Matthew Perez, “Portrait of Grace with Passport”, one of the works that will be available to loan from Brooklyn’s new Gallery Particulier. (all images courtesy Arabella von Arx)

What if anyone could loan a work of art for free and then return it, without making any commitment to ultimately buying it? Gallery Particulier, a new gallery opening in a houseware store on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn in March, is experimenting with establishing a different relationship between artists, artworks, gallerists, collectors, and the art-curious.

Galleries and museums are where great works of art belong — or such is the reigning assumption for the many who don’t have stores of wealth to toss around to convince themselves and their guests that they are cultured. And that’s better than the unfortunate alternative: the hoarding of great art in private collections that the vast majority of humanity never sees. But if a work of art, much like a book, were something that could hang on a wall in a bedroom or living room for a short period of time rent-free, our relationships with art might change.

Matthew Perez “After Death” (2019)

That is the cultural transformation that writer and editor Arabella von Arx is hoping to effect in a small way with Gallery Particulier. “It’s a very different experience to have a real artwork in your place,” von Arx told Hyperallergic. She suspected that the systematic undervaluation of art from her community had something to do with scant art ownership, and was disheartened that so many local artists never find the appreciation they deserve.

“It seemed to me to be pretty dysfunctional having the celebrity artists, collectors, and galleries — meanwhile, you notice that so many galleries are closing. Living in Brooklyn, there are so many artists, so much talent, so much work. And you have so many people who don’t visit galleries and don’t go much to museums either,” von Arx says. “The idea is to connect those two communities.”

Von Arx had been particularly inspired by the late artist Sabina Ott’s exhibition space Terrain, which over its run exhibited more than a hundred artists’ installations and artworks in her front lawn. The project stood out to von Arx for its ability to connect artists to audiences not only as buyers and sellers but as members of a shared community. In September, she started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $12,500 for startup costs for a gallery that would “lend real artworks to people in the community.” Citing an all time low in museum and gallery attendance, the fundraiser announced her intention to expand “the reach of visual arts.”

After hours of sifting through art posted on Facebook groups and dozens of studio visits, von Arx has secured a number of artworks that she is proud to show and loan as part of the debut of Gallery Particulier, including pieces by Brooklyn-based artists Grace Nkem, Matthew Perez, and A. Shawn McKinney. She noted that the responses she got from artists were either total excitement or vehement rejection — but that all in all, many artists were thrilled to participate.

Von Arx references other small-scale projects that loan out artworks to their communities and says she wants to see them grow. Notably, some universities have such programs in place for students — the University of Chicago, Harvard, and Williams College are three — but these are all nonprofit endeavors. Gallery Particulier is not, though it’s supported by individual donations as well as grants they receive through the intermediary of the Brooklyn organization PLG Arts. Artists are compensated if someone ultimately purchases the work. The gallery takes a commission of approximately 20 percent to cover lending and administrative costs, though commissions can vary and are based on a sliding scale.

“We’re hoping to create a kind of triangulation where people who can afford the work can finance the costs of lending the work, so we can lend this work and people don’t have to buy it,” von Arx says. Beyond ensuring the financial stability of Gallery Particulier itself, von Arx wants the gallery to serve as a model that can be adopted by artists’ collectives, libraries, and schools.

Gallery Particulier’s first show will take place from March 4 to April 14 at Awesome Home at 653 Flatbush Avenue, where visitors will be able to fill out a form indicating which pieces they’re interested in loaning. Von Arx encourages artists to submit by writing to the gallery.

“A lot of people are intimidated by art in every class of society and every level of education. It can be a little challenging: like, should I buy this? Is this good art?” von Arx says. “It’s about making people familiar… you don’t have to worry about whether you’re making the right choice,” she continues. “I’m hoping people really get that experience of enjoying an art piece in their home environment.”

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Jasmine Liu

Jasmine Liu is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she studied anthropology and mathematics at Stanford University.