Cultured Magazine

June/July 2015

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New York easily outstrips Los Angeles in the sheer number of art galleries it has. But for rising star curator Jarrett Gregory—who began her career in New York at the Whitney and the New Museum—L.A. beats New York hands-down in the number of working artists who live there. "I think the best thing about being in Los Angeles is I get to see so many studios. I love studio visits," says Gregory, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's associate curator of contemporary art. "And now the talk about what's going on in the city has almost become this viral thing." Not that she had that much time last year to leave the museum grounds. For months, Gregory was working seven days a week to bring forth one of the most talked-about exhibits in the city last year, the fantastically staged retrospective of French conceptual artist Pierre Huyghe. It was a massive undertaking that turned museum galleries into otherworldly environments, mixing video and sculpture with live elements, including the artist's own Ibizan hound. Her boss, Franklin Sirmans, extols Gregory for the way she worked with Huyghe to make the traveling retrospective feel like an utterly new show. "She negotiated each and every day with Pierre on how to make the most perfect exhibition for this museum," says Sirmans. "If you look at the installations for the other venues you would see it's almost a completely different exhibition. Each piece was a negotiation as far as the layout, the putting together of video versus sculpture." An unorthodox part of the presentation was the eschewing of wall labels, compelling visitors to open themselves more fully to the experience of the show. While Gregory's aesthetic acumen was indispensable to the success of the show, the fact that she got it off the ground is a testament to the importance of relationships in the art world. "She had been talking to Pierre for a long time and following his work and developed that relationship," says Sirmans. Gregory had proposed mounting a Huyghe show while at the New Museum, but it didn't work out. Understanding the power of personal connection is something she credits LACMA director and CEO Michael Govan with instilling in her. A lesson she first learned in her college days at Vassar, where she took a class Govan taught there a little more than 10 years ago. "We would meet at Dia Beacon once a week, and Michael would talk about the artists from a truly personal point of view," says Gregory of the then- director of the Dia Art Foundation. "I was definitely inspired by the dialogue he had with contemporary artists. That was kind of a tipping point for me." After college, Gregory—the daughter of a mystery novelist mother and a father who's a former fashion photographer—rocketed up the ranks of the museum world: intern at the Whitney, assistant on the institution's 2006 biennial, then curatorial assistant to chief curator Donna De Salvo. She went to the New Museum in 2007, working under director of exhibitions Massimiliano Gioni on such shows as "Ostalgia" and its inaugural triennial. Since coming to LACMA four years ago, she's overseen the museum's Kubrick retrospective, debuted four movies by Ryan Trecartin, mounted a show by artist Stephen Prina that imaginatively spotlighted—in pink paint—the furniture design of pioneering L.A. architect Rudolf Schindler and worked with Govan when he co-curated a new installation of the permanent collection at Francois Pinault's Venice museum, Punta della Dogana. Last fall, Gregory (whose boyfriend is L.A. artist Walead Beshty) successfully convinced LACMA's Collectors Committee to ante up $950,000 to acquire its first piece by Roni Horn, a gleaming 3,300-pound lavender glass cylinder. So what's her biggest strength? In her own modest words: "I'm a very careful listener." 102 CULTURED © PIERRE HUYGHE, PHOTO BY OLA RINDAL; COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGELES MUSEUM OF ART; PORTRAIT © 2014 MUSEUM ASSOCIATES/LACMA THE INGÉNUE Though just 31 years old, Jarrett Gregory is somewhat of a museum veteran and is now making waves as as one of LACMA's curatorial stars. BY DEGEN PENER The Renzo Piano-designed Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; curator Jarrett Gregory; an installation view of "Pierre Huyghe" at LACMA

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