Greg Kucera: 'We're a Grown-up Gallery'

July 28, 2017

Kucera in his Pioneer Square gallery. He has participated in Seattle Art Fair since its conception in 2015.

Since Seattle Art Fair’s inaugural year, Greg Kucera has been an event staple. As a gallery participant and member of the Dealer Committee, Kucera offers a multi-faceted perspective on the fair. Read what he has to say about Seattle’s gallery scene, decision-making and this year’s fair.

How many art fairs have you participated in over your 34 years as a gallery owner?

Sixty-two and counting.

What does it mean to you to have an event like this in Seattle?

Typically, when you have an art fair in any city, the hometown galleries like to participate in it. In a way, they have a leg up because they not only have space at the fair, but they have their gallery space as well. If someone is interested in an artist it’s very easy to shuttle people from one place to another.

Local artists have expressed the concern that many people feel intimidated by the idea of walking into a gallery. Have you noticed a shift in attitudes surrounding art and galleries because of events like the fair?

I think people are fond of saying they’re intimidated by art galleries, but we see people in here every day. New people, same people, all kinds of people. I think the intimidation says more about where that person is coming from, then where we’re coming from. I think by and large the galleries in Seattle are very friendly and will, at least, be welcoming to people.

Left: Sherry Markovitz, "Hippo". Right: Darren Waterson, "Morphology 2". Greg Kucera Gallery will showcase works by Markovitz and Waterson at Seattle Art Fair. Images courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery.

What do you hope people take away from visiting your booth?

That we are a grown-up gallery.

What does it mean to be a grown-up gallery?

I mean, I’ve done 60 plus art fairs. I’ve had the gallery now for 34 years. I am going all in for this fair — taking a much larger space than last year, and committing the energy of my staff and myself to showing our artists in a thoughtful way in context with other artists from the rest of the country.

Does the location of the fair play into what you decide to bring to the fair?

Typically, our game plan with an art fair is that we go with the best we have at that moment, but we have a bit more flexibility here. When the art fair is in town, we don’t have to ship the work three or four weeks in advance — we can work up to the last minute. I have an artist today sending me images I’m seeing for the first time. So, we also have the great luxury of being able to bring extra works that may or may not be hung. If we go elsewhere, we have to know in advance exactly how things will lay out.

Kucera talks to visitors in his booth at Seattle Art Fair 2016.

What are you tasked with as a member of the Dealer Committee?

The Dealer Committee has a great say in how the fair looks by which galleries they select. This year we had really good dealers applying from the get-go, so it was fairly easy to do.

What excites you the most about this year’s fair?

That it will be the third year — and hopefully that means everyone who came the first and second year will come back. And I think because it will be a better fair, and more integrated into the city than it has ever been.

Is there any encouragement from you and James [Harris] for other Seattle galleries to apply?

Not so much getting them to apply, but getting them to apply with good work. Asking them to think about, “how does your proposal stack up to the quality of the fair, and is it going to be the right thing for this fair?”

How did you get into the gallery scene? 

I started going to galleries in high school and kept that up all through school at the University of Washington. My senior year I took a job at an art gallery part-time and when I graduated, I worked for that gallery. When the owner closed it, I said to myself, ‘gosh, you’re a clever 27-year-old, you can do this.’ Fortunately, establishing a gallery was easier then for many reasons.

You were getting your art degree?

Yes. I learned in school that I wasn’t a very good artist. It was better for me to support artists better than me.

Do you plan to wear the famous plaid suit this year?

I will wear the fancy tuxedo jacket in buffalo plaid. But not the whole outfit. The head to toe plaid suit will just have to be used sparingly to protect its mystery and allure.