Although only three exhibitions in, Permanent.Collection has thus far provided a truly unique home gallery experience here in Austin both by integrating their former home of Chicago into their curatorial practice and also by developing a non-commercial gallery environment that embraces the comfortable quality of home.
Julia V. Hendrickson and Anthony B. Creeden present one Texas artist with one Chicago-based artist for each exhibition. These exhibitions take place on Sunday afternoons, and people come by to stroll through the home gallery and sit on the porch or in the kitchen to socialize and have a drink or two—prompting openings to feel “more like a big dinner party, something more on that scale,” Hendrickson said. “We want it to be open to the public but focused more on our communities, which are relatively small.” Hendrickson, who worked for years in a commercial gallery in Chicago, and Creeden, who worked in exhibitions at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, decided after seven harsh winters that it was time to apply their skills and ambitions in a new setting.
“Coming from Chicago, where most of the artists we knew were running apartment galleries and there’s a strong network of DIY spaces—You could get a show pretty easily there because so many people turn their homes into exhibition spaces,” Creeden said.
“Yeah,” Hendrickson chimed in, “we wanted to bring something different to Texas and connect with artists while maintaining our connections to the Chicago community, which we still have so much love for, so this seemed perfect.” Thus, Permanent.Collection began a matchmaking process between new-to-them Texas artists and the pair’s Chicago comrades.
In addition to their specific curatorial format and environment, Permanent.Collection has set themselves apart through their unique secondary programming. Artist Lindsay Hutchens, for instance, used the context of the home gallery to host a Mother’s Day yard sale in connection with her photography project Heirless. Specific objects from her childhood that Hutchens was saving for her future offspring were photographed and displayed for the exhibition, which also included an iPad that had the items listed for sale on Craigslist. These items were eventually given away at the yard sale, where visitors acquiring any of the objects were required to fill out a survey and have their photographs taken with the objects in question.
Austin artist Nate Ellefson—who is interested in blurring the lines between art and everyday life, particularly in relation to food preparation and consumption—took the opportunity to use Permanent.Collection’s kitchen to prepare a meal for twelve lucky guests who won a raffle at the exhibition’s opening reception. In addition, Ellefson used the same front yard from Hutchens’ yard sale to bury fermenting duck eggs.
Instead of trying to disguise the home as a gallery, these small and intimate events embrace that the gallery is in a home. And while gallery environments can often teeter on awkward or uncomfortable—and apartment and home galleries even more so—Permanent.Collection has succeeded in bypassing pretension and sterility with its welcoming and cozy atmosphere, which has obviously been recognized by past exhibiting artists such as Hutchens and Ellefson who chose to include domestic events in their exhibitions.
The name Permanent.Collection not only ironically refers to the pair’s constantly transforming living quarters but also to the archive. Hendrickson, the current registrar and assistant curator for special projects at The Contemporary Austin, has worked as a registrar for years. Growing up in a bookstore and around librarians, essentially surrounded by archives, very much inspired the conceptual foundation of Permanent.Collection. “The registrar language is so fascinating,” Hendrickson said. “That’s why the dot is in the middle of the name Permanent.Collection; it’s a way of archiving. That’s why the promotional and poster photos are always black and white, too. We really like the idea of putting an image out into the world that doesn’t give you quite enough information until you come to the opening and then you get that information here.”
One of the most accommodating features of running a home gallery is that Hendrickson and Creeden are able to put on programming at their own convenience. So while we are unsure of when the next exhibition will be, all of the above has us excited for what’s to come.
Rebecca Marino is co-editor of Conflict of Interest. She also works as a visual artist and curator in Austin, TX.