How a Cult Art-World Podcast Became a New York Gallery Show

Benjamin Godsill and Nate Freeman. Image courtesy of Godsill and Freeman.

Old-timers often complain about how corporate and sprawling the art world has become. Those who long for the clubbier, if-you-know-you-know art world of yore find a companion in Nota Bene, which describes itself as “the podcast version of a boozy lunch at Sant Ambroeus.” Hosted by Vanity Fair writer Nate Freeman and art advisor Benjamin Godsill, the podcast’s chatter is about clothes and food (like many in the art world, they have a big crush on Ignacio Mattos) as often as it is about art, and power players are frequently referred to by first name only.

This month, the hosts joined forces with Pascal Spengemann and Joe Cole, the cofounders of Broadway Gallery in New York, to mount “Friends of the Pod.” The show, which opened to shoulder-to-shoulder crowds last week, features work by artists including Jonas Wood, Rashid Johnson, Rebecca Ness, and other pod regulars. For CULTURED, Freeman, Godsill, and Cole gathered to discuss the origins of their collaboration and their outlook for 2024.

”Friends of the Pod” (Installation View), 2023. Photography by Adam Reich. Image courtesy of Broadway Gallery.

Benjamin Godsill: How did the three of us meet?

Nate Freeman: I met Joe in 2018 during Independent.

Joe Cole: At the time, a company I was working for was the sponsor of the Independent, so I was there for that and as a collector. We met, I came to a dinner that I think you both were at at the Odeon.

Freeman: We put together a pretty informal dinner at the Odeon.

Godsill: It feels cosmic that this relationship, the three of us, then started at the Odeon. One of our go-to restaurants. 

Cole: Everybody bought hats also at that dinner?

Godsill: Yes. That would make sense.

Freeman: We all bought hats. I think I lost that hat. And then, I bought another hat in 2021.

Godsill: I knew Joe in passing because I spent a lot of time in Dallas where he was living then. But after that dinner, we became closer, and yeah, Joe ruined one of my dry Januaries.

Joe Cole. Image courtesy of Cole.

Cole: Well, it was always very exciting for me for any of my New York friends to come to town and inject some of that East Coast that I was missing.

Godsill: Fast-forward, you're now running a gallery with Pascal Spengemann, Broadway Gallery. Nate, who's now at Vanity Fair, and I have started a podcast. And you've been a guest in the past. You came to us and said, "Would you guys ever be interested in curating a show based on the podcast? And if so, would you be interested in doing it at the gallery? And if so, could you do it in January of next year?"

Freeman: And Benjamin, you said yes before asking me, which I love. Obviously I was in.

Cole: We don't do a lot of group shows. And I've been looking for somebody to organize a show that would be magnetic, and different, and inject a little excitement into a particular time of the year.

Godsill: It's the first time I've curated a show in New York since I was at the New Museum over 10 years ago. I've done shows in Aspen, in London, in Italy, in Mexico City, in the Hamptons, and now I'm back home. You brought me home.

”Friends of the Pod” (Installation View), 2023. Photography by Adam Reich. Image courtesy of Broadway Gallery.

Freeman: But this was a little different, right? Because it wasn't like you were searching for an overarching theme, or some thread to tie the artists together. This was a show based on our podcast. And so how did we start to think about who would be in the show? And what the show would mean?

Godsill: We thought about artists that have been on the podcast, which isn't a focus, but we have had a number of artists. And then, people that have told us that they’re fans of Nota Bene, they've listened to it in the studio and have given us a lot of feedback. And on top of that, artists we respect and that we think could be commercially viable within the context of a group exhibition. All about that money, money.

Freeman: I love the transparency of how this show came together and why these artists are in it. There isn't any attempt to convince anyone of a mission statement necessarily. The critic Carlo McCormick was at the opening, and he was like, "Nate, why is there a Sarah Charlesworth in this show?" And I was like, "Carlo, that's my wife's mother. That's why she's in the show." And we talked about it on the podcast. That kind of openness, I think people really responded to.

Godsill: Even though it doesn't make sense on paper why these artists are together, when you stand in the space and see the works together and see the people at the opening, it makes a ton of sense. Which I think leads into the next question. How was the opening? Who was there? What were the vibes? What did you wear?

Photography by Christos Katsiaouni. Image courtesy of Godsill and Freeman.

Freeman: I wore a J.Crew suit that now has been pinging around Instagram, which is fun.

Godsill: It's a great suit. I wore a custom sports coat and shirt from my tailor, Franco Ercole. And a wonderful tie from a great menswear atelier, I think now closed unfortunately, in Milan. And this typifies the podcast in New York, a pair of Belgian loafers from the Belgian shoe store on 55th Street.

Freeman: Yep. And you have to purchase them there.

