What started out as a “Livingroom” in Holladay is now a “House” along 400 South in the former L. Lorenz Knife Shop.
Although the House Gallery has only occupied its current space for a few months, owner Julie Dunker celebrated the gallery’s one year anniversary in October. As with other well-known Salt Lake galleries that have barely, yet successfully weathered the recession and managed to stay in business over the years, the House Gallery’s future seems to be solid.
“That says a lot about the dedication of the art supporters in Utah,” says Dunker, “I think now is a great time for contemporary art in Salt Lake.”
An artist herself, Dunker’s House Gallery specializes in contemporary art. “My goals with the gallery were to focus on the sale of highly collectable artworks. I am trained as an abstract painter and this is where most of my knowledge base is. However, I do know quite a bit about photography and ceramics and have contacts that can assist me in this regard as well. I would also be happy to help collectors who might want to talk about more classic styles of art and possibly find resources for the expansion of collections- proper storage- re-sales, appraisals, etc.”
Dunker has spent much of her life in school. She has four college degrees having attended Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, the University of New Mexico and Claremont Colleges. She grew up in California in a family of artists and it was after her first college degree when she spent time in Paris, Barcelona and Basel that she became 100% dedicated to the visual arts. As a studio artist, she didn’t necessarily plan on opening a gallery, but she enjoyed the community that surrounds the education system that she continued to pursue that in addition to her personal artwork.
“I lived in Holladay and was looking to be a part of the art community in addition to the long hours I spent painting in my studio. I received a ton of support from artists that I knew who were very interested in coming to Utah and exhibiting in a contemporary space here.”
She opened the Livingroom Gallery in her Holladay home, exhibiting monthly. Earlier this year she moved the gallery to the basement of the Peery Hotel and renamed it House Gallery. But she knew the less-than-ideal space would only be temporary and says her gallery has finally found its home in its 400 South location.
The House Gallery gets a good mix of locals and tourists. 400 South gets a lot of walk-in traffic, being close to restaurants and other hip stops such as the Blond Grizzly and the Green Pig. Immediately through the door is the main exhibition space where the featured artist’s work can be seen. It’s not as big as other galleries you might be familiar with but it is suitable for Dunker’s purposes. She compares the space to the Agnes Martin Chapel in Taos: “Both spaces are small, yet very effective in conveying the concepts behind the work” she explains. “If the gallery were to be any larger I think it would consume all my time and limit my time in the studio making my own work.”
When asked if the smaller size of the gallery affects her curatorial decisions, Dunker says “I limit the size of the work to what will fit through the front door – however, there are ways to bring in large scale work and have it assembled once inside the gallery.”
Dunker’s main motivation behind her curatorial decisions is collectability. She is interested in work that will increase in value over time “I ask myself if I would be happy to have the work in my personal art collection- is the work visually exciting and intellectually challenging. Then I look to see if the work is well constructed- will the art work stand the test of time. Will the work maintain its integrity after many years of hanging on a wall in someone’s home or office? Also, I consider how the artist works with the gallery. Will the artist continue to promote their work and continue to be supportive of what is happening in the SLC contemporary art scene?”
The gallery has a stable of artists including are Matt Jones, Jon Coffelt, Allan Ludwig, Kay Tuttle, Charles Fresques, Lisa Adams, Emilie Duval, Jan Wurm, and Kadar Brock. Dunker schedules shows two years out and has a strategic plan for ensuring the gallery’s success. She has ideas to bring in film and performance and is excited to see how some of her artists can incorporate these ideas into the space.
In October the gallery was filled with the monochromatic abstract works of Matt Jones. Hung closely together so that they seemed to overwhelm the narrow space, the paintings were gatherings of intertwined lines, crosshatched marks and fluid washes. In November the gallery presents Jon Coffelt’s Cosmos, a collection of non-objective paintings that radiate outwards from a central mark, creating a sense of motion, in works described as an investigation of time, space, singularity and togetherness.
With any luck and the community’s support, you can count on a similar new exhibit from the House Gallery each month for years to come.
Laura Durham works for KUED Channel-7 in the Creative Services Department, curating community engagement projects for both PBS and KUED productions that foster trust and value to the communities in Utah. She also produces Contact with Mary Dickson and Contact in the Community — a digital series featuring arts and culture groups in Utah. Prior to her work at KUED, Laura spent 15 years at the Utah Division of Arts & Museums in the visual arts program and later managing communications, branding, marketing, and public value projects for all arts and museums programming. She has served the Utah community in various capacities with her role as Vice President of the Salt Lake Gallery Association and Program Director for the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll. She lives in Salt Lake City, sings with Utah Chamber Artists, and loves to contribute to 15 Bytes as often as time allows.