Gallerist Wendi Norris is breaking the outdated guidelines of traditional galleries. She’s taking a new route instead, listening and adapting to what the artists and audience want. She’s matchmaking artists and collectors in a more accessible and natural way by presenting art exhibitions in underutilized spaces. Her first, “If I Were a Poet” by María Magdalena Campos-Pons, is open January 9–28 in a San Francisco warehouse. In February, she’ll present another, with Julio César Morales in Guadalajara.
Whitewaller spoke with Norris to hear more about the gallery’s structure and its growing relationships with artists and unconventional spaces.
WHITEWALLER: Can you tell us how you’re adapting to a new model as a gallery, and activating underutilized spaces to present art shows?
WENDI NORRIS: At this stage, I believe there will be two key differences as to how we operate the gallery. First, we will rationalize our programming and present exhibitions when and where they make most sense to a particular body of work. This allows us to be in sync with our artists and ensure that we are showing the best possible work in places where it resonates most effectively with audiences. It also allows us to pour more resources into museums, biennials, or other exhibition projects that may be a priority for our artists. Second, we will be working in new markets for an extended period, further solidifying key relationships with important collections and institutions, influencers, and colleagues. Art fairs create a hyperspeed pace for such interactions, but I am more interested in learning about my collectors and my artists’ markets by working for an extended period in a location, versus a long weekend.
WW: Your first project along this new model will be a María Magdalena Campos-Pons show, and after that, an exhibition in Guadalajara with Julio César Morales. Can you tell us a bit about “If I Were a Poet” with Campos-Pons, on view January 9–28? What will these types of presentations be like?
WN: The two exhibitions will each be adapted for their individual spaces. In the case of “If I Were a Poet,” we will present Magda’s work in a way that leads the viewer through the 5,000-square-foot warehouse and into the classrooms on each side. These intimate classrooms provide a compelling complement to the grandiosity of the main space, allowing the viewer to feel immersed in the work—at one with the work, and also in awe of it. It will be both haunting and majestic at once.
Julio’s exhibition will take place February 8–28 at the Torre Cube in Guadalajara, a marvelous architectural space. The conversations we are having with the space—one of many windows and few walls—provides for raw and unexpected ways of presenting his work.
WW: You’ve said that much of your work today “occurs outside the gallery walls” and spearheads your artists’ museum exhibitions, biennials, public art projects, and publications. Where have you seen the outside work be most successful?
WN: All of these sorts of projects are worthwhile and accrue to the benefit of the artists we represent as well as collectors, scholars, and patrons of the arts. My goal is to advance understanding and enthusiasm for my artists and their careers, and success follows from all of these activities combined—not one or another of them.
WW: For those visiting San Francisco in January, what are some not-to-miss places to see art, and eat or drink at?
WN: Not-to-miss exhibition spaces include Pier 24, Luggage Store, Jessica Silverman, and Altman Siegel. I would recommend visiting the Teotihuacan exhibition at the De Young and the Louise Bourgeois at SFMOMA. The food options are extraordinary. I am fond of frequenting the many great restaurants and bars near the gallery’s new headquarters in Hayes Valley, including Rich Table, Zuni, Souvla, and Petit Crenn.