In an art world increasingly dependent on financial returns, a new organization that declares itself “not committed to commercial success” is sure to attract attention. The institution in question, a nonprofit art space, research center and publisher called CARA (the Center for Art, Research and Alliances) will open in New York in June, in a former playing card factory on West 13th Street in the West Village.
CARA President and Founder Jane Hait is no newbie. His shopping gallery, Wallspace, which she co-founded with Janine Foeller in 2003 at Chelsea, has been a vibrant business for many of its 12 years. “We really tried,” she says. “But we also learned how the growing tyranny of the cost of space can dictate programmatic decisions – or you have to shut down.” Choosing bust over compromise, Hait has since devoted her time and, presumably, her money (she’s the daughter-in-law of Howard Marks, the billionaire writer and investor) to developing a less exclusive platform where artists, curators and other art workers who have historically not benefited from support and amplification will be considered on an equal footing.
“As a non-profit publisher, for example, we are guided in what we choose to publish only by what we believe would benefit artists and the world in existence,” she says. A book currently in production focuses on the work of Michael Richardsa Jamaican-born artist who died in the September 11 attacks (his studio was in the North Tower of the World Trade Center) and whose work has been largely ignored since.
Hait bought the 8,000 square foot building, built in 1909 and located opposite the LGBT Community Centre, five years ago and entrusted its renovation to London architects 6a. The business had caught her eye through London gallerist Sadie Coles, with whom she shared artist Sharon Ebner while running Wallspace, as well as their skillful reconfiguration of two 18th-century Huguenot houses in the London space. nonprofit Raven Row (a project Hait clearly admires.)
“Jane is super smart and dynamic,” says Tom Emerson, half 6a with work and life partner Stephanie Macdonald. “And CARA’s strong political ambitions were clear from the start, so we designed it with that in mind. It is intentionally loose and flexible, porous and public, resilient and robust. It is also the first project of the company in the United States, but anyone who has seen their work at the South London Gallery, where they transformed a former fire station into a new exhibition space, will recognize a tendency to leave as much of the existing building as visible. “It’s pretty crude,” said Emerson.
CARA’s mission has developed slowly and in a context of change. “Racial uprising, a global pandemic and institutional accounts have imprinted themselves on our organizational DNA,” says Hait. In June 2021, she hired Manuela Moscoso, the 42-year-old Ecuadorian curator of the 2021 Liverpool Biennale, to be the executive director of CARA. “We want to have romances with lots of people, to be polyamorous,” Moscoco says of the organization’s intention to extend its embrace beyond its own walls and create new alliances with the world of love. ‘art.
Having worked in various countries, including Brazil, Mexico, Spain and the UK, Moscoso says, “Living in these different places you develop many different ideas of what an institution can be, but in the end After all, it’s always about the collective effort. . And on working conditions – not just who you invite, but where you invite them. Moscoco often speaks of the notions of care and co-dependency and frequently refers to the idea that “there is not one world, but several worlds, and not one knowledge, but several”.
CARA (yes, the name is intentionally warm) will not open with a dazzling party, but with a series of four publicly accessible “festivals”, taking place from June to September. Guest curators include music producer Lamin Fofana and artist Sky Hopinka, who works through writing and film. After that, Hait and Moscoco hope that the public will be ready to pass through the building’s exhibition spaces and the bookstore on the ground floor. A number of research fellows will be inducted in September. In the fall, the gallery will host the first American solo exhibition of South African artist and composer Neo Muyanga. The development department will also increase its fundraising, as the nonprofit relies on private philanthropy and support from foundations.
“New York’s status as a cultural capital depends on the health and well-being of its creative communities, and yet there is a precariousness in the lives of so many artists and cultural workers,” says Hait. It is utopian but commendable that CARA wants to change this.