Lucie Fontaine : Estate, 2012. Installation view at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
Furniture selected by Jon HowellCourtesy Marianne Boesky Gallery, New YorkPhoto credit: Genevieve Hanson, NYC

After a recent group exhibition organized by artist Lucie Fontaine, I had a dialogue with her about Estate, which was on view at Marianne Boesky Gallery in their Upper East Side townhouse from August 15th through October 15th, 2012.  The artist organized and installed the exhibition with assistance from her valued employees and then chose to vacate the premises, leaving the employees behind, who continued to live in the gallery for the duration of the show. Lucie Fontaine, similar to her counterpart Claire Fontaine, a Paris-based collective artist,  is an employer if you will, who hovers below the radar while also making quite an important visible mark on the current art scene. Always on the move and with a current exhibition at The Suburban in Chicago, we sat down to discuss the objective behind Estate, as well as current and upcoming projects.

Katy Diamond Hamer: The townhouse designated for the Marianne Boesky Gallery on 64th street was transformed for Estate by you and your employees. How would you describe the experience of the spatial intervention especially regarding the interior used for both commercial and domestic purposes?
LF: The space of Marianne Boesky Gallery on 64th Street is a three-story townhouse, with original molding on the walls and full functioning kitchen and bathrooms. When I was asked to have a show there, I thought with my employees, that it would be a great idea to use the building as a house, as it was originally used: a fictitious house where the boundary between the exhibition space and the commercial space could be blurred inside a “site-specific” domestic environment. We lived in the space day and night for two months, surrounded by furniture selected by Jon Howell and artworks by all the artists that were invited to participate, including my own work.
During the first month of installing the gallery was closed to the public and after the opening, the gallery had usual opening hours. The house was “alive,” seven days a week. It ended up as a great and intense experience that involved me and especially my employees, both in their public and private life.
KDH: Walking through the gallery, I enjoyed spying toiletries, clothes (an abandoned or lost sock) and a pair of shoes left by a bed. Each object could be deemed as art, but some were more obviously being used by your employees who were living in the space. Were you concerned at all by the comprehension of those who visited Estate in their own determining of art versus non-art?
LF: The show was about that exact blurring line, that mixture of artworks, furniture, knick-knacks and personal items. Confusion was an interesting way to question the notion of display. We enjoyed it a lot!
Lucie Fontaine : Estate, 2012.
Installation view at Marianne Boesky Gallery, NY
Furniture selected by Jon Howell
Courtesy Marianne Boesky Gallery,
New YorkPhoto credit: Genevieve Hanson, NYC
KDH: Having spent time in Italy myself, I’m curious and delighted at your choice of an exhibition titled “Estate” (the Italian word for summer). Conceptually, the term alone both merges, as well as inhibits, a cultural understanding revealed through divergent meaning based on mother tongue, the title of “Summer”  and all of it’s contextual meanings. As summer merged into autumn was there a particular fantasy or theme you hoped to divulge with the exhibition or by bringing many of your employees (who are not all based in New York) to the city that never sleeps?

LF: Estate refers to the Italian word summer, as you said. This is the reason the starting date of the show was August 15, which in Italy is a major holiday [Ferragosto] and is considered the peak of summer.

