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 Aron Gent, owner of DOCUMENT.
Current Position: Gallerist, Printmaker, Artist
Hometown: Wales, Wisconsin
Previous Occupations: Sandwich Maker, Paperboy, Tennis Racquet Stringer, Golf Cart Attendant
5 favorites from the past week:
Restaurant: Shiki (Japanese restaurant)
Shop: Art Los Angeles Contemporary
Read: People's mannerisms while standing in my booth at an art fair
Neighborhood: Brentwood, Los Angeles, CA
Music: The Sirius XM Classical channel in my rental car
CGN: Tell us about your background and the process of opening DOCUMENT?
AG: My father is a commercial photographer in Milwaukee, and he was a big influence for me growing up. I ended up going to Columbia College and fell in love with the art side of photography. After graduating in 2007 I started printmaking at a digital inkjet studio. At the time I was working, curating shows at my friend Edmar’s space (Co-Prosperity Sphere) and going to my studio at night to make my own work. I realized I was spending a lot of time traveling between those 3 things, so in 2011 I decided to merge them all together to create DOCUMENT.
CGN: Give us a day in the life!
AG: I start my day walking to the gallery. I always start with a pot of coffee and a smoothie and then dive into work (open the gallery, answer emails, make prints, edit images, photograph things, do invoices, and resist the control freak in me and try not to micromanage my employees and interns.) Usually I wrap up around 6 or 7 at night and either go to the gym, or have a drink with friends. I also travel quite a bit. Last week I was in Los Angeles for one art fair. In two weeks we will be in Mexico City for another fair.
CGN: How would you sum up your experience running DOCUMENT?
AG: All I really am is a problem solver. People come to me with their art related problems, and I solve them. I’m grateful to have my own business, and I’ve learned that a lot of patience, flexibility, and always making sure your client is happy and satisfied at the end of the day is key.
CGN: Most exciting sale you ever had?
AG: We sold out an entire show for the first-time last year. It took a few months, and a lot of hard work, but it felt so satisfying.
CGN: Share some successes as well as challenges this year.
AG: Last year we moved the gallery and studio from the West Loop to West Town. My girlfriend Betsy and I also moved into a new apartment at the same time, so that was an adjustment. The hardest part of running the gallery is keeping the exhibition program tight, focused and well curated. Juggling fairs, printing, photographing, out of town travel, studio visits and telling artists "no" on certain things can be difficult.
CGN: What do you want to tell a young person considering this business?
AG: If you want to start a commercial gallery it will take 5 years to break even, and then 5 more years to make a living. You will always have to readjust yearly to stay relevant. You need to commit and really focus on the long game; patience is key, and you will be rewarded if you put in the time and do the work.
CGN: What do you look for in an artwork? When searching for work yourself, what speaks to you personally?
AG: I specialize in photography, video and sculpture. I’m drawn towards work that has a strong conceptual backing that is equally strong in its execution.
CGN: Favorite cultural pursuit outside of the art world?
AG: I eat, sleep and breathe art. Outside of that I enjoy how great television is these days, and I just took up tennis again.
CGN: What should we expect to see next from DOCUMENT?
AG: Now we have up a great 4-channel video and sound installation by Mary Helena Clark, who was in the last Whitney Biennial.
Next is a show of Howardena Pindell video drawings, which will open the same weekend as her MCA solo exhibition mid-February.
Then Paul Mpagi Sepuya will have an exhibition of new photos that will overlap with his inclusion in MoMA’s Being: New Photography 2018 show that opens in New York mid-March.
In June we will open a Sterling Lawrence show – we just exhibited his work in our booth at Art Los Angeles Contemporary fair and people freaked out over what we showed.
In July Sibylle Friche, our gallery director, is curating a summer group show.
We will kick off the fall 2018 season with a Stan VanDerBeek show in September during EXPO CHICAGO.
Aron Gent is the owner of DOCUMENT in West Town, Chicago. For more information about the gallery please visit: DOCUMENT