Blum & Poe Break Up: What’s Next for the Iconic Gallery?

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The first Blum & Poe is in Los Angeles - Photo by Cedric Letsch

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Jeff Poe, the co-founder of the powerhouse Los Angeles gallery Blum & Poe, is stepping back from the gallery. The news has sent shockwaves through the art world, with many wondering what this means for the gallery’s future.

Poe and his partner, Tim Blum, founded Blum & Poe in 1994. The gallery has become one of the world’s most respected contemporary art galleries. It has represented some of the most influential artists of our time, including Henry Taylor and Takashi Murakami.

In a statement last month, Poe said, “I’ll be going down a simpler and more fluid path. I’ll continue to work with artists and art; I have to, it’s given me great joy and nothing is more important to me.

I’ve also always been engaged with building quieter aspects of the gallery—developing real estate, working with architecture, design, and I’ll continue with that too. I’m pretty excited about having the freedom to fully embrace a new practice.” 

Blum will remain the sole owner of Blum & Poe, and Matt Bangser is stepping in as Managing Partner.

Jeff Poe Discusses his Exit from Blum & Poe on The Baer Faxt

The Baer Faxt is a podcast about the contemporary art world that began as a faxed newsletter in 1994. Josh Baer, an art adviser, is the host. The podcast features interviews with artists, curators, and other figures in the art world. It is an excellent resource for anyone interested in contemporary art.

In this episode, Poe discusses his decision to leave the gallery after 30 years of helping to make Los Angeles a major art city. We go behind the scenes of Blum & Poe, as Poe describes how he split up duties in his partnership with Tim Blum and his work with artists.

Baer invited him to the podcast after his departure became the talk of Armory Week so that Poe could personally explain his reasons for leaving.

Poe is candid about his experiences building a gallery amidst the evolution of the art world from an insider’s club to an international corporate industry.

Below is a snippet of the two chatting about Takashi Murakami, an artist previously represented by Blum & Poe:

Baer, “Murakami is interesting because I think of what he did that was kind of exceptional, which was the Louis Vuitton store at his show at MOCA, and that seemed crazy and radical at the time, and now it seems like Louis Vuitton as a different artist bag every three months.”

Poe, “[Paul] Schimmel had a lot to do with that, by the way.”

Baer, “I would say more than half of it. What seemed radical then is normalized now.”

Poe, “Right. That’s again it’s like what I’m saying. It’s like things have just shifted and changed, and how do you stay on top of the game?”

For a bit of context, Paul Schimmel was the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) from 1990 to 2012. He invited Louis Vuitton to install a boutique at Takashi Murakami’s retrospective exhibition, ©MURAKAMI, at Geffen Contemporary, MOCA in downtown Los Angeles in 2007.

The exhibition was shortly after The Louis Vuitton X Takashi Murakami collaboration, which launched at the 2003 spring/summer show when Marc Jacobs was Creative Director. It was the ‘it bag’ of the year for fashionistas and tabloid cover girls, including Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Few items symbolize the early aught luxury market more than the LV x TM Speedball.

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In the episode, Poe also offers advice on choosing a role in the art world, dealing with misbehaving artists, and keeping up with the competition in the art world’s new corporate era.

His tone is elegiac as he reflects on the changes he has seen in the art world over the years. He speaks with a sense of loss for the days when the art world was a more intimate and personal place but also with a hint of excitement for the chance to work directly with artists again.

It remains to be seen how the gallery will fare without Poe. However, with Blum at the helm, it will likely continue to be a significant player in contemporary art. The episode is a must-listen for anyone interested in the art world or culture’s changing nature.


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