It may have been the smallest gallery in Chelsea, but Family Business was impossible to miss. Strolling down West 21st Street, one might find raspberry bushes growing inside the tiny space, an impromptu tea party spilling out onto the sidewalk, artists raising hell on homemade instruments or the latest exhibition getting set on fire or smashed to bits. Sadly, the oddball operation founded by “retired” artist Maurizio Cattelan and New Museum associate director Massimiliano Gioni, is on the move. The gallery “ended its current reincarnation and will be reborn some day on planet Earth again,” wrote Daria Irincheeva, the former director, in an email. It has, in fact, already cropped back up in Paris, where guest curator Nadja Argyropoulou is working on projects with Chalet Society and the Palais de Tokyo.
An anarchic anomaly in self-serious Chelsea (it resided right next to Gagosian), the closet-sized space showcased unknown talent—one exhibition featured art made by museum security guards—as well as work by established artists like Liz Magic Laser, Thomas Houseago, Thomas Hirschhorn, Zak Kitnick and Jayson Musson (a k a Hennessy Youngman of “Art Thoughtz“). A typical opening invitation might cryptically advertise drinkable Christmas trees, “complimentary tattoos,” a “glitter meltdown intervention” or teleportation. According to Ms. Argyopoulou, the gallery closed in May when dealer Anna Kustera, who leased the space to Family Business, decided to find a new location for her gallery.
“Palais de Tokyo had expressed an interest to Family Business practice and generously invited us to experiment within an open dialogue format, amidst an exciting and multifaceted art environment,” wrote Ms. Argyropoulou. “Chalet Society has a similar to FB interest in researching irreverent exhibition formats and offered FB the chance to respond—guerilla form—to the Jim Shaw ‘Hidden world’ collection-exhibition. To be in Europe for a while, especially now is a quite interesting and serious challenge which will refresh FB outlook.”
Family Business was founded as a follow-up to Wrong Gallery, the even smaller space Messrs. Cattelan and Gioni ran with curator Ali Subotnick from 2002 to 2005. Consisting of a doorway that measured only one-and-a-half square feet, the gallery showed work by the likes of Martin Creed, Paul McCarthy and Lawrence Weiner. Though their project is taking off over the Atlantic, it’s likely the two founders won’t fall too far out of touch.
“As for Massimiliano’s and Maurizio’s involvement,” wrote Ms. Argyropoulou, “one can maybe say that Italians are well known for staying committed to their families.”
Above, a pictoral tour of some of the gallery’s projects. All photos are courtesy Family Business unless otherwise noted.