Dealer Perry Rubenstein: ‘Art Platform Fair Is My Springboard’

Can a longtime New York gallerist make it on the West Coast?

Art dealer Perry Rubenstein (Photo: Patrick McMullan Company)

As museum exhibitions open for previews across Southern California, as part of the Getty’s “Pacific Standard Time” initiative, many of the area’s dealers are joining international colleagues at the L.A. Mart downtown, readying their booths for the inaugural edition of the city’s Art Platform Los Angeles fair, which has a VIP preview opening scheduled for tomorrow at 2 p.m. (Gallerist will be there.)

Early this morning, with the morning fog still in the air, we caught up with New York-turned-Los Angeles art dealer Perry Rubenstein—he decamped from Chelsea earlier this year—at his Santa Monica home, a two-story white house built in the 1920s, where he lives with public relations maven Sara Fitzmaurice. When we pulled up, Mr. Rubenstein was wearing black workout clothes and drinking pressed juice from a bottle, and he invited us into his walled front garden.

Mr. Rubenstein, whose head is still cleanly shaven and is more well built than we remember, was getting ready to head down to the fair. “Art Platform is my springboard,” he told us. He’ll be showing the work of the young L.A. artist Zoe Crosher, and he said that he had already sold work to collectors before the fair had opened.

He is preparing to open a gallery in Hollywood early next year, and we asked how he was preparing. “I spent a lot of time with writers, critics and curators to hear their perspectives,” he said. “To some extent, I’d like to say that I wanted to avoid repeating Hillary Clinton’s initial mistakes with healthcare, where she tried to bully her vision; she was far more successful when she went upstate and listened. I’ve tried to listen.”

Other New York galleries have tried to make it in the West recently. The Upper East Side-based L&M Arts, for instance, has set up shop, and Chelsea’s Matthew Marks is planning a gallery. “There are superb galleries that are expanding and experimenting simultaneously, and they will do it well,” Mr. Rubenstein told us. “But they are toes in the water compared to what I’m doing.”

Indeed, the dealer’s ambitions are huge. At the end of our talk, we walked into Mr. Rubenstein’s backyard, where he has a large grill and a pool with a slide—”To put it very simply, life is much better here,” he quipped, when we complimented him on the space—and he showed us a video that explained his plans for his building. It will be nearly 10,000 square feet and feature two separate gallery spaces, 30 parking spots and a rooftop garden that looks over to the Hollywood sign. Moving to Hollywood, he said, was important: “It’s a sexier place.”

Mr. Rubenstein told us that he knew that it would be difficult to succeed in an increasingly crowded playing field, but that he was prepared to work to gain collectors’ respect. “I know it is going to be an ongoing process of seduction,” he said.

It was time for Mr. Rubenstein to make his way downtown to the fair, and for us to head out to Venice. He showed us out through the garden, and we walked onto the sidewalk. “The marine layer has cleared!” he said smiling. It was a bright blue day, without a cloud in the sky. We set off down the street.

“Watch out!” the dealer called from behind us. “Someone forgot to clean up!” We looked down and jumped around dog droppings. “Good luck with your day!” he shouted as he walked back inside his garden.

Dealer Perry Rubenstein: ‘Art Platform Fair Is My Springboard’