Interview with Brett William Schultz, founder of the gallery BWSMX in Mexico City
One of the latest additions to the exciting art landscape of Mexico City is the gallery BWSMX, founded by Brett William Schultz. Since Schultz moved to Mexico ten years ago, he has been very active in creating new initiatives to strengthen the local art scene. This has also involved developing a new model for his gallery, based on mutual respect, trust, and enthusiasm. Here he told us about his vision.
Who is the founder of the gallery, and what is your background?
I founded BWSMX (or 🍞 for short) over the summer, although I’m not really thinking of it as a gallery in the traditional sense. It’s more like an office for collaborative activities in contemporary art.
I grew up near Chicago and then lived in Los Angeles and New York after that. I moved to Mexico City from New York in May of 2007. From 2008 until this past June, I co-directed a gallery called Yautepec. I’m also co-founder and creative director of Material Art Fair in Mexico City; co-founder and organizer of the monthly Sábado de Galerías (Gallery Saturday), also in Mexico City; and, most recently, a co-founder of Ruberta in Los Angeles, along with Galeria Agustina Ferreyra, Proyectos Ultravioleta, Lodos and CARNE.
Why have you decided to open a gallery in Mexico?
After ten years of living, working and growing here, I’m deeply dedicated to Mexico City. This city is home for me and, as the saying goes, the weather suits my clothes.
How is the art scene in Mexico City developing?
Over the last five years, I think Mexico City’s scene has matured substantially. It’s still relatively small; the number of active galleries and independent spaces here doesn’t number much higher than 40. However, the city is spoiled for museums and talented artists. The fair week in February is always an annual destination for international collectors, curators, and museum groups. Through efforts like Sábado de Galerías, I’m hoping we’ll begin to see a more robust and better organized gallery scene year-round, which will be crucial to its continued growth. I think we’re in an exciting moment but, as always, there’s a lot more work to be done.
How has digitalization affect your work as a gallerist?
I’d say that the idea of digitalization has been pretty fundamental to how I’ve aimed to reorganize my entire operation during the transition from Yautepec to BWSMX. The constant question I ask myself is, how can I extract knowledge from one ridiculously inefficient and proprietary system — basically, my brain — and reorganize it in such a way that everyone with whom I collaborate has direct access to the knowledge they need, when they need it? I’m definitely not there yet, but that’s the goal.
What kind of art do you represent? What is your program?
Recently, I’m thinking of things more fluidly. That implies being comfortable with uncertainty. It also implies a desire to continue experimenting and evolving. So, in that sense, I’m not really interested in having a well-defined program nor in focusing on any specific kind of art beyond the kind of art which excites me, which can change over time. That said, my relationships with artists are at the heart of what I do and the reason why I do what I do. I’m searching for a model that allows us all to develop healthily, but at our own pace — one that’s based on mutual respect, trust, and enthusiasm, not obligation.
What kind of space have you chosen for your gallery?
I chose to stay in the space that formerly belonged to Yautepec, although I did some long-overdue remodeling. The owners of the building have been decent to me and I don’t pay much more in rent now than I did eight years ago when I first moved in. It’s a storefront space with a windowed front, which is unusual for galleries in Mexico City, and it’s got fantastic height even though it’s modestly-sized. I have other plans in mind eventually, but it’s not the right moment to take on additional overhead. Either way, I doubt I’d give up my current space even if I were to open another.
There is a lot of talk about the crisis of small and mid-size gallery. What is your opinion? And your strategies?
Well, the crisis is certainly real. I’ve commented on the state of the industry pretty extensively in interviews elsewhere, but, as I see it, the concentration of both economies and opportunities into the art fair-driven model has created an extremely demanding, excessively risky, and generally hostile environment for small galleries. I think art fairs can and should do more to reduce the risk for small galleries. On the other hand, I also think galleries have a responsibility to experiment with new models and activities that may help to reduce their dependence on art fairs for sales and visibility.
Ruberta, for instance, was something that occurred to me when I was offered an exhibition space in Los Angeles, right as I was beginning the transition to BWSMX. It wasn’t going to be economically feasible for me to run a second space on my own. But I figured that if I could put together a small group of like-minded galleries, we could all essentially time-share one space, share both resources and risks, and create a long-term presence for ourselves in LA. Lodos got on board, then CARNE, Galería Agustina Ferreyra and Proyectos Ultravioleta. All in all, it’s much less expensive than an art fair but provides us with similarly valuable visibility in an incredibly important city for contemporary art.
Sábado de Galerías came out of a conversation I had with another gallerist here in Mexico City, Issa Benitez from Proyecto Paralelo. We were lamenting the fact that Mexico City didn’t have any kind of city-wide event to promote visiting galleries each month, like so many other cities have. There’s a Gallery Weekend in Mexico City, but that happens once a year and we were imagining something that could help us sustain our activities throughout the year. We wrote an exploratory email to several other gallerist friends and colleagues to gauge their interest, which was unanimously supportive, so we decided to launch the first edition in June. This month of October we’re trying something different, which is to assign each Saturday of the month to a different area of the city. It’s notoriously difficult to move around quickly in Mexico City, so that approach allows us to create smaller, more walkable or bikeable circuits and also to concentrate the viewing public into fewer galleries at a time.
Is there someone who influenced you in a particular way?
I think I’m influenced by just about everyone in a particular way, but I’m probably most indebted to those who taught me to think critically.
What exhibitions or projects do you have planned in the months to come?
I’m beyond excited for my presentation of Morgan Mandalay and Kim-Anh Schreiber at DAMA in early November. It’s a work called Meatloaf, in which Morgan’s paintings become the stage set for this hilarious, bizarre theatrical work that Kim wrote about two ghosts trying to decide what to have for dinner, which the two of them will perform. They’ve been rehearsing for months now. I’m in total awe of their craft and dedication.
BWSMX takes part in the 2nd edition of DAMA in Turin from November 2nd to 5th, 2017.
Col. San Rafael, Del. Cuauhtémoc
Mexico City, CDMX 06470
Monday to Friday: 11 am – 7 pm