I moved to Los Angeles a year ago, and whenever I asked friends or coworkers for recommendations around art galleries and spaces I needed to check out, Slow Culture gallery was the resounding response. Located in LA’s Chinatown, Slow Culture is helping establish this area as a burgeoning art destination, creating a culture community that feels like you’re entering a cool kids club, but with none of the cool kid pretension.
I grew up skateboarding, playing in bands and going to art shows, so the gallery is much more aligned with what I’m interested in.
Running things at Slow Culture are brothers Fred and Max Guerrero and Steve Lee – who share a commitment and passion to drive culture through curiosity, authenticity and hard work. That hard work has materialized into highly anticipated shows with artists and brands such as Playboy, Jay Howell and Brain Dead, drawing enormous crowds on exhibit opening nights.
I caught up with the Slow Culture guys to see what’s really important behind the scenes that enable them to bring their vision front and center.
For those that aren’t familiar, what is Slow Culture?
First and foremost, Slow Culture is an art gallery located in Chinatown, Los Angeles. Beyond that we are a platform to help support our community of artist friends and creatives.
How did you all meet, and what was the impetus behind developing and opening Slow Culture?
Max and I are brothers, and I went to High School with Steve. Three years ago we had the opportunity to take over the Highland Park space that housed a friends gallery called ‘THIS Los Angeles.’ Due to circumstances beyond their control, they had to close suddenly. We felt like there was still a need for what they provided to the arts community, so we jumped at the chance to pick up where they left off.
Can you provide background information around yourselves: career, interests and/or why you personally wanted to create this venue?
Before Slow Culture, Max and I were helping run our family’s restaurants. I grew up skateboarding, playing in bands and going to art shows, so the gallery is much more aligned with what I’m interested in. There were times we collaborated with different artists for different projects at the restaurants, but it’s not always the easiest thing to integrate. After three years of the gallery being open, I’m more inspired than ever to continue to grow this concept. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for our artists in such a short amount of time and it only motivates me to do more.
Steve Lee: In past jobs I gravitated to things I was into. I went thru the phase of being into high fashion, so I got the high-end fashion job. From there went to working as a studio assistant for an art publication that I was a fan of for years. I would then get into photo assisting and set production because I had been into photography since my first B&W class when I was 18.
That being said, I feel the reason we were able to create and currently sustain Slow Culture as a creative space was not because of our extensive knowledge in the gallery world, but more so because of our individual life and work experiences pooled together to work as a team with a common vision, to have a place of community.
How does Los Angeles shape, inform and influence what happens at the gallery?
We all grew up here, so Los Angeles defines a big part of who we are. We have access to whatever we want, whenever we want. And I think that’s what is driving so many people to move here. The ability to interface with so many different cultures or scenes here has really shaped what we’ve become. There are no rules when it comes to how you run your business and that’s been instrumental in the ethos of the gallery.
We’re fortunate to have built up a dedicated community of artists that trust us to do our best for them.
Is there a common thread across exhibitors and artists who participate in Slow Culture shows or programs?
Again, because we all grew up here, that also plays an important role in how we program exhibits. We’re fortunate to have built up a dedicated community of artists that trust us to do our best for them. I think one of the main common threads when it comes to we work with is respect. That both parties have a mutual understanding of our working relationship. There’s no ego, just a job to get done.
Can you shed some insight on how the Playboy exhibit came into fruition and why?
Jay Howell has been one of the biggest champions of our gallery since the beginning. With three solo shows and multiple group shows, he’s been a big part of who we are. When Playboy began re-formatting the magazine, Jay was one of the first artists they chose to work with. Once he saw how many of our mutual friends were working with them as well, he pitched the idea to do the group show.
Upcoming projects and/or things you guys hope to achieve with Slow Culture in the future?
I would really like to work on more international projects. It’s always been a dream of mine to travel the world doing what I love. This year we got to go to Berlin and Japan, which was such an amazing experience. Also, just to continue to grow our platform and expand on what we’ve done so far.
What do you guys look for when identifying artists and exhibitions?
First and foremost we look for people that are fans of the gallery and not just blindly reaching out because they found us on Instagram. We want to work with people who genuinely appreciate what we do and not just capitalize on all of our hard work. Secondly, good work ethic. We work extremely hard, so we expect our artists to do the same.
Anything additional you guys would like to mention?
I would just like to say thank you to anyone who’s shown with us, bought something from us, written about us, told a friend, or just comes out to a show. The littlest things really go a long way and we’re very appreciative of your support.