A Valentine for Lisa Spellman on the Anniversary of 303 Gallery

A still form Rodney Graham's Halcion Sleep, 1994. © Rodney Graham, courtesy of 303 Gallery, New York.
A still form Rodney Graham's Halcion Sleep, 1994. © Rodney Graham, courtesy of 303 Gallery, New York.

All roads lead to Lisa Spellman or at least that is our impression after flipping through 303's handsome new historic compendium: 303 Gallery: 35 Years. Published in alignment with the gallery's current anniversary exhibition, the new book fleshes out each era of artists using both archival images and first person essays. To get an even more personalized look at Spellman's legacy, we asked five of her artists to share their favorite memory.

More Family Than Dealer “When Scott from my studio got suddenly very ill while installing a show Lisa helped us through it even when it involved risk to herself. She stayed with Scott at the hospital and gave up her house to me and to Shannon and Scott’s children. It was really one of those above and beyond moments you always remember. Lisa is more than a gallerist to us, she is a good friend.” —Rodney Graham

Installation view of Jane and Louise Wilson: Stasi City at 303 Gallery, 525 W 22 Street, New York, May 16 – July 17, 1998. Courtesy of 303 Gallery, New York.

The Pioneer We first met Lisa in the back of a New York cab sitting next to Colin de Land in 1993. We remember going to the gallery when it was on Greene Street. Lisa has always been such a pioneer and her quota of female artists has always been exemplary even going back to the early nineties when she began showing ground breaking artists like Sue Williams and Karen Kilimnik. We had our first gallery show with 303 in 1998 when they’d just moved to Chelsea from Soho. Before the meeting with Lisa we were very nervous because no one at that time wanted to show large-scale video installation, especially not a room sized one with four projections like Stasi City. Lisa’s response was so inspiring she didn’t hesitate for a moment she said, 'Great, I’d love to show this work.' —Jane and Louise Wilson

Life of the Party Sometime around 2007 whist preparing for my Essex St work with Creative Time in the Lower East Side, Mari Spirito and Peter Eleey orchestrated my first meeting with Lisa. It was a dinner for Rodney Graham set in the back room of a small restaurant in the vicinity of the gallery, I was there by default taking Peter's place as he couldn’t attend. The setting was a small and intimate room, modestly decorated and almost entirely occupied by a big round table. As well as myself, Lisa and Mari, there was Dan Graham and Ceal Floyer, other artists called by as the night went on. This was a gallery dinner the likes of which I’d never experienced—the artists, the intimacy and the relaxed and generous atmosphere were quite unexpected. Little did I know that there were plans afoot to invite me to join the gallery, naive as I was then, but for certain I knew what my answer would be as I could sense that the ambience was due to the sensitivity and empathy of our host. —Mike Nelson

Installation view of Florian Maier-Aichen, 303 Gallery, 525 W 22 Street, New York, January 14 - February 25, 2006. Courtesy of 303 Gallery, New York.

The X-Factor When Lisa once told me that she was practicing hop-ups in her bathtub, I became so jealous. Even though I had lived in LA on and off since ’99 I never bought into the spiritual and physical concept of surfing. To me, the Pacific Ocean was just one of the more unusable waters in the world, too cold, wild and unpredictable. A few years later in November 2010, the day after the MOCA gala, we went surfing near Neptune’s Nest, I mean Lisa did. I helped carry the board, watched her stuff, admired her catching some waves and felt like a bore while she took over the ocean. Surfing, like Southern California is really more about an image or fantasy and whenever I step down to my crawlspace at the house in LA to look after the surfboards Lisa stores there, I realize how much cooler she is than me. —Florian Maier-Aichen

The Short and the Long of It My enduring memory of Lisa is that she is a graceful collaborator, a careful thinker and fun company. What she has built and maintained speaks to her values of patience and passion. —Jacob Kassay