Godsill: You can't buy them online, can't buy them anywhere else.

Freeman: When you walked into the gallery, I just pointed down at your shoes and said, "Belgians. Nice."

Godsill: It was fun. It was long. I haven't stood in an art opening for two hours in a long time, but I had an okay time.

Freeman: What's funny is I am obviously not an artist, and I have never put together a show. So, previously when I've gone to openings, usually at 7:50, I'll be like, "How does the artist just stand here for two hours and just do this? It's pretty intense." But while I was doing it, the time just flew by because you were saying hello to people. You're talking about the show. I was having a blast.

Cole: But for someone who hasn't done this before, you did one thing right that was exciting. You called to see if we could have a quick drink at Frenchette before the opening.

”Friends of the Pod” (Installation View), 2023. Photography by Adam Reich. Image courtesy of Broadway Gallery.

Freeman: I did have the foresight to do that. And we not only had a drink, we had an incredible little plate of ham.

Cole: I have an opening every four to five weeks, so we do this a lot. I would say this one was a smash. That was a lot of people on a Monday night at the beginning of the year for the gallery. It's exactly what we wanted.

Godsill: I have zero compunction about the Monday opening. I think that was the right choice. I'm glad we called it. In addition to artists, we had really great art-world people in attendance. We had, obviously, Max Hollein and his wife, Nina. He's the Met director.

Cole: …who have definitely never been here before.

Godsill: It's weird to be the focus of attention in an opening. I've never had that before.

Freeman: Yeah. That was new.

Godsill: This is more for therapy. It doesn't make me super comfortable.

Cole: You guys were essentially a proxy for an artist at the opening.

Godsill: I saw Nate working that room. I was feeling a little bit awkward until I got to the dinner or the party afterwards. Which was the perfect location, very casual at The River. They had some great "phony," non-alcoholic Negronis.

”Friends of the Pod” (Installation View), 2023. Photography by Adam Reich. Image courtesy of Broadway Gallery.

Freeman: For you dry January folks. I love a dinner that you can walk to also. It was the perfect walk.

Godsill: This gave you time. I walked with a buddy, we downloaded on the event and some other gossip. It was like an episode of the podcast, actually. Another question: More broadly, what do you want to see more of and less of in the art world in 2024?

Cole: I mean, I'm not a big complainer about the art world. It's been good to me. We did seven art fairs last year and we're not going to do seven this year. So I guess I'm going to see less art fairs. What I want to see more of is people getting out there, seeing shows, spending time in person with art. That was not a great answer, but I don't have a lot to complain about.

Godsill: Well, I do. No, not really. I'll continue to harp on this. I want to see less of buy one, gift one. I want to see less of "on hold for an institution." And I want to see more of people saying yes. "Yes, I want to own that painting. Yes, I want it now." I want to see more money. Nate, you got anything?

Freeman: I want to see more. Just people doubling down on the city and the community that they are in. There are shows that I missed in New York—good, big shows—because I was traveling and that seems silly to me. And I want to make sure that I support downtown by just going to shows, walking through with the dealer, and really taking it in. It's a small-time investment that pays off in a big way.

Godsill: I love that answer.

Freeman: That being said, on the flip side of that, when I go to art fairs in New York, or when I do have to travel, I want to expose myself to galleries and cities that I would never have the chance to visit. Meet new galleries and get a glimpse of their program, even if it's just in an art fair booth, because I'm not going to make it to Buenos Aires this year, I know that. So it would be nice to just meet a gallerist.

”Friends of the Pod” (Installation View), 2023. Photography by Adam Reich. Image courtesy of Broadway Gallery.

Cole: What about more dinners and more cocktails?

Freeman: Well, there's a lot of those.

Godsill: This leads into what we're hitting and skipping in the next year. In general, I am one to hit flying to cities just to see shows for particular artists whose practices I'm into. Going to Venice to see the Biennale, things like that. When big artists have shows in Paris, in Frankfurt, going just to see that and less of going to see second and third level art fairs.

Freeman: I love that you flew to go see Dana Schutz's show in Denmark.

Godsill: Yep, exactly. More art-specific travel and not event travel. And then, just if we want to drop myself, what's next in the gallery? What do you have in store in terms of fairs, or shows that you are really excited about? I know all of them.

Cole: Our next show is Adrianne Rubenstein. It'll be her second show here. And then we're getting ready to go to Los Angeles at the end of February for Felix, where we'll be showing Devin Troy Strother and a new artist for the gallery named Niki Ford. And doing a collaborative presentation with Overduin & Co. of Claire Oswalt at Lisa Overduin's gallery.

Godsill: And in terms of the pod, just more, more, more. More consistency, that's what you have to look forward to.

Freeman: Absolutely.

Godsill: And that's it. Nota Bene out.