you know how many galleries from this neighborhood are going to be at the Armory?

PG: I have no real idea, probably none.

AFC: Yeah, that's what I was thinking too.

PG: Well, this is the thing. It's hard for me to throw tomatoes because I got into the thing. So, it's like, ooh, shit, you know”¦

AFC: And you want to get in next year”¦

Look forward to Part Two of Two to appear shortly.

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