An Interview with a Dealer: Claire Warner

Each week, CGN interviews a local art dealer to discuss the ins and outs of running a gallery in the city of Chicago. This week we caught up with Claire Warner of Volume Gallery.

Gallery: Volume Gallery
Name: Claire Warner
Age: 37
Previous occupation: Specialist, Wright Auction
Hometown: Dayton, Ohio

Chicago Gallery News: Please describe your gallery’s program in one sentence.

Claire Warner: Volume Gallery focuses on American decorative arts and design with a strong emphasis placed on emerging contemporary architects, artists, designers and makers.

CGN: How did you decide to open Volume Gallery with Sam Vinz?

CW: Sam and I worked together very briefly at Wright. When the market collapsed in 2008, I had an idea of starting a gallery that featured new work from emerging designers. In my head there was really no stress to starting something when the market seemed in ruins. I connected with my friend, the very talented Jonathan Nesci, to be the first exhibition. He asked if I remembered Sam Vinz, who had also approached him about exhibiting in a new gallery that he was starting with the same mission. All three of us sat down to discuss, and Sam and I joined forces to start Volume. Jonathan Nesci’s The New was our first exhibition.  

CGN: What were you doing before you opened the gallery?

CW: Working at Wright in Chicago as a 20th century and contemporary design specialist.

CGN: What's the first thing you do each morning when you get to the gallery? 

CW: Go through the day with Sam.

CGN: Thumbs up or down on art/design fairs?

CW: Thumbs up—fairs have gotten a bad reputation lately because of their abundance and expense to galleries, but it is the best way for people to see a condensed amount of work. And if you are not able to afford multimillion-dollar pieces, you get to see master works before they go into a private collection and might not be able to be viewed publicly in our lifetime. For us in the contemporary market, the fairs offer a snapshot into the now and a way to connect in person with new work. Dealing largely in material based work, it is crucial for us to be able to get people to view and feel. Exhibiting on an international platform like Design Miami gives us the opportunity to reach more people than we can in Chicago and expose our program to emerging collectors.

CGN: What advice would you share with new or young collectors?

CW: Buy from galleries! Galleries have gotten the reputation as intimidating places to purchase, but 90% are approachable and offer works in a wide range to fit emerging collectors budgets. If you don’t have the budget for an original, you can buy a multiple. If you can’t buy a multiple, you can buy the exhibition catalog. Buy what you love and stretch to get a work you really want. Buying from galleries supports the artist directly and contributes culturally in your community.

CGN: Best sale you ever had?

CW: The most fun has been the project we are doing with Commune (Los Angeles) and Ace. We worked intimately with Commune to commission nine works of art and design for the Ace Hotel Chicago, a beautiful new Bauhaus inspired building in the Fulton Market area. The hotel opens officially this September and features artists and designers from Volume’s program as well as some new additions from Chicago.  

CGN: Designers you admire but don't represent?

CW: Charlotte Perriand, Claire Zeisler (they don’t have to be living right?)

CGN: What major successes have you had this year? What about challenges?

CW: Fortunately, this has been our most successful year to date. We moved into a new location, which has increased traffic, and more people are aware of the gallery and our program. Challenges have been to balance running a growing business while equally focusing on curation and finding new work to exhibit.

CGN: What is your favorite interest outside of the art world?

CW: My daughter Ada.

CGN: What is your favorite work of public art in Chicago?

CW: Not just saying this because Volume is having a solo exhibition opening this September with Kreuck and Sexton—but Crown Fountain is truly amazing. Jaume Plensa’s video sculpture executed by Kreuck and Sexton is a perfect balance of interactive art and design.

CGN: What else is coming up at your gallery?

CW: After Kreuck and Sexton’s exhibition, we have Tanya Aguiniga’s third solo show with the gallery, which opens in November.

Claire Warner is the co-founder of Volume Gallery located in the Ukrainian Village. For more information about her gallery visit: Volume Gallery.

Image: Claire Warner with co-director Sam Vinz