Despite showing a roster of mostly female artists and not focusing specifically on gender, gallerist Monya Rowe can’t wait for the day when showing more women than men is not unusual.
Monya Rowe Gallery puts its focus on emerging and mid-career artists who are “making unique and significant contributions” to contemporary art. At Future Fair in New York City the week before last, Rowe presented a solo exhibition of new works by Bryan Rogers. In Rogers’ paintings, the protagonists appear strong and serene in nature as they flamboyantly pose and free themselves of their inhibitions.
Earlier this May, Monya Rowe Gallery moved into a larger space in New York City’s Flower District, opening the new location with the showing of Chicago-based painter Cindy Bernhard’s “Holy Smokes.” While the show features small to large-scale works, Bernhard continues incorporating her signature imagery of candles, mirrors, cats, and smoke.
We spoke to Monya Rowe about the exhibition currently on view at the gallery, how Rowe sees the world of art changing in the future, her advice for young gallerists, and what shows Monya Rowe Gallery has planned for the summer and fall.
Many artists of the core group you exhibit are female. Are female artists underrated?
I look for work I think has a strong independent voice. Gender doesn’t factor into deciding which artists to show. The roster is mostly women, but it’s not a conscious decision. I can’t wait for the day when it’s not unusual to show more women than men. We are headed in the right direction.
Tell us about your background. What drew you toward the world of art?
I started as a gallery assistant knowing I wanted my own gallery. There are many roles one can play in the art world and somehow I knew I wanted to be a dealer. I guess I wanted to make the decisions. I was independently curating, and saving money for my own space. The first space was in Williamsburg in 2003. Since then the gallery has been in Chelsea, the Lower East Side, two years in Florida, and currently going on five years in the Flower District on 30th Street. This year marks the 20th anniversary.
How do you see the world of art and galleries changing in the next five to 10 years?
The last 10 years saw a shift in actual visitors to galleries due to the internet and the rise of Instagram. I expected it to keep declining, but people seem to be visiting galleries more which is refreshing and encouraging, and I don’t think it’s simply because we’ve gotten through COVID. It feels like people realize there is no substitute for seeing the work in person.
What advice do you have for gallerists and curators who are just starting out?
Trust your own eye and don’t compare yourself to others.
What kind of artists and exhibitions are you currently pursuing at your gallery?
The gallery just moved to a larger space and the inaugural exhibition currently on view is by Chicago-based painter Cindy Bernhard. The work hints at Catholicism, spirituality, the afterlife and existential angst. Up next is the big summer group show. The last couple of years have been fun to put together large group shows for summer. The themes have been rooted in art history, but are very playful— “The Bathroom Show” in 2022 and “The Bedroom Show” in 2021—this year the theme is duality. Polina Barskaya and Erin Milez will have solo shows in the fall.