Relocating Lubov to the border between the Lower East Side and Chinatown neighborhood in 2019 wasn’t a choice. It was a survival and pragmatic decision after being kicked out from an office building in Tribeca for not paying rent on time. I was paying $300-500 at a time, whenever I could afford it; after almost two years they said I had to leave.
Starting the gallery in the first place was also a survival decision. I needed to find something to spend my money on that wasn’t drinking or drugs, and I needed to stay sane while working a nine-to-five office job. Also I really just wanted to hang out with artists.
I love Craigslist, and I found both the previous and the current locations of the gallery there. I also considered moving to the Financial District or Midtown. But I met a landlord who had several buildings in Chinatown and I really liked him (we started gifting each other fruit during Lunar New Year). The building he showed me was pretty decrepit, but I never cared for a white cube anyway; you can make exhibitions anywhere, really. The space available in it was cheap enough that I could afford it with the salary from my day job without having to rely on sales. The fact that it was falling apart was actually an advantage. It’s important that I don’t feel too precious about the space; it needs to be flexible because the gallery works with many installation artists.
The gallery is three flights above a Chinese restaurant, and I’ve come to appreciate the journey that people have to take in order to reach the gallery on the 4th floor of the building. In fact, I keep it very in mind when choosing artists to work with. I want people to come up the stairs, find the gallery, and be like “wtf….”. I can’t resist letting artists take full control of the space, and this often guides the program of the gallery. People sometimes ask me what is the “mission” of the gallery and I never know how to answer that. Having some kind of mission or purpose for the gallery always felt somewhat pretentious to me. But saying that I show artists and work that I respond to would sound very narcissistic, which is even worse. It’s the work that produces a sensation that I haven’t felt before; usually somewhere between pleasure, discomfort, and curiosity, but that is difficult to identify and get rid of. I want to see work that brings to the surface a part of myself that I haven’t seen before, and it is my hope that others experience something similar.
Historically Chinatown is one of the last working-class neighborhoods in Manhattan, and the enormous diversity of businesses, many of them family-owned, in the area made it extremely convenient for me. An artist friend of mine, who moved to NY from China recently, explained that they had never seen the Lunar New Year parade before, until they moved to New York. It turns out people in China don’t do it anymore, only in remote rural villages. When I first moved to NY from Mexico in 2007 I really enjoyed spending time in the Mexican neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. I was always in disbelief by how religious Mexicans here were, and by the amount of religious iconography in those neighborhoods. I became so obsessed with religious iconography, and their place in the homes and businesses of Mexican immigrants, that I was making art about it for several years while in undergrad. I cried the first time I saw the Lunar New Year parade. I still do and I cannot explain it, or articulate the feeling. I, too, know what it’s like to hold on to a small piece of identity when you’re so far from home.