Lora Reynolds opened her eponymous gallery in Austin, Texas in 2005. She answered questions by email. Recommended reads include her 2011 interviews by Brian Fee in New American Paintings: Heart to Art Part 1 and Part 2.
Thao Votang: As native Houstonites, why did you and Quincy, your husband, decide to settle in Austin to raise your family? Back in 2005, the city couldn’t really compete with the cultural outlets that Houston has.
Lora Reynolds: Quincy and I both grew up in Houston but we have not lived there full-time since we were in our early 20s. I moved to Dallas at 15, and he left Houston when he graduated from Memorial High School. We were at Memorial at the same time for a year and a half but didn’t really know each other. It was only in college, when I lived with a friend from high school and we went out one night with the Houston crowd, that he and I connected and began dating. We were 20 and 21 at the time.
After college at UT Austin, he moved back to Houston and got his MBA at Rice. I moved around a bit—lived in Belgium and traveled across Europe—before returning to Texas to take graduate classes at Rice University and The University of Houston. After graduate school I moved to London to work for Anthony d’Offay. Quincy moved all over Texas—Fort Worth, then San Antonio, and ultimately back to Austin to start his investment fund, Teton Capital.
I moved from London to Texas for a semester and then to New York City, where I worked with Gemini G.E.L (a print publisher), then Anthony d’Offay (as his only U.S. based employee), and then with Matthew Marks Gallery once d’Offay retired in 2001.
Once we were ready to start a family, Quincy was in Austin, and Austin was the city in Texas with which I had the deepest connection. My oldest brother (I am one of five) and my mother had already moved here, and, of course, Quincy was here.
TV: This is maybe a chicken-or-egg thing, but was it because you two moved here that your in-laws, Jeanne and Mickey Klein, who are also deeply involved in the art community, came to Austin?
LR: Jeanne has always been a guiding light for me and a very close friend. We were family from the moment we met. However, she and Mickey were living in Houston when Quincy and I came here. They didn’t move until after I’d been here for two years or so, and we had our daughter, Georgia.
They moved for their own reasons. Of course, they say being closer to us and our daughter was a huge contributing factor. We are all very close and talk almost daily. But there were other factors. They love The University of Texas at Austin and both went to school there. (Little known fact…Jeanne was voted most beautiful woman on campus during her studies there.) They were excited to be involved with UT Austin and to be engaged with all that is possible there.
We count ourselves lucky to live only a few minutes away from them. I treasure their guidance and influence in our lives. And our children love them very much.
TV: In the last ten years, you’ve seen a lot of change happen in Austin with a lot of ups and downs in the art community. You are very active with both The Contemporary Austin and the Blanton Museum of Art. Do you see factors that may show a new level of stability, or permanence in the gains that have been made with our larger institutions?
LR: I have seen many wonderful and exciting changes take place. I have enjoyed every step along the way. I appreciate the contributions made by everyone who came before. I admire Laurence Miller and his role in AMOA early on. Dana Friis-Hansen is still a friend; I knew him from my time in Houston. I adore Annette Carlozzi and am grateful for her work. And, I am grateful to Ned Rifkin and now, Simone Wicha, who I believe is leading us towards a bright future on an international stage. Simone has brought in great talent to the museum, including Veronica Roberts, Evan Garza, and Francesca Consagra. Simone has brought the Blanton Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin,” which will undoubtedly be an art destination for art lovers internationally.
I have also been on the board of The Contemporary Austin for almost 12 years (I joined when it was Arthouse). I am close to Sue Graze and and extremely grateful and honored that Louis Grachos agreed to step in and handle the newly imagined museum. His vision, enthusiasm, energy, and international reputation are helping us accomplish great things in a relatively short amount of time.
We are widening our reach and working to engage a broad audience and Louis and his extraordinary team have helped us gain the attention of supporters and collectors throughout our state and beyond.
There are more great things are to come and I feel incredibly proud to do what I can to help!
