Jennifer Rubell Shows No Fear at Meredith Rosen Gallery

Cait Munro

Photography by Jason Schmidt

Artist Jennifer Rubell performs each night of her solo exhibition at Meredith Rosen Gallery.

Since its inception in 2013, the Lower East Side gallery Sargent’s Daughters, run by Allegra LaViola and Meredith Rosen, has been dedicated to showing up-and-coming artists working in mediums such as painting, drawing and sculpture. But on the tail of a year that seems to have included more shake-ups, shutdowns and shifts in New York’s gallery scene than usual, Rosen made the difficult decision to strike out on her own, selecting a 3,000-square-foot space on West 34th Street for the site of her first eponymous gallery.

If there were any creative differences between the former business partners, Rosen is quick to gloss over them. “Everything was going well and it was great, but we were just putting on exhibitions, we weren’t representing artists,” she says. “When I started to really represent a few artists, it wasn’t the right platform for them, so I felt I needed to create one.”

Among those Rosen will represent are Theo Triantafyllidis, a young Greek artist working in new media, and Jennifer Rubell, the conceptual feminist artist known for her participatory, often food-based performances, whose solo show opening in February will be the gallery’s first. Rubell will present new paintings and drawings and will also star in a daily performance in which viewers can throw cream pies at her face. Rosen has been working with the pair of artists for three and five years, respectively, and has fostered a genuine closeness with them that feels increasingly rare among contemporary galleries concerned more with sales and keeping up with the breakneck pace of the international art fair calendar.

New painting by Jennifer Rubell. Courtesy of artist and Meredith Rosen Gallery.

“I dive deep in,” Rosen admits. Prior to joining forces with LaViola, who has announced that she will continue to run Sargent’s Daughters on her own, Rosen was a director at BravinLee Gallery in Chelsea, making her a 10-year veteran of New York’s downtown art scene. “I felt I had artists that I needed to bring to the world,” she says of her career path.

“Meredith is my dream of an art dealer,” says Rubell. “She’s an artists’ dealer, intensely supportive, willing to take risks, open to the new and excited by the unknown. One of my favorite things she says: ‘If you’re not terrified, the work isn’t good enough.’”

If it’s a daunting time, both economically and politically speaking, to be opening a new gallery, Rosen doesn’t seem particularly concerned. Indeed, like many ambitious young gallerists with a roster of equally ambitious artists, she believes that putting thought-provoking work into the world is the best possible antidote to the turmoil.

“Especially as a female art dealer, I think it’s always important to, rather than take a stand, lead by example,” says Rosen. “And I think there’s no better way to do that than to be one of the best galleries in the world, to have the strongest program and most importantly, bring the best artists to the table.”

Get a taste of the new show with Jason Schmidt’s short video below.