Kevin Kunstadt and Andrew Kenney Recently Decided to Open a Gallery. We Asked Them Why.
BY ELIZABETH THOMPSON
Disillusioned by the few opportunities young photographers have to show their work in gallery settings, Andrew Kenney, 23, and Kevin Kunstadt, 27, decided to forge ahead and build their own gallery. In their apartment. Opening Friday, K&K Gallery in South Williamsburg, the space will showcase photography by 11 emerging New York artists. And they’d love for you to curate a show.
Why did you decide to open a gallery? How long has K&K been in the works?
AK: In August, we had the chance to grab this live/work storefront and the gallery idea began there. We have sliding and pivoting walls which let us change the space from a home to a gallery and back again in about 30 seconds. It’s really cool!
KK: The idea to open a gallery was really a result of seeing the potential of the space and what it could be. We weren’t actively seeking to start our own gallery at all, it just seemed to make sense to do it and everything else has fallen into place. It also came about [more indirectly] as a result of being dissatisfied with the whole art-world-scene, and the lack of opportunities that exist for younger photographers to show their work in a gallery setting.
Were you concerned about opening a gallery with the economy down?
KK: That’s kind of a tough one for us since we are totally fresh, and I can’t really say that I have any pre-recession experience in the art world at all. I will say that because we both live in the gallery, we have very little overhead aside from start up costs. That takes the pressure off of us us to sell work and gives us the luxury of simply concentrating on what turns us on personally.
With the presence of all the development and waterfront condos (which are now, of course, mostly empty), Williamsburg looked like it was changing for the worse. It seems, however, like there’s more art and music coming out of Williamsburg than ever before. Do you think that’s true?
AK: There is an unfortunate condo across the street which blocks out our afternoon light starting at about 3 p.m.
KK: We have an amazing mix of cultural stuff going on here. I don’t think a few crappy condos could ever really change that. But when they price us out of our space, I’ll definitely be crying.
Photographer David Lavine recently told us that Bushwick is the new Williamsburg. New York’s Jerry Saltz said Bushwick was the “closest thing to the eighties East Village.” Do you think there’s a distinct art community there versus Williamsburg’s?
AK: I know a lot of old artists who work in Bushwick. I know a lot of new artists who work in Williamsburg.
KK: Yeah, it’s hard to make comparisons like that, especially considering I was probably only three-years-old when Jerry was experiencing the East Village in its hey-day. That said, I would definitely encourage anyone who strictly associates Williamsburg with Bedford Avenue to come by and check out our neighborhood. It’s really great, and everyone here has been really friendly and supportive of what we are trying to do. The great thing about the city is that its always in flux, but right now i think South Williamsburg is a really nice place to be for a novice gallery.
How will K&K to be different from other galleries?
AK: Awesome. Devoid of pretension. We have a neon open sign in front. Accessibility is huge, in every way — for the people who are showing work and for the people who are looking at it and buying it. Prices can’t be crazy, attitude can’t be crazy. We’re just two guys who like photography and want to share what we like.
How did you choose the photographers for your current show?
KK: We invited friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends. We basically put out an open call for work over the Internet. We’ve been extremely lucky with submissions, and received more great work than we can include in one show. We’ll also review work by email all the time, so if anyone reading this is tempted to send us something they definitely should. We dont really ‘represent’ anyone in the traditional sense, its more about having a symbiotic community than anything else. We’d really love to have guest curators come in as well. It would be great to open things up to a whole community of curators.
This story was published on Nov. 17, 2009