By Dominique Suberville
Dominique Suberville: You’ve had experience as both Director at Marlborough and Associate Director at L&M Arts, and now as manager to artist Rob Pruitt’s studio. How do you think of these positions as different and/or alike in relation to how you think about painting in the art world?
Vera Neykov: I think all of my positions in the art world are about engaging art with the viewer. Working at a gallery, I interfaced with the public on a daily level and it was more about educating or showing versus working for an artist. Working for Rob, it’s more a collaborative effort of what will go to the gallery – it’s the first step so the conversations are really about what he wants to do and how we can make that happen. We are also constantly discussing culture as a whole, what people are interested in, why, what is the climate and landscape of culture, art, viewership. It’s been great to be on the artist’s side because it’s also just about focusing on one person with multiple projects, so my attention doesn’t have to be spread thin.
DS: During your time at Marlborough you curated both “Blind Cut” and the tongue-in-cheek “Pizza Time!” which have very different curatorial approaches and themes at play. Do you have personal guidelines or ethos about how you put together exhibitions?
VN: I really like themed exhibitions. That’s always been my beginning point. From there, I like to mix older artists with younger ones; almost like giving a glimpse or short story of the history of art told through that theme. When I studied art history, I really understood that you could learn the history of the world through images, and I view exhibitions in the same way. You can (hopefully) become an expert on a theme through looking at an (excellent) exhibition and reading the materials, etc. But, it also leaves you with things to think about or engage with. I also think of the relation all of these artists are going to have within a space and how that will visually look. Hanging and installing the art is nearly as important!
DS: For “Pizza Time!” you stated that pizza itself is something that creates community and something that almost everyone can relate to. Is that what art should be?
VN: I believe that art is for everyone. Galleries are free, museums have free time, street art, etc. All of it should be free and accessible for anyone who wants to see it. The art world is not accessible; the business of it. But I do believe that if you want to look at art, you should be able to without great difficulty.
DS: When putting an exhibition together, what do you look for in an artwork?
VN: I want it to be different. I want it to be inspiring, something that is fun to look at but can be considered even after you are standing in front of it. I also like artworks that tell stories, but perhaps tell the stories just by their visuals (no reading required)!
DS: You split your time between the east (NY) and west coast (LA). Do you seen any clear distinctions in what these two different publics and markets want from contemporary artists?
VN: This is a persistent debate. Historically, Los Angeles is an easier place to make art – it has lots of space, cheap rent, good weather, lots of artists. New York is a better place to show art – dense population, short distances, lots of institutions. However, I feel that in LA you must seek inspiration whereas NY hits you with inspiration constantly (be it on the street, socially, museums, etc.) In NY, things move fast and in LA, slow slow slow. So, NY people want to see the next best thing EVERY DAY, whereas in LA, it takes so long to just see the art, to get it to the place where people can see it. That’s sort of the difference between the two and I don’t think they will ever be interchangeable.
DS: What do you consider to be the most important elements that galleries and gallerists look for when thinking about representing or exhibiting a contemporary artist focused on painting?
VN: I think they look for something that’s different and something that feels fresh. They want to see the artist through the art. I really do think it’s that simple. A different aspect is the bigger galleries want bigger artists. They are almost looking for something different, but I think that younger galleries want to show, above all else, something that people will react to and be attracted to.
DS: Do you see the landscape of painting in the art world being transformed by artists looking to innovate this traditional art form by bringing in new technologies and techniques?
VN: Yes and no. I think that painting will always remain but I do think that people are looking at how to incorporate technology in contemporary art. Art is somehow always so behind in terms of technology that I think younger artists who have now grown up with technology are incorporating it into art – it’s a natural progression I think.
DS: Do you think artists whose practice is painting have different challenges that don’t apply to other art practices when facing the public and art market?
VN: I think it’s harder for a new painter to have a completely unique perspective – because inherently, the materials they are using are the same as all before them and after them. There are also more painters than any other type of artists so the competition more intense.
DS: Are there any emerging artists you’re keeping your eye on now?
VN: My friends! I love my friends’ art and I love seeing how they are evolving and growing and getting to be part of that – Borna Sammak, Alex Da Corte, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Catharine Czudej, Theodora Allen, Darren Bader, Sam McKinniss, Sebastian Black. And also, my mom, Zlatka Paneva! She’s a lifelong artist and is just getting started again after doing other things.
DS: Do you have any suggestions for emerging artists that are looking to expand their audience and network?
VN: I always say to artists, say yes to everything until there is a reason to say no. Be part of whatever shows you can be, show people your art, post on social media, you never know where interest will come from and where it will lead you!