From the Interior Designer: Launching an Art Gallery that Won't Stay Put

BY: MAGDALENA KECK JANUARY 24TH, 2019

In a way, I have been building up to opening a gallery my whole life. I started thinking about it in real terms a couple of years ago as the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

As an interior designer, I work with art consultants, gallerists, and artists on a regular basis. It is an incredibly fulfilling part of my daily work. I love the discovery, the unexpected, and the feeling of experiencing a connection.

Art is an essential part of humanity and the human environment. In my opinion, it has nothing to do with just decoration. It is a way of expression, which we naturally crave and find satisfaction in.

In my design practice, I do think art is something that needs to be considered from the beginning.

Art has always been in my life. My parents had a modest collection and supported artists who came to paint en plein air in our picturesque town in the Masuria region of Poland. Later, I studied painting and art history before moving to New York. Eventually, I started my own art collection, not even realizing how fulfilling this would be. I own pieces by O’Hara and Michel Comte among others.

In my design practice, I do think art is something that needs to be considered from the beginning as it can inform and inspire the habitant and the space. With that said some room for growth can be and should be left, I generally select art with my clients.

The lighting fixtures in the space are from Roll & Hill's collection. Photography by Jeff Cate.

I have been fortunate to meet and work with talented artists, and I want to share their work and encourage others to take time to experience it and see where it takes them. Magdalena Keck Gallery is not a traditional gallery. We are more nomadic. My idea is to work with partners to create exhibitions and events in different settings. We have open dialogs with showrooms, galleries, and real estate developers seeking synergy in creating engaging experiences.That also means that we don’t have an ongoing overhead associated with a permanent base. We can scale up or down as we wish; we can have multiple shows in different parts of the world, and we can diversify our audience.

Looking and working with different new partners can be challenging and stressful at times but the benefits outweigh the cons. If there is synergy things usually go smoothly. The exposure is great for everyone and so far the reception has been overwhelmingly positive.

To continue to find great work, having a supporting, engaging community is essential. I have been working with Elizabeth Sadoff (a fellow Brick & Wonder member) of Sadoff Art Advisory for about 15 years. This has been of incredible value. Artists who I work with often introduce me to their colleagues. I make it part of my practice to do studio visits on regular basis. There is no better way to get to know artists and their work.

Art has a place in minimal interiors. It works because it references the inhabitants' interests or points in life, and evokes emotions. A Morgan O'Hara work on view in a client's foyer. Photography by Jeff Cate
Larry Lee Webb's painting anchors this room.

We are not under a lot of pressure for instant success.

I am often asked how I am planning to make the gallery venture successful. My formula is the combination of three components: the passion for the project, the unique connection with artists, colleagues and partners I work with and just lots of old-fashioned work.

And we are not under a lot of pressure for an instant success. We are approaching it slowly, carefully looking into the different elements, building the connections, and learning what works. We are looking at this as an informed process rather than an execution of a perfect plan.

A Morgan O'Hara pencil drawing titled LIVE TRANSMISSION: movement of the hands of percussionist ESTEBAN ROBLEDO while doing a LIVE TRANSMISSION PERFORMANCE / Colectivo Mapocho / Santiago, Chile / 2nd Bienal International de Performance / 5 November 2/2008 Photo: Jeanette May

I partnered with the Jason Miller, founder and creative director of Roll & Hill, to present our first exhibition in their showroom. Its title is “Morgan O’Hara: LIVE TRANSMISSION, On Stage” and it’s up through February 21. The works are performative drawings, quiet but intense recordings of live performances, done with multiple graphite pencils in each hand. Works from this series are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum, and the National Gallery, but priced from $1,200 to $12,000 they allow a certain degree of accessibility that buyers might not expect.

Magdalena Keck is the principal of Magdalena Keck Interior Design, the director of her eponymous gallery and a Brick & Wonder member.

Exhibition/showroom hours are 10-6 Monday - Friday and 12-6 on Saturday.

Morgan at work.