TV: When you opened your gallery, you set out to specifically show international artists that people in Austin would not otherwise be able to see. Do your recent shows—a group exhibition of Troy Brauntuch, Jeff Williams, and Andy Coolquitt and exhibitions featuring artists that line up with The Contemporary’s and Blanton’s exhibitions—represent a shift in your programming or focus?
LR: I hope our programming is always evolving. As you mentioned, our landscapes are shifting—not only locally, but internationally, personally. I hope to respond to it in terms of our programming. My background is in international contemporary artists, and I predict that will remain my focus. But it was a great pleasure and long-standing desire to work with Troy, Andy, and Jeff. I have admired their work for years.
TV: Austin would be a more viable city for mid-career and established artists if there were more galleries with greater reach (ability to do the big art fairs, place work with bigger institutions and collectors, etc.). What do you think it would take for more galleries to open in Austin?
LR: Having a gallery in Austin is difficult. Rent is high (compared to the rest of Texas) and we don’t have a bottomless pool of collectors to compensate. Let’s face a very real financial fact: how can anyone afford to have a gallery and pay rent at $6-, $7-, or $10,000 a month, PLUS all other expenses, such as framing, shipping, and staff, and expect to survive if they’re not selling expensive work? It is not financially feasible. At least not for me. Running a gallery is expensive, time-consuming, and hard. It involves travel, staff, and time. And, Austin is not yet completely capable of supporting a number of galleries that show international contemporary art. I wish it were. I wish there were 5 or 10 galleries doing what I do. But it takes time to build a community that can support that kind of celebration of culture.
TV: Did you think that after ten years, you would still be the only ‘blue chip’ gallery in Austin? What keeps you going, when others shutter and move on?
LR: I hope we will have more in ten years! I am incredibly blessed and I do not rely on the gallery to support me financially, but I do rely on it to feed me emotionally and, in some way, philanthropically. I love it when people see shows and feel enriched or alive or angry or, well, feel anything. I want people to walk away wondering, “What the hell???” or “That was gorgeous,” or “I hated it,” or basically anything except, “That was so boring.”
TV: What do you do when you’re not in the gallery? Your twitter bio says you’re a runner—do you run competitively or just for fun?
LR: I am lucky to have a very full life. Quincy and I have two children—Wilder is eight and Georgia is twelve—and my life is always a tightrope between being their mom, Quincy’s wife, a gallery owner, and adviser to my artists. I also run. I have run four marathons (two of which were the Boston Marathon) along with two 50Ks and other ultra-marathons, as well as triathlons. I try to keep my mornings open for dropping the kids off at school and running. It keeps me sane (and sometimes makes me insane). But I want to do more. My next goal is an Olympic Triathlon followed by a Half Ironman.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been involved with the Blanton and The Contemporary for years and spend considerable time and energy on those institutions, including chairing The Art Dinner last year and in 2016 for The Contemporary. Quincy and I also work with Gilbert Tuhabonye’s Gazelle Foundation, which works to provide access to water for those in Burundi, Africa.
I’m interested in reproductive rights and work with The Center for Reproductive Rights in New York on raising money here in Texas. I’ve been the kids’ class mom a few times, and I’m always trying to be at the school when I can until they don’t want me to anymore!!
And, our whole family loves to travel—most recently to Africa.
TV: With regard to music—what is on heavy rotation these days?
LR: Quincy is far more into music than I am. When I run I often listen to audiobooks…most recently The Elephant Whisperer, Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book One, and funnily enough, Whatever You Do, Don’t Run (about the Okavango Delta in South Africa).
I recently took our daughter to a Taylor Swift concert—a birthday present—and listening to her music before the concert I felt like I was studying trying to catch up! Recently, I’ve been listening to Sylvan Esso, Shakey Graves, Sturgil Simpson, Hozier, and I really enjoyed Houndmouth at ACL.
Jim Torok: New Portraits and Other Work and Roy McMakin open November 14 at Lora Reynolds Gallery. The exhibitions will be on view through January 9, 2016.