By NOAH BECKER, SEPT. 2017
"I'm not a gallery owner,” says Wren Miller, the founder of the LA based creative management company that bears her name. House of Wren’s non-exclusive approach to artist representation reflects a changing landscape littered with collaboration and new ways of not just thinking, but doing. The former gallery manager turned creative director and entrepreneur is driven by a simple notion, keeping creatives in their studio and in the public eye by navigating all things business.
As an agent her methods developed quickly while working with her first artist, Mesplé, who signed on in 2014. “Since then his following has grown from a few hundred to a collective social media audience of almost 60,000,” she tells me. Mesplé makes technology-mediated sculptures that “captivate any age,” as Wren puts it. Mesplé is an accomplished artist and yes, his work does have that kind of immediacy. His mixture of raw materials, computer science and sculptural elements is masterfully executed in uniquely interactive ways.
The daughter of a commercial real estate developer whose first company was called “creative construction” stole the most important page out of his book. “I identify with the frustrations that artists have. Rather than letting them get swallowed up in everything that isn’t taught in art school, I send them right back to do what they do best.”
A native to Detroit, Wren spent her childhood well exposed to the process of making and modifying. She recounts, “I had it laid out pretty clearly growing up, you had to know both ends of the spectrum, or find a team who did, to manufacture success.” Today, her artists and the various galleries House of Wren partners with are her team and she is theirs.
Since relocating in 2016 to LA, House of Wren has traveled to Scope Miami Beach and Art Palm Springs with her artists and rotating galleries in addition to her explosive pop up events. The now 28-year-old demonstrates with last November’s show, “we rented 7,500 square feet to showcase 11 artists and debut a physical experience of what House of Wren is all about. I called the show ROGUE.” With a three week marketing campaign it drew over 600 people to the two night event that sprawled into the parking lot where Detroit artist Ryan C. Doyle installed his fiery pulse jet engine, “The Regurgitator.”
In February, House of Wren co-curated a booth of secondary market African antiques with contemporary glass work and paintings with Cassera Arts Premiers. Wren recounts the experiences excitedly, “It drew the attention of many, most notably one of the founders of the fair, a long-time gallery owner and dealer.”
Educationally, she measures up with a concentration in Industrial Design and degree in Marketing from the University of Notre Dame. In London, she completed a Master of Arts at Sotheby’s Institute of Art while working at Shizaru Gallery. This year, Wren begins her PhD in Philosophy, Art Theory and Aesthetics. The avid student is, “constantly making an effort to stay ahead of the industry changes by becoming more and more authoritative on the subject.”
Whitehot covered Shizaru when Beth DeWoody curated a group show there. But Shizaru permanently closed at the end of Wren's program and she moved home, unable to get a visa as per the new law.
"After being around a global approach to curating it was difficult to imagine anything else,” she confesses. During Wren’s time at Shizaru she had the opportunity to work with artists including Holton Rower, Scott Campbell and Walter Hugo. At times, bringing their work from the U.S. to the U.K. for the first time. “I was doing PR for the gallery and running the internship program under the Gallery Director, Simon Sakhai, who later went on to found The Moving Museum,” she explains. “Our multidisciplinary program touched on jewelers like Shaun Leane and Sevan Bıçakçı and never shied away from group shows where the undertone of craftsmanship could shine through.” House of Wren aims to connect her artists to their market both domestic and abroad.
This month, House of Wren presents another independent exhibition announcing her most recent client, Australian transplant Kaye Freeman. The show, New Anatomy, features Freeman and her collaborative partner Cybele Rowe. Together the artists sculpt and paint large scale lightweight works known as The Love Armada. “Their story has evolved since Freeman’s move to LA,” Wren notes. “Since making their collections of Love Bombs and Brutal Shields, a decision was made to premier their latest works as separate artists showing together at Castelli Art Space.” The exhibition will run from September 12 to 18 with full programming for the week.
After speaking with Wren, I found out that she is seeking out her next artist. This is good news for some of the ambitious artists reading this. But as I stated earlier - she's not a gallery, so her clients are handpicked and exclusive. To her, “they are an investment in the brand and mutual beliefs are acutely identified.” There’s a new trend in this kind of thing and I’ve seen a few people move in this direction.
Some of the major gallery directors in New York have left their jobs to strike out on their own as art advisors and private management people. Much like New York’s Molly Krause Communications and Andrea Schwan Inc, there's a breed of publicists who work with artists, galleries and other creative types to further careers. Wren balances her agency on a broad foundation where the cross-pollination of roles can happen naturally. WM
Noah Becker shows his art internationally. A visual artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine, Becker has also written freelance articles for The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post and contributed texts to major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker also directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010) viewable on Youtube.
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