Lori Zimmer: Exclusive Interview with SOLD Magazine
Accomplished author, Founder of Art Nerd New York, Curator, Artist Advocate...how did this journey in the art world start for you?
I started as the sales director for a gallery. I loved talking with our clients and artists, but it was completely uncreative and unfulfilling- and when I was fired it felt like it was a sort of push into a life I REALLY wanted. I felt a bit lost and confused for a good 6 months, so I started wandering the city and writing about things I saw. I’d log addresses of interesting arty places and architecture on an Excel file (yes, it was that dorky), and that eventually became Art Nerd New York. It was born of just a simple obsession between me and New York history. But I guess I arrived to the eclectic (prob more schizophrenic) career I have now from the relationships and friendships I built and cultivated along the way. I always hoped I was a good writer but was discouraged from writing while in the gallery world, so I immediately started putting articles out there when I was fired in 2009. Lo and behold, it worked, and I was approached by a publisher and now I have two books published, which feels totally surreal.
Photo by Jonathan Grassi
I remember meeting you at a show you curated for both Logan Hicks and Beau Stanton a few years back. It was a wonderful show. How many shows have you curated? Any favorites that make you smile when looking back on them?
I think around 30 actual exhibitions. I have two stand out favorites- first was “George Hearts Maria” in 2012 at heliumcowboy in Germany. I became obsessed with the tradition of Lover’s Eyes. They originated when Prince George IV fell in love with a widow, Maria Fitzherbert in the 1770s. They weren’t allowed to be together, so George had a miniature of his and her eye painted so that they could wear them under their lapels, and look into each other’s eyes secretly whenever they wanted. For the show, we created a miniature gallery within the gallery, which from the outside looked abandoned. Inside, was a tiny (about 3 x 4 feet) sitting room, complete with pristine wall paper, gold door nobs, emblematic rug and works by 30 artists. I let the artists interpret the story how they wanted- either making their own eye miniatures, or creating works inspired by the love story.
The other show close to my heart was “Message in a Bottle,” which I showed at SCOPE Art Show in Miami in 2013 with my friend from QF Gallery and Beau Stanton. I became obsessed (I seem to do that) with the history of sending messages into the sea in bottles, so we created a sort of old timey shipping oddities shop, complete with clapboards, and around 28 artists interpreting their own messages in a bottle. I collaborated on the visuals with Beau- the entire booth was essentially a giant Beau Stanton piece, and he was the featured artist (he debuted his animations there, shown inside portholes). Coincidentally, we were situated next to the free rum stand at the fair, which was PERFECT.
What do you look for in the artists you represent?
I don’t “look” for artists to represent whatsoever. I end up working with artists organically, whom I’ve become friends with and built relationships with- this is very important to me. What can an artist do to grab your attention?
Become part of my network, become my friend. I realize I don’t really operate in a normal or sensical fashion, but I spent a lot of years working around difficult artists and people (we all have I’m sure), and it is important to me to work with people I genuinely respect and like. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, working with difficult artists because I was flattered that they wanted to work with me, but I’d end up just feeling used or abused. What are you currently working on?
Well, I’m about to leave for two months to Paris with my boyfriend Logan Hicks. We’re taking time out to get reinspired, and to work on some projects that need more mental space. I’m working on a potential new book about art history in New York, and really focusing on relaxing because I don’t know how! I am also working on a few shows for the fall/new year- one being an immersive project with my friend Jon Burgerman. Another I’m working on is a bit different from my usual stuff as it is mostly photography- it will be an experiential show about my friend Lukas’ female to male transition process. I hope to convey that this process is not a choice- that no one would put themselves under the knife if it were “trendy” or a phase. I am a big supporter of trans rights, and I hope I can create an experience that will help the fight to normalize it.
Although I’ll be away, I’ll still continue my work with Kushnirsky Gerber PLLC, a law firm I work with as an Artists’ Rights Liaison- which means I help artists get legal advice when they’ve been infringed upon. What is next for you?
Honestly, that is what I am taking this summer to figure out. I’m ready for the next step, but I haven’t been able to step out of my hecticness to figure that out. What is the best thing you learned about how the art community works that may be helpful for someone looking to do what you do?
I’ve made a lot of mistakes and have been treated all sorts of ways. The best thing I’ve learned is to only work with people who will be reciprocal to you (and you should be the same). It seems there are a lot of “takers” out there, if you offer to help them, they will take that help, and never thank you or look back. Be choosy about who you work with and also be proud of what you can offer, and life will be a lot easier. Where can our readers learn more about both you and what you do?
This is where I first met Lori! Pictured here are Logan Hicks, Lori Zimmer, Natalie Kates and Beau Stanton