Aviva Neuman of Brooklyn’s Simon/Neuman² Gallery

The young Swedish curator on her effort to make art truly accessible

by Laila Gohar


When Swedish curator Aviva Neuman decided to open a contemporary art photo gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, she did not have to look far for inspiration; for Neuman, art has always been a family affair. The 25-year-old was raised by her mother, Amy Simon, a visual artist, and her father, David Neuman, the founder and director of the influential contemporary art museum, Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall.

“I grew up working at the museum, constantly being emerged with art and artists as well as understanding the process of artists, as my mother is a working artist. It was always natural for me to attend international art fairs, visit exhibitions and keep myself updated on what was happening in the art world,” Neuman explains to CH. “It’s only now that I realize that also I learned a lot from my parents in a professional sense. It’s about taking risks, but also having a strong eye. Understanding that there are strong trends in the art world, and to not always rely on what is ‘popular,'” she says.


After graduating from Sarah Lawrence with a degree in art history, scriptwriting and film, Neuman started working at Robert Mann Gallery and learned the ins and outs of running a gallery, but her aspirations were larger. “I always had the urge to open my own gallery. I love working with artists and I wanted to create a space/opportunity for artists around the world to be able to exhibit their work. Just like scriptwriting, curating is similar in that it creates a visual story and a feeling,” she says.


With that, Simon/Neuman² Gallery was born. The six-month gallery project for contemporary art photography features the work of emerging artists as well as established artists from around the world. The gallery opened its doors in March 2013, each show displays the work of two to three artists and is held for one month. After the six months, the location might change, but the idea will remain. The objective of Simon/Neuman² Gallery is to create an alternative space to the Chelsea and Lower East Side galleries, where a younger generation will have the opportunity to collect affordable original art and experienced collectors will be exposed to new ideas.


I am trying to create a space and opportunity for a new (and sometimes) younger crowd to be able to collect original art. I want people to understand and value real art.

“All contemporary art photography that I exhibit and sell is always under $1,000. This is very important to me as I am trying to create a space and opportunity for a new (and sometimes) younger crowd to be able to collect original art. I want people to understand and value real art. The gallery is located in Williamsburg for a specific reason, I’m not trying to run a Chelsea or a Lower East Side space, but rather a gallery where one can buy, ask and talk about art. It’s about reaching out to a larger audience,” Neuman explains.


The current show “Through A Glass Darkly” is symbiotically reconnected to a visual world. Named for a phrase used heavily in literature, poetry, music, cinema and in Biblical scripts, the show features work by Jan Tichy (Prague), Thora Dolven Balke (Oslo) and David Terranova (London), with each encompassing sensations of wonder, disorientation, happiness and fear.


For Neuman, things have come full circle as Simon/Neuman² Gallery is a revival of a family gallery, Simon/Neuman, which was established on the Upper East Side in 1985. While the original gallery exhibited artists such as William Kentridge, James Bishop, and Thomas Lawson, along with works from the Bauhaus period, Simon/Neuman² Gallery is taking up the mantle and reformulating this tradition by presenting work that engages and excites a newer, younger and ever-changing audience.

Through A Glass Darkly” opens today, 29 May 2014 and runs through 29 June 2014.

Installation images courtesy of Bastian Thiery, portrait courtesy of Vita Burn