On the Friday night after Christmas, Half Gallery director Erin Goldberger could be found at an artists’ studio in Greenpoint, where a few friends—photographers, musicians, writers—gathered in the kitchen over wine and an assortment of Moe’s Doughs donuts. A Francoise Hardy song was playing off a cell phone connected to a record player with an amplifier, and Erin’s laugh floated above the music. She was re-telling family stories she had just learned over the holidays about her Sicilian great-grandparents, who immigrated to New York at the turn of the last century (her paternal grandparents arrived in New Jersey from Poland after the Second World War).
The stories were funny, although this isn’t the first time that I had seen Erin captivate a small audience. She can recall names, memories, and obscure details at the drop of a hat, and delivers her sentences like an expert pool player: delicately on one shot, sharply on the other, and packed with dry wit on the next. A few minutes later, we went outside to sit on the front stoop and I turned on my recorder…
GP: Where do you live right now?
EG: I live in south Williamsburg, right below the bridge. Very close to Peter Lugar’s Steakhouse.
GP: Why did you move to Williamsburg?
EG: I’ve lived there about four and a half years now. I had been living in a friend’s place in Chelsea before that, and I knew that I could afford the rent in Williamsburg or Bushwick. I actually ended up finding the place on Craigslist and, once I saw it, I loved it and the area. It’s still relatively ungentrified, with mostly Hasidic, orthodox Jewish families and Dominican families. It feels like it still hasn’t turned into the mall that is…other places. [laughs]
GP: What’s a quality that you admire in other gallery directors?
EG: I guess the biggest quality is just the amount of time that they spend looking at art in other places. They’re traveling to see art. They’re reading about art. Reading about art is a big one. If you don’t know what’s going on, it’s hard to have a dialogue with other people.
GP: What do you read regularly?
EG: I’d say that I always tune into the New York Times Arts section. I also read Art Forum and Brooklyn Rail, since it’s just not just about art but about writing and poetry, too. The New Yorker. A lot of blogs. I look to a lot of older artists that I follow or am friends with on Facebook for inspiration and understanding of what’s going on. They post these great things that I don’t think I’d have access to otherwise. Even Instagram—what is Jerry Saltz putting up? These are things that I really do look at a couple of times per day.
GP: How do you decide which artist to show?
EG: A lot of people ask that, and I think every gallery would have a different answer. I don’t think there’s one formula. A lot of it comes from who you’ve worked with in the past. Sometimes an artist will say, “Hey, check out this good friend of mine who has been working hard and who is doing these interesting things.” So you go to a studio visit and you realize that this is something you weren’t aware of. For us, I think it’s all about a really beautiful mix of showing young, emerging artists that are doing something special and also giving that homage to older artists that maybe never got the accolades that they should have a long time ago. I think it’s about the timing, really, of how things work together.
GP: What’s an artwork that you wish you could own?
EG: We were just talking about Egon Shiele. I’d be ecstatic to own any piece of his. As far as maybe a famous piece—Lady with an Ermine, which is the da Vinci painting that I think was always overlooked. It’s in Poland now at the
Wawel Castle, but when I saw it, it was in a smaller museum. It could have easily been reversed: the Mona Lisa could have been sitting in a small, Polish museum that no one really saw that much until recently. [Lady with an Ermine ] is just as beautiful and just as perfect, and then this ermine…it’s really interesting having that animal in there. I would never get tired of looking at it.
GP: How much of your workday is inside the gallery and how much is outside?
EG: Tuesday through Friday, I’m there working. Monday—even though galleries are closed—that’s the day I’m trying to do studio visits. It’s when I really get to go inside these artists’ minds and spend time with them. After work, there are so many things going on that I’d say, at least half of the week, I’m out after work at an opening or at a bar where people are sitting around and talking about their next idea or their next show. I feel like it’s pretty much all consuming, whether it’s in the gallery or not. Then, there are also a few times to have alone time with Netflix. [laughs]
GP: How important would you say a social media presence or a website is for artists?
EG: I think it’s really important to people who work in the gallery to be able to go to an artist’s website. For me, I love to look at some work and then see the CV, especially if it’s an artist that I’m completely unfamiliar with or an artist in Europe that I feel like we don’t have as much access to. It’s nice to see where they’ve been working, who they’ve been working with, or what other group shows they’ve been in.
Beside the website, which I know a lot of artists don’t have, I think the Instagram movement has been really strong. You have access now to all these artists, whether they’re emerging or famous. Some post a lot of their work, and then you see artists that barely post their work and they post other people’s work. So you’re learning about their friends, and their people, and what they like. You’re also learning about their lives. We’re all visual people, and part of the artistic creation is this visual aspect that is so strong. If you don’t have [Instagram], then I think a lot of people are missing out on you. But, there are also a lot of artists that can get away with not doing anything online, and that’s totally fine and respectable. I think you can go either way. But as a young artist, it’s nice to have some sort of appearance on a site where people can find you and see what you’re all about, because people are always going to be curious about you as well as your work.†
Erin Goldberger has been director of Half Gallery since April 2011. She also co-hosts Minerva, a weekly radio show on Know-wave.com. Her favorite neighborhood hangouts are the Rabbit Hole, Nights & Weekends, and Lomzynianka. You can follow Erin on Instagram (@eringoldberger) or Twitter (@thescrambledegg).