Things Grow Together: Pool Gallery on Curatorial Relationships

by Jordan Nassar // Dec. 2, 2010

It is no surprise that pool gallery’s Jordan Nassar, Exhibitions Manager and Artist Liaison, comes from a fast-paced fashion background, stocked with experience from the likes of Vogue Japan and NY Fashion Week under his belt. Translating the aesthetic eye, the aptitude for concept and theme based work, and the logistical organization learned in his fashion experience into the art world has proven a task of ease for Nassar, who started as a gallery assistant in 2008 and quickly became the curatorial assistant and general right-hand man.

Currently, the pool gallery team also consists of Gallery Manager, Elisa Freudenreich, a Berlin-native, and founding owner, Lars Dittrich. Through maintaining a close working relationship, the small but effective team is devoted to presenting trans-disciplinary contemporary art to a broad audience, through exhibitions at their Berlin-based gallery, and participation in international art fairs. As the gallery aims to cultivate a platform for young and emerging talents, the curatorial roles and relationships at hand raise questions for exploration. In the following essay, Nassar expands upon the most recent curatorial approach behind two of pool’s exhibitions, and the successes of curatorial collaboration within the gallery’s network.

Jordan Nassar and Elisa Freudenreich // Photo by Mike Milosh

A contemporary art gallery serves a variety of functions; aims to accomplish a certain set of goals. Hopefully high on the list of priorities – which includes presenting beautiful exhibitions, making sales, and gaining entry into prestigious art fairs – is the forwarding of the artists’ careers, represented by the gallery.

I can only speak from my experience, of course, and that would mean taking pool gallery in Berlin as an example. Over the past two years at pool gallery, my task has been to orchestrate exhibitions both within the gallery walls and at art fairs around the world. There are, as one would assume, a variety of factors that are necessary for an exhibition to take form. From the discovery of the artist to studio visits, the curatorial selection to installation, and the Vernissage – the process is often a long one, spanning in some cases up to a year.

This formula, while different and exciting each time, is nevertheless a formula, a check-list of steps from conception to execution. As is to be expected, every so often the urge arises to shake things up; to find another way to effect the exhibition process whilst supporting our artists. In early 2010, we had a new idea – to integrate the pool gallery artists directly into our curatorial approach, establishing a dynamic co-curatorial relationship as the foundation for future exhibitions.

The idea originally arose thanks to James Gallagher, a New York-based collage artist whose works have been exhibited at pool gallery since 2008. In 2009 Gallagher curated ‘Cutters’, an exhibition at Cinders Gallery in Brooklyn featuring the works by some of his favorite contemporary collage artists. Gallagher was due for an exhibition at pool gallery in 2010, and so he proposed an updated second wave of his ‘Cutters’ exhibition, featuring some of the same artists along with new additions. After a lengthy process of co-curation between Gallagher and pool gallery, ‘Cutters2010’ opened in May and ran through mid-July, featuring 60-odd works by 13 artists from around the world.

According to Gallagher: “Curating is a very gut instinct thing for me. My goal is to find work that feels good together, that i think will interact well in a space. With collage as the medium for my Cutters exhibitions, the whole process is like creating the ultimate collage. The results are always exciting when the work is finally hung. The tension between some works and the cohesion between others makes an interesting story line. Many of the artists that I chose to work with create art that I have been following for some time now. I had built up a huge collection of downloaded images that moved me in a personal way. After I had gathered enough, I felt that I had to contact these people and let them know how much i appreciated what they did. The vehicle for that communication was the first ‘Cutters’ show. The response was great, and the exhibitions brought out admirers of collage from all over the globe, and gave me the opportunity to meet many talented people working in the medium.”

Mario Wagner: Rescue Me (left); Justin Mortimer: Untitled 5 (right), works from ‘Cutters2010’

After such a positive experience with James Gallagher and ‘Cutters2010’, our pool curatorial team knew we were on to something. As a gallery that houses group exhibitions with some frequency, we found this approach an effective way to work with new artists, not to mention give more artists a chance to gain exposure by exhibiting their work in Berlin. Developing this relationship of gallery artists as co-curators not only increased the shared knowledge between us, but also broadened the gallery’s network. Guest curators are not out of the question, but as with Gallagher’s case, his involvement in and passion for the medium of collage resulted in his bringing talented artists to our walls that we might never have heard of, let alone worked with.

Most recently, Amy Stein, whose photographs we have also been showing since 2008, curated a show in her medium. After another lengthy process, Amy Stein’s Things Fall Apart opened on November 19, 2010, featuring the works of seven American female Photographers: Juliana Beasley, Lisa Kereszi, Stacy Mehrfar, Justine Reyes, Robin Schwartz, Zoe Strauss, and a few of Stein’s own works. As with the ‘Cutters2010’ show, Amy’s curation of an exhibition within her field of expertise has given us a chance to work with artists with whom we otherwise might not have worked, or artists whose terrific work we may never have come across. Stein described how her work as an artist influenced her curatorial approach: “You begin a long term project like Stranded with some very definite ideas about the work, but, over time, those ideas evolve. You begin narrowly and then you see broader themes that help connect your work to the work of other artists. As you take this conceptional journey the project gets stronger. This curatorial experience has allowed me the unique luxury of taking a step back and literally placing my work in context with the images and artists that motivated me or helped push the series forward.”

Works from Things Fall Apart by Juliana Beasley: Leopard Lady, 2003, C-Print, 49.5×49.5cm, Edition of 9 (left); Butchie Under the Covers, 2003, C-Print, 49,5×49,5cm, Edition of 9 (right)

So far, this approach to group shows is ideal for so many reasons – it is a great way to support the artists that we work with, a great way for us to come into contact with new artists, and an opportunity for everyone to see great shows curated by people with a real passion for the work. A photo show curated by a photographer, a collage show curated by a collage artist – such a simple idea, with truly extraordinary results.

Exhibition Info

Pool Gallery

Tucholskystraße 38, 10117 Berlin
Representing: Amy Stein, Mercedes Helnwein, Andreas Mühe, Michelle Jezierski, Mario Wagner
Booth 114, Miami


Things Fall Apart
Group show: Juliana Beasley, Lisa Kereszi, Stacy Mehrfar, Justine Reyes, Robin Schwartz, Amy Stein, Zoe Strauss
Curator: Amy Stein
Exhibition: Dec. 10, 2010–Jan. 15, 2011


Groupshow: April Gertler, Brion Nuda Rosch, Cless, Erik Foss, James Gallagher, Justin Mortimer, Jason Glasser, Liam Crockard, Mario Wagner, Matt Lipps, Max-O-Matic, Sophie Kern, Valero Doval
Curator: James Gallagher
Exhibition: May–July, 2010

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