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New Collectors on Henry Street

Sibilla Maiarelli is the founder and director of New Collectors; a gallery housing on the very exciting gallery street that is namely Henry Street in NYC. We recently met during a trip and had a great conversation and could relate to her journey as a gallerist that has been about trusting own instincts and being willing to learn as you go. "Trusting yourself takes a lot of confidence and it took me a while to feel like I wasn’t a total imposter in the art world. I’m sure a lot of people struggle with this.", she says candidly.

Sibilla Maiarelli. Photo courtesy of New Collcetors

C-P: When I met you at the gallery in connection to your currently ongoing exhibition Out of Joint which joins Éva Ostrowska who I am working with later this year, I learnt that you are a trained artist and opted to start the gallery instead of pursuing an MA in Curatorial studies. Run me through your backstory leading up to venturing as a gallerist.

S.M: Growing up, my parents were always surrounding me with art. I remember going to gallery openings and open studios starting at a young age. When we traveled, we always visited museums, and they filled our home with art. I remember having a conversation with my mom – I was probably still in high school – about the kind of work I wanted to pursue as a career; she told me to think about the people I wanted to be surrounded by, and to let that guide me. I knew then that whatever I would eventually end up doing, I wanted to be working with artists. And what better way to work with artists than to curate and exhibit their work?

Installation view, Out of Joint, curated by Alice Sossella, New Collectors, July 15 – August 8, 2021

During the pandemic, I was contemplating going to grad school – I assumed that this would be the only way to get a job as a curator (plus, I love being in school). In the end, my lack of patience and the advice of my mother to “be bold” – to take risks in life – convinced me to pursue curation in my own gallery, taking on whatever other responsibilities were necessary to make it happen.

C-P: I was inspired by the gallery cluster around Henry Street and Chinatown, feeling - to resort to a cliché - a lot of energy there. What were the considerations like for you in finding the right location for the gallery?

S.M: Before the pandemic, I was working part-time for a friend and mentor, Todd Mauritz, at his gallery

M 2 3, which had just moved from East Williamsburg to Henry Street. There were already a number of galleries emerging on Henry Street– starting with 56 Henry in 2015– and Two Bridges (this subsection of the Lower East Side) already had a budding reputation as the place to find smaller, emerging galleries. The proximity to other galleries and my familiarity with the neighborhood were huge factors, but I still wasn’t convinced. The idea of opening a physical space still seemed unattainable. When I found the space listed online, I immediately called Todd and he encouraged me to go for it.

Installation view, online/offline, New Collectors, July 15 – August 8, 2021

C-P: I also find the gallery name, New Collectors, to be an interesting choice in so far as the name positions the gallery with a degree of inclusivity that stands in contrast to the exclusivity many people ascribe to contemporary art and also seek within this realm. It lowers the threshold of entry, figuratively speaking, and would speak to a certain demographic. It would surely put some collectors and possibly also artists off but also speak to others who "get the name" and possibly like myself find some subtle humour in it.

S.M: I had to do some serious thinking about why I wanted to open a gallery: what made me different, and what would set my gallery apart from the other 100+ galleries in the Lower East Side alone. As you mentioned, the business model of traditional, big-name galleries is built on their ability to create and cultivate a certain exclusivity around their artists; that's not what I envisioned for myself, my artists, and my collectors.

When someone buys art for the first time, it’s like a light goes on; they realize that they can surround themselves with objects that give them immense pleasure. And they feel good about supporting a small gallery and emerging artists. Just as we need to nurture the careers of artists, I think it’s just as important that we nurture a future generation of art collectors.

Installation view, The Night is Not Still, New Collectors, December 9, 2022 - January 15, 2023

C-P: What have these first years running the gallery been like?

S.M: I opened the gallery when I was 24 with very little experience, so I have been learning by doing since day one. I have come to accept that every mistake and every setback is a learning opportunity. But I think the most important lesson has been about trusting my instincts: trusting yourself takes a lot of confidence and it took me a while to feel like I wasn’t a total imposter in the art world. I’m sure a lot of people struggle with this. I think with time, we all become more in tune with our gut which ultimately leads us to a more authentic version of ourselves.

Sibilla Maiarelli. Photo courtesy of New Collcetors

C-P: As for the future; what is the vision for the foreseeable future and are there any impending changes lying ahead?

S.M: I’m constantly working on collaborations and side projects. Sometimes they come to fruition and sometimes they don’t. For this reason, things change pretty frequently. What I know for certain is that I have a lot of exciting exhibitions coming up that I’m eager to share, a few new artists I will begin representing, and more gallery tours that I will be leading.

C-P: Beyond your own gallery program; what are some exhibitions or art happenings you are looking forward to yourself this year?

S.M: Zona Maco, the art fair in Mexico City, took place not long ago. While I was not able to attend, I will be heading to Mexico next week and am very much looking forward to seeing the exhibitions at Museo Tamayo, Museo Jumex, and some contemporary art galleries. If I could always be traveling to see art, I would!

Installation view, The Night is Not Still, New Collectors, December 9, 2022 - January 15, 2023

C-P: Hard final question; there are always artists who haven't had their proper due yet or who are emerging into view whom you hope will find their moment. Who are some of those for you?

S.M: An artist that comes to mind is Ryan Rennie; he’s the first artist to be represented by the gallery and I’ve always felt that his work is unique in aesthetics, process, and subject. It’s been interesting to see how people become absolutely enchanted by his work when they see it in person. He makes wall hanging ceramics from plaster press molds and glazes them with a spray gun so that their surface varies from glossy to matte, creating an optical illusion in some instances. He had a solo with the gallery last Spring and another one coming up in the Fall.

Two other artists I feel strongly about are Maximilian Thuemler and Alice Gong. Maximilian is a photographer who will have a solo with the gallery in March, and Alice is a sculptor who I also plan on exhibiting in the future. Oddly enough, all three of these artists submitted work to my very first open call and exhibited together in my second exhibition. I feel lucky to be working with all three of them– often you won’t be the only gallerist to have fallen in love with an artist’s work, and it can become competitive to work with them.

Having said that, any artist I work with more than once is an artist I feel deserves the platform and space to exhibit. I want others to feel the excitement and joy I feel when viewing their work.

Ashik Zaman


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