In 2020, Danielle Dewar and Marlee Katz founded Tchotchke Gallery, a then-digital art platform that reacted to the parameters of the pandemic. Now, the co-founders are expanding the gallery to its first brick-and-mortar space in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Opening today with a group show entitled Homecoming (on view until 11 February), Tchotchke continues to be an artists-first gallery that represents their roster beyond their works. Further, the new gallery aims to be a welcoming and inclusive space to enjoy art.
Long before the pandemic, the duo questioned the conventions of traditional art spaces. Having met and worked together at a blue-chip gallery (focused on established and reliably profitable art) in Midtown, the co-founders often discussed what they wished to change in the industry. “I was sitting front-of-house at another gallery and we were basically instructed not to be transparent about available works or prices. It seemed to be very non-inclusive which was something that didn’t resonate with either of us,” Dewar tells COOL HUNTING. “We wanted to work with artists who are alive and foster a community that was a little bit more welcoming than the white cube environment.”
When the pandemic began, Dewar and Katz’s team was laid off, motivating them to transform their dream into reality. “After having started the gallery we realized that for us to grow and for us to help our artists grow, having the physical space is so important,” says Katz. “We want the artists on our program and the artists that we show to have a place that they can call home.”
“Community and the artists on our program are top of importance to us. So we’re considering: how we can further their careers and what we can do for them as far as representation? Every artist wants a solo show in New York City on their CV. So we’re like, how can we make that happen?” asks Dewar.
Once the decision to open a physical location was made, the co-founders had to figure out where it should be. East Williamsburg, became their top choice because half of their artists live in the area, as well, and it’s populated with other creatives and artist studios. As opposed to the locations of the galleries that the co-founders worked in previously, this neighborhood feels “more artist-centric than collector-centric,” says Katz.
After signing the lease in November 2022, the pair renovated the 122-year-old property (which was previously a vegan cheese shop) throughout December, removing the kitchen and repainting the walls. To activate the space, the co-founders partnered with an art handler who lives nearby as well as a local photographer to shoot the space. From the recessed doorway and unassuming brick facade to the archways and feature walls within, the gallery makes subtle yet charming and welcoming visual deviations from the traditional, white cube space.
In many ways, Dewar and Katz operate Tchotchke as more than just a gallery; they champion their artists beyond their platform. Leveraging their networks, the duo also helps their artists create partnerships in the fashion and homeware industries. For instance, they created a collaboration between artist Rachael Tarravechia and Tory Burch, among many others.
“Our ultimate goal is to assist in the career trajectory of our artists,” says Dewar. “Our mutual goal is to get our artists into more museum collections, art fairs—just help them reach their goals.”
There are currently four artist in their program: Tarravechia, Josiah Ellner, Debora Koo and Elena Redmond. All are featured in Homecoming and each will get a solo show in the new space this year. For the debut exhibition, which plays on the celebration of Tchotchke having a new home, Dewar and Katz gave the artists one brief: create something that is indicative of your practice.
The loose direction provided the artists with the freedom to create something exciting and meaningful to them. Just as a homecoming often pairs with a school’s end-of-year or yearbook superlatives, each artist has a superlative that speaks to their unique practice and visual language, from “Most Likely to Survive Patrick Bateman” to “Most Likely to Weed Out Unnecessary Drama” and “Most Likely to Free the Nipple.”
“We can’t do what we do without the artists. Without them we don’t exist,” says Katz. By supporting their artists’ work in the new gallery space to creating collaborations with established brands and working on partnership with local business (like with nearby design store Home Union or coffee shop and creative space land to sea), Tchotchke puts their appreciation into practice.
Images courtesy of Tchotchke Gallery