After decades of the dawn-to-dark corporate life, Ann Moore retired as Time Inc.’s chairman and chief executive officer in 2010. Now she’s resurfaced in a very different corner office, running The Curator Gallery in New York.
Seated beside a space heater in the compact, 1,700-square-foot area beneath The High Line’s West 23rd Street entrance, Moore says of her unexpected art world venture, “This really is a labor of love — you wouldn’t do this for rational reasons.”
Her son Brendan unintentionally set the idea in motion after moving to San Francisco for a data scientist job at Facebook. During her West Coast visits, Moore enjoyed leading him and his engineer friends on art walks. “They live in these spaces with nothing on the walls. And you know how intimidating galleries can be. No one speaks to you,” Moore says. “It was like changing their lives. The last walk we put the call out for, 16 people showed up. I thought, ‘We can do this in New York.’”
So Moore scouted locations and recruited her niece Kat Sommovigo, a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design who had been interning for Nili Lotan, to help organize and run the gallery at 520 West 23rd Street.
Determined to prop up lesser-known artists and to get Millennials excited about art enough to want to enjoy it in their homes, Moore has dreamt up all sorts of Jane Jacobs-esque ideas, such as weekly $20 gallery talks to benefit featured artists. Attendees (including groups from the Harvard Business School Club, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management and Bank of America) will be sent home with homework — each person must walk a designated city block stopping at six or more galleries, taking a stroll on The High Line and taking a break or two at local eateries like Tía Pol. “They have great sangria,” Moore says.
Thursday’s opening for “Second Nature: Abstract Art From Maine,” features six artists including John Bisbee (a favorite of Glenn Close) and Cassie Jones, whose father, Landon, served as People magazine’s editor during Moore’s Time Inc. days. But as will be the case with all her shows, Moore is counting on guest curators to cull the talent. Bowdoin College’s A. LeRoy Greason professor of art Mark Wethli did the honors for “Second Nature.” During their New York stay, several of the Maine artists bunked at Moore’s apartment (where her intern also lives for the time being).
In line with her plans to use the gallery for a variety of events, including the occasional fund-raiser, Moore is planning three for Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) on March 17. Her friends Diana Taylor, Michael Bloomberg, Marlo Thomas and former Time Warner chief Richard Parsons will cohost.
Moore also plans to use The Curator Gallery for book signings for Linda Fairstein, Priscilla Paton and perhaps Gabrielle Giffords. There will also be weekly painting classes and select nonprofits will be able to borrow the space for special events.
Community-minded as she is, though, Moore’s true goal is to sell as much art as she can. She would like nothing more than to see her artists be absorbed by larger galleries. She recalled how one of her son’s female friends recently told Moore how she agonized about buying her first piece of art — a $3,000 find — until it dawned on her that that’s what her handbag cost. “It was really hard for her to give herself permission to buy that piece, which she is going to see and live and love in her home for a long time. I just want to give everybody permission to give up one purse and support an artist. Because that $3,000 will change a young artist’s life,” Moore says.
The aim is to tempt first-time buyers with opening price points of about $500, though the high end is $15,000. But Moore insists she wants young people to hang their purchases rather than stow them away as investments. “When I open the door of my house, I see Charles Bell’s ‘Gumball XX’ and that just makes me feel happy,” she says. “I just think art changes everything.”