Dealer's Notebook: Bryce Wolkowitz on the Possibilities of New Media Art

Dealer's Notebook: Bryce Wolkowitz on the Possibilities of New Media Art
Bryce Wolkowitz
(Photo by Lindsay May)

AGE: 39

HAILS FROM: Manhattan

PRESIDES OVER: Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, 505 West 24th Street, New York

GALLERY’S SPECIALTY: Contemporary art

ARTISTS SHOWN: Edward Burtynsky, Jim Campbell, Peter Campus, Bruce Davidson, Brigitte Kowanz, David Opdyke, José Parlá, Alan Rath, Ben-19076">Ben Rubin, Paula Scher Gallery ’s first show: “Art Apparatus,” 2002, with Jim CampbellAlan Rath, John F. Simon Jr., and Steina Vasulka

Was there art on the walls when you were growing up?

I grew up in a very creative household in Manhattan. My father’s a fashion designer and a talented artist in his own right. My parents collected Pop art and color field painting, and when I became a teenager we collected vintage photography together.

What is the first work of art you remember being affected by?

Jim Dine’s “Putney Winter Heart #8,” 1971, which hung in our living room. It was a beautiful painting, and rich with assemblage. It cemented my love and appreciation for collage.

When did you first open your gallery, and what drew you to the business?

I opened my doors in 2002, having previously worked as a specialist in the photographs department at Christie’s. Aware of the city’s rich tradition of galleries, I had noticed an absence of programs committed to promoting video-, digital-, and electronic-based art.

How did you choose your specialty?

When I was 17 I spent the summer as a research assistant for John Hanhardt, then senior curator of Film and Media Arts at the Guggenheim. John introduced me to a rich and diverse world of video art, then roughly 30 years old. The works of Nam June Paik, Peter Campus, and Woody and Steina Vasulka signaled an innovative approach to art making. That approach continues to influence the gallery’s program.

What is the most challenging part of running an art gallery today?

Striking a balance between fostering my artists’ careers, doing art consultations, and maintaining a heavy fair schedule is the most challenging part of the job.

Has your market been changing?

Similar to the rise of photography as a fine art since the 1990 sale of Graham Nash’s collection, video and new media is no longer considered a stand-alone market. It’s recognized and acquired by mainstream buyers. Conversely, this is why my program has expanded to include painting and sculpture.

In which art fair do you most enjoy participating?

Photography fairs such as AIPAD and Paris Photo give us the opportunity to showcase artists who merge traditional photography with alternative media. Jim Campbell, Alan Rath, and Peter Campus are great examples of this.

What has been your strangest or most humorous experience in the art trade?

In 2004 I assumed I could simply go down to Canal Street to buy pigeons for a posthumous re-creation at the gallery of Juan Downey’s “About Cages [1987].” You can find just about anything on Canal Street, but I never did find a pigeon-seller.

Are there any works that have been painful to part with?

Jim Campbell’s “Motion and Rest #2.” Had I not sold it to the Metropolitan Museum, I’d have bought it for myself. 

Do you bring any experiences from outside the art world to bear on your gallery?

The experience of being a parent and the perspective my children give me help me see things from different angles.

What sets your gallery apart?

I believe we’re unique in our commitment to showcasing and promoting new media. While I still feel this work is often viewed as purely technological, I see it as a beautiful mix of art, technology, and design. 

Is there somebody who early on gave you good advice? What was it?

“The illiterate of the future will be the person ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen.”—László Moholy-Nagy

If you could own any artwork in the world, price or availability no object, what would it be?

Moholy-Nagy’s “Light Space Modulator,” 1930.

If you were not an art dealer what would you be doing?

I am deeply engaged in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. I’d most likely find a role for incorporating art into that endeavor.

This article appears in the January 2013 issue of Art+Auction.