From film production in China to art curation in New York City, life is constantly evolving for curator, Alexandra Loulias. With her goals and passions lying in the future of the art world we're excited to see where this year takes her...
What brought you to New York?
New York was the side of America I felt like I could identify with at the time. I had just come back from China and being in New York was the only thing that made sense to me. It kept me at the same pace of learning; it was the only thing that really matched it.
What lead you to move to China?
I was living in LA and working as a production coordinator. I had an apartment, a car … everything. I was 22 and on autopilot. I saw my entire life flash before my eyes, I could keep doing what I was doing forever and that could be it. I was working on small independent features as well as higher end commercials. On the outside, I had the appearance of success but on the inside I knew that it was all a lie. It wasn’t who I knew myself to be.
My first idea was to go to India by myself.
The good old ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ thing …
[Laughs] I got talked off the ledge a bit by family and friends. The guy that I was with at the time had friends in China. He said, ‘Let’s just go’. We sold everything we had and moved there. I didn’t know anything about Chinese culture, or the country before moving there.
A year later I had worked on various projects with the government there, including some film projects and photo shoots. I found this little artistic community.
How did you actually go about finding work there?
It’s really the same as anywhere … you just get into it. What I’ve always been really good at doing is researching. That was difficult over there though, not knowing the language. You just have to isolate jobs by city, then by person. Find out who is doing the kind of things you want to do and figure out a way to introduce yourself to them.
I learned so much working there; it was a huge moment in my life. I had never lived anywhere but LA.
When we first arrived a friend was working on a global entrepreneurs conference. He said we should get together a business plan and present at the conference six months later. The government was giving away funding for projects. We started conceptualizing a business plan. My boyfriend was in film as well, so we combined our skills to create what was essentially a production company. We spent three months writing a proposal.
We presented at the conference, met with the government, and we got it. It was really exciting; we were given this gold key to the city. What we ended up finding out afterwards was that the whole thing was more of a show for the government. Of course it ended up falling apart, but I learned a lot from it.
We worked on a few projects before coming back to America exactly a year after we moved. Things were falling apart with our relationship. At the same rate our business was growing, we were declining personally.
Do you feel like New York was the right choice in matching that energy in China?
Definitely. I was, and still am someone with endless energy and an appetite for learning. If I’m not learning something new from the place I’m at it’s very easy for me to fall away from it completely, and lose all interest.
In New York, there is always something new to learn. It is constantly teaching you new things about yourself, because there are so many challenges in living here.
I really try to work on feeling grounded within myself. It comes and goes. Every time I feel like New York is getting to me, and I have to get out, I find it’s worthwhile to stay and work through it. Nothing is actually happening ‘to’ me, it’s usually internal things.
What are you doing these days?
While I was in China I had started to get interested in Chinese contemporary art. It became a big hobby of mine, but I didn’t really know exactly what I was doing with it. Since I was seventeen I had been curating small shows and pop-ups.
When I moved here I put my focus into actually learning how to curate as a profession. My first job here was actually at a bowling alley; I was their marketing coordinator. That was my entry level into New York. During that time I interned at galleries, and learned the lay of the land.
I eventually got a job with a gallery in Chelsea, which was amazing. It was why I came here. I was doing all these things that I had dreamed of doing, but again I had that lingering feeling that something wasn’t right.
I’m going to say this as respectfully as I can … in New York, in the art world, there are two ways of doing things … an older generation, and a younger generation. I got to a stage where I had to make a choice. I worked at this gallery for a year and a half, but it came down to the point where my integrity was on the line, both with myself and with other people. I couldn’t do it anymore. I put in my resignation and walked away from the thing I thought I had always wanted.
I was doing something I’d never really done before, which was standing up and saying; I don’t believe in the way things are being done. I’m no longer going to represent this company, or companies like this. The way a capitalist economy can make you give up who you are is incredible.
I started working with the Franklin Collective, which had only been started about a year prior. I came on as a temporary member for a project they were working on called ‘The Gallery’. Essentially the project was looking at the inner workings of a gallery ... what exists in the space when there is no art? What is the institution? Is it working or not?
It was so nice to operate within the collective. The Gallery was a two-week pop-up exhibition, which was an actual working gallery. It had the perception of a gallery, but you looked a bit closer and saw that it was commenting on the art world, and art market. We got a great response from the project.
If you work in the industry you know that so much of it is incredibly convoluted. People try to make art into a product; you need something to trade for money. It shouldn’t be that way; it should be about the artist. Art isn’t measurable, there is no standard. That leaves a lot of room for games and that’s what we were calling out.
That closed about a month ago, so I’m at this point now where I get to choose what I want to do next.
One of my big idols is Leo Castelli; he was an art dealer in mid-century New York. He didn’t open his gallery until he was in his mid-40s, and he had these amazing artists who are now trading at a high level art auction … Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Artschwager. Those were his artists; he nurtured them in a way that you don’t see a lot now.
Artists are almost punished, the thinking being, ‘You should be honored just to be in this gallery’. Everything comes out of the artist’s pocket for the chance to get into the wall of a gallery in Chelsea. It puts the artist in a very vulnerable position. Leo Castelli gave his artists stipends, he supported them.
My next step is to do that, to become that person. I haven’t quite figured out the best way to do it, or how I want to do it.
The markets look healthy now on the surface. The masterpieces that are trading at auction now are from people like Leo Castelli and people who really took the time to nurture their artists. At the ground level, the things that are entering auction don’t have that same quality. In fifty years, what are we going to be trading? What will keep the market alive? If it’s only about name and ego, then we should call it right now. That’s why I feel like it’s important to stand up and try to make a difference now.
Right now I’m curating, and kind of rogue dealing. It sounds like I’m a vigilante. [Laughs]
What are you working on now?
I’m going back to China this year to do a show with a friend I’ve been collaborating with for six years. He has a couple of galleries there. I’ll also do studio visits while I’m there.
Here in New York, I have a couple of things going on, both independently and with Franklin Collective.
Really though, I don’t know what this year is going to bring. It’s an open landscape. It’s exciting and it’s also terrifying.
That’s awesome! How do you like living in Crown Heights?
I love it. There’s a huge Caribbean community, and Hasidic community, a lot of history and diversity. Prospect Park, the museums and the Parkway give it a sense of place.
Do you have any favorite places in the area?
I really love Mayfield for dinner.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give?
One thing I constantly have to remind myself is not to give up. It’s really easy to throw in the tile, but that’s never going to get you anywhere.
What does New York mean to you?
It’s like batting with a weight. It’s extremely challenging, but anything you do after this is much easier. That’s not a bad thing, I love that.
Photography by Stephanie Geddes ©