Athens is about to get two new galleries thanks to a joint venture between painter Ridley Howard and L.A. gallerist Tif Sigfrids. Located above Jittery Joe’s Coffee at the corner of Jackson and Broad streets, the gallery is tentatively scheduled to open on June 14.
The two first met in the 1990s in Athens, when she lived there as a runaway teen from Ohio drawn to the music scene (she plays guitar) and he was earning his BA and BFA at the University of Georgia. Howard went on to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for his MFA and then moved to New York in 1999. Sigfrids moved to L.A., and earned a degree in studio art from UCLA in 2005. Both recently returned to Athens in search of a quieter lifestyle, says Howard, an internationally exhibited painter who currently has a show on view at Hathaway Gallery in Atlanta.
The Athens venture is not the first foray into running a gallery for either Sigfrids or Howard. She served as director of Thomas Solomon Gallery in Los Angeles beginning in 2010, While there she had a series of exhibitions in her desk that became known as “Tif’s Desk,” which led to her opening her own gallery in Hollywood in 2013. Howard, with his artist wife Holly Coulis and artist Mitchell Wright, opened a gallery in Brooklyn called 106 Green, which continues to operate with help of director Jon Lutz.
Following the model of galleries that share space to keep their overhead low (Jack Hanley & Nicelle Beauchene on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, The Packing Plant in Nashville, to name two), Howard and Sigfrids will share the 1,400-square-foot space while running distinct programs. The gallery will be divided into three spaces, and they will use whichever space is appropriate for each exhibition. The third space, “The Guest Room,” will be a project space for which they will invite New York and L.A. dealers, artists and curators to program. “It will provide some measure of exchange with the larger art community, no matter how small,” says Howard, who is an Atlanta native.
Howard also cites as inspiration Michelle Grabner and her gallery The Suburban, which was located in a shed in her backyard. Howard’s, as he is calling his gallery, will be more along the lines of a project space like Grabner’s, where major artists had small, tightly curated shows and sales were not the motivating factor. He says he will sell work, but it’s not the focus. “I just want to do cool shows.”
Sigfrid shuttered her gallery in L.A. in November of 2017 but continues to present pop-up exhibitions and participate in art fairs. She’s working with the same roster of artists and will be adding new names from the Athens area. She will be exhibiting at the Frieze Art Fair next month in New York, and from April 14 to May 12 she and Howard are jointly presenting the work of five painters at Condo in Mexico City, a citywide event for which local galleries turn their spaces over to international galleries. Sigfrids is also organizing a July group show for Rental gallery in New York that will pair contemporary artists with Southern face jugs, and a two-person exhibition of Austrian artist Kiki Kogelnik and L.A.’s Lisa Williamson for the UGA Lamar Dodd School of Art in early 2019.
Howard’s will kick off with a show of works by Milano Chow and Torkwase Dyson. Sigfrid’s inaugural exhibition will feature portrait paintings by local artist Art Rosenbaum, who painted many Athens artists and UGA colleagues, alongside works by those artists, which includes Howard.
Howard reflected on his time teaching at Virginia Commonwealth University, where a number of artist-run pop-up exhibitions were happening because “there was a density of young creative types,” he says. He and Sigfrids hope to ignite some of that same energy in Athens.