The word estate has been used also for its double English meaning, related to the estate of a dead artist and the notion of “real estate.” Through the multiple meaning of this word, we were interested in creating a dialogue between life (summer) and death (estate).
KDH: Not much text was available in the gallery regarding the show. Labels were installed but minimal and a bit confusing. Somehow this didn’t bother me as it felt less important than the work itself, installed in a space deemed both gallery and home. One of my favorites was a white on white quilt by Jen de Nike, knit with thirteen central moons. Another, painted portrait titled Ebe (2012) by Valerio Carrubba was familiar since I just saw work of his installed at Monica De Cardenas in Milan. How many artists were involved and what was the criteria for the selection process?
LF: The idea of having illustrated labels of all the works on view listed on framed sheets – with a style similar to those you can find in many museum houses – was part of our desire to make the visitors aware of the general atmosphere and the concept of the show, rather than focusing on each single work of art. Nonetheless we wanted the visitors to know “who made what” and that’s why the labels – which altogether are also a work of mine – were listing everything, even the furniture.
In total there were over 70 artists involved, with approximately 100 works. We knew most of the artists already. Some have been simply invited to the show and they decided which works they wanted to participate with. Some others exhibited a specific work decided during a studio visit by one of my employees. Others were more spontaneous and we kept adding works while the exhibition was open, if we felt a work would have been an important presence and somehow related to the gallery and to the house.
Lucie Fontaine : Estate, 2012. Installation view at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
Furniture selected by Jon HowellCourtesy Marianne Boesky Gallery, New YorkPhoto credit: Genevieve Hanson, NYC
KDH: Lastly, you have been quite an elusive figure, even leaving Marianne Boesky Gallery before the exhibition opened to the public. I spoke to a few of your employees including the lovely Alice Tomaselli, who also has work in the show. Did you make certain rules or set certain parameters for those who were living in the gallery?
LF: The employees who have been working closely on the project were living in the space and we would not have been able to make it otherwise. The only rule was to take care of the works we [they] were living with, as they would have done for the works and the furniture present in their own house.
KDH: Grazie, or rather merci Lucie! I’m looking forward to seeing what you have up your sleeve next. Any future plans you want to share?
LF: We just opened “The Suburbans” a project in Chicago at The Suburban, Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam’s artist-run-space. In 2013 we have a lot of projects coming up: in January “i-n-v-e-n-t-o-r-y” a show at Galeria Sabot in Cluj-Napoca, in February “I ❤ Lucie” a double show at Anat Ebgi and Various Small Fires in Los Angeles opening on Valentines Day and this summer an educational project called Fontaine, School of, which will take place in Tel Aviv.
Lucie Fontaine : Estate, 2012. Installation view at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
Furniture selected by Jon HowellCourtesy Marianne Boesky Gallery, New YorkPhoto credit: Genevieve Hanson, NYC

Artists and Motifs included in Estate:
Domesticity: kitchen and hallway
Adriano Altamira, Riccardo Beretta, Lupo Borgonovo, Vittoria Chierici, Patrizio Di Massimo, Cleo Fariselli, Enza Galantini, Corrado Levi, Marcello Maloberti, Alice Mandelli, Marcello Martin, Daniella Isamit Morales, Alek O., Alessandro Roma, Matteo Rubbi, Santo Tolone, Marcella Vanzo and Mauro Vignando.
Salon: living room, studio and bathrooms
Kim Abeles, Ali Banisadr, Lucas Blalock, Marco Boggio Sella, Paul Branca, Judith Braun, Valerio Carrubba, Aline Cautis, Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, Radu Comşa, Jen DeNike, Fendry Ekel, Lucie Fontaine, Lucio Fontana, Heather Guertin, Giorgio Guidi_Marta Pierobon (Draok), Peter Halley, Eric Helvie, Alfi Jumaldi, Kimberly Kay Charles, Anya Kielar, Brad Killam, Hannah Kirby, Miranda Lichtenstein, John Newsom, Amalia Piccinini, Lisi Raskin, John Riepenhoff with Michelle Grabner, Matalon Rose, Bruce Sherman, Alberto Tadiello, Josh Tonsfeldt, Georgi Tushev, Daniel Turner, Patrick Tuttofuoco, Johannes VanDerBeek and Entang Wiharso.
Bouquets: bedroom, second floor
Fia Backström, Mauro Bonacina, Ann Craven, Camille Henrot, Tom Holmes, Maria Loboda, Ylva Ogland, Mamie Tinkler and Alice Tomaselli.
Father Figures: bedroom, third floor
Joshua Neustein and David Robbins.
Children of Babel: bedroom, third floor
Rita Ackermann, Sonia Almeida, Harold Ancart, Ana Cardoso, Esther Kläs, Linda Matalon, Amir Mogharabi, Sarah Ortmeyer and Rita Sobral Campos.

More soon!