When Monique Meloche took a chance on opening a Chicago gallery back in 2000, she launched with a show called Homewrecker, for which she invited 30 artists to exhibit over all three floors of her Ukrainian Village townhouse. The huge turnout prompted her to find a more permanent spot, as did gentle prodding from her husband. “He was like, ‘Sorry, I don’t want people sitting on my bed watching videos on Saturday when I come home from the gym.’”But while her home is no longer on public view, it remains a kind of lived-in display of contemporary paintings, photography, and sculptural works by artists she represents along with those she simply loves. We were lucky enough to visit recently and get to know Meloche a bit better.
Originally from Toronto, Meloche studied art history and theory at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and got her start on the curatorial side at the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art. She initially had “less than zero interest” in selling art. But when faced with limited mobility in the museum world — as well as a desire to stay in the city she’d fallen for — she explored other options, landing a role with preeminent Chicago dealer Rhona Hoffman, whom she considers a mentor. A few years later, Meloche became the director at Kavi Gupta before setting out on her own.
The work she backs is diverse, but in all of it, she looks for a hands-on, worked-through quality and a solid conceptual framework. She also tends “to favor artists who make insane installations.” The first solo show she put up, I Borrowed My Mother’s Bedroom, was by Joel Ross, who went to his mother’s Texas home and came back with all of her stuff: her bed, her ceiling fan, her VCR, her soap opera tapes, “even her answering machine — it still had a blinking light with a message on it,” recalls Meloche. “The price was ‘Ask Joel’s mother,’ because it was clearly not for sale. I specifically did that because I wanted it to be known: This is going to be a commercial gallery, but I’m a curator at heart.”
That balance is evident in her Wicker Park gallery space, which features a street-facing window of site-specific work, in addition to the main room, where Meloche has lately showcased artists such as Heidi Norton, Carrie Schneider, and Ebony G. Patterson. She champions emerging talents and more established ones, like Rashid Johnson. In Chicago, she can maintain the footprint she wants while having a broad reach. “I can be a big fish in a small pond and that’s worked for me.” Meloche founded Gallery Weekend Chicago, works closely with the Expo Chicago art fair, sits on SAIC’s Fashion Committee, and has found herself brainstorming cultural initiatives with the mayor’s office. In short, she’s a force, and things seem more fun and fabulous in her presence.
Had you peeked into London gallerist Libby Sellers's diary for the week of the Milan Furniture Fair earlier this month, you would have seen all the requisite stops on the circuit: Rossana Orlandi one afternoon, Lambrate and Tortona the next, plus a stop at Satellite and a time out for breakfast at the Four Seasons with Alice Rawsthorn, her former boss. There was time made for shopping — Sellers is a self-admitted clothes horse, having transformed most of her London apartment into a walk-in closet — and for a visit to the 10 Corso Como gallery and bookstore. But despite what you'd expect from one of the world's most respected supporters of emerging design, who for the past two years has commissioned work from and produced pop-up exhibitions with talents like Max Lamb and Julia Lohmann, Sellers did not walk away from the fair with an arsenal of new relationships to pursue. Her scouting is done before she even gets there, in graduate degree shows and over the internet, so that in Milan — unlike the rest of us — she gets to relax and enjoy the show.
At the Armory Show this past November, Cristina Grajales had an original Jean Royère Polar Bear sofa in her booth, which sold for “half a million in minutes,” she recalls. Grajales has had plenty of experience dealing in 20th-century masterpieces like these — both in her decade-long stint directing 1950 for Delorenzo and at the helm of her 12-year-old eponymous gallery in Soho — and yet her own most cherished piece isn’t some icon of modernism at all. It’s not even a design object, but a 19th-century Naga warrior costume she bought at the Tribal Art Fair, and as a mainstay of the large office and presentation room she keeps behind her gallery, only her clients and artists ever get to see it. Of course it’s they, if any, who understand Grajales’s working methods best; they come to her precisely because she looks at objects “as sculptures, for what they are,” and says she’s “not afraid to put together, say, an 18th-century Portuguese table with a contemporary silver tray.” Which is why we figured a privileged peek inside her back room, captured earlier this year by our trusty photographer Mike Vorrasi, might be the ideal way for our readers to get to know her, too.
One of the turning points in Ron Gilad’s career came late on a Sunday evening in January 2008, one of the coldest nights of the year. That’s when the designer, along with nearly 200 other artistically minded tenants, was evicted from his live/work loft building in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn — the result, the New York Fire Department claimed, of an illegal matzo operation being run out of the basement by the building’s landlord. No matter that the Tel Aviv–born designer was out of the country at the time. “I extended my trip a week, but then I came back to nowhere. For three and a half months, I was homeless. And that’s when I started really playing with the idea of spaces and homes, and what, for me, a home really is.”