This fall in New York, Jacqueline Sullivan opened her eponymous gallery to showcase decorative arts and collectible design. After years of working within the traditional art and design landscapes—through positions at the Whitney Museum, the creative brand studio Ro&Co, and the interior design studio of Charles de Lisle—she developed an intention to open a space that stimulates an “antiquarian inquisitiveness” about contemporary design and decorative arts. What follows, she hopes, is a motivated new generation of design patrons.
The TriBeCa space—designed by the artist and architect Nick Poe, who was inspired by TriBeCa’s historic loft architecture—features historical works alongside commissioned pieces from contemporary designers. Centered around small, concept-driven collections, it opened with an inaugural exhibition entitled “Substance Within a Cushion,” which bore a title in reference to a poem in Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein. Similar to Stein’s writing, the show—filled with chairs, wardrobes, tables, glass vessels, paper lamps, and more—aims to inspire curiosity, as well as explore an object’s relationship to space.
Historical furniture ranging from the 17th to the 21st century is seen in juxtaposition with pieces created in the 2000s, such as three-seater chairs created by Paolo Dagnello and Archizoom for Cassina in 1973; a flatweave carpet attributed to CF Voysey in 1895; and the Queen of Nobody chair created by Gaetano Pesce in 2002. And contemporary works range from glass vessels by Valentina Cameranesi, paper lamps by Christian Hammer Juhl + Jade Chan, and wool blankets by Grace Atkinson/Decima.
In celebration of her gallery’s recent opening, Whitewall spoke with Sullivan to hear how her space honors the craft of our times and marries a love of literature and interiors.
WHITEWALL: Why did you decide to open an eponymous gallery—and one that’s focused on collectible design and decorative arts?
JACQUELINE SULLIVAN: This gallery has been a dream of mine for a long while, it just took time to understand what shape or form that it would take. In a world of enormous production, I wanted to approach this project with a thoughtfulness and care that would feel meaningful to people, and not frivolous or insincere. While I have many interests, I’ve always been drawn to decorative arts and design because these works are those we surround ourselves with and use, we treasure, cherish, perhaps damage, lose or break—but they exist as testaments to our time here and what we want to surround ourselves with. They tell stories—not just personal ones but also about the historical moments in which they were produced, used, maligned—they give us insight to a rich human history that I find really fascinating.
WW: How did you work with Nick Poe to design the interior space? For such a visually-centric space, how did you want it to feel?
JS: I’ve admired Nick’s work from afar for a while, and so I approached him to see if he might want to work together to make my vision for the gallery come to life. He and I share a similar sensibility, and I felt like he intuitively understood me and the ethos of what the gallery was about, and so we collaborated on designing the entire space. I wanted it to feel approachable, like the gallery, so we placed the kitchen in the center of the gallery and Nick designed the most beautiful stainless steel kitchen that’s become one of my favorite aspects of the gallery. Like with so many of my collaborators, there’s a friendship there in which we understand each other creatively and emotionally and it made something really wonderful.
WW: How is your gallery curating or exhibiting differently than other traditional galleries? What decisions went into that?
JS: There’s often this question about what “differentiates” you in terms of business or whatever the venture, and I don’t think I went into this necessarily feeling negatively about the art or design world—I admire so many galleries, dealers, and individuals—or that I felt like there was something necessarily “missing.” I had a viewpoint that I wanted to express that I thought people might enjoy. Though I more seriously studied decorative arts and design history, I also majored in poetry in college, and am a big reader, and I felt like there was the opportunity to somehow link those two disciplines in a way that could be really thought-provoking or interesting. I’m not someone that compartmentalizes well, all of these things seem to blend together for me, and I think there’s a beautiful marriage between literature and interiors. They all tell a life, in a way.
WW: What is your personal relationship like with art?
JS: I operate very instinctively, I always have, and I’m not sure how to verbally describe my relationship with art. I’m a deeply emotional person, for better or worse, but I think that’s apparent in my decisions for what I surround myself with. I’ve always been curious to see as much as I can and to explore. I travel a lot alone. My home is full of things I love, that’s the requirement, nothing more. There are no moodboards or finding what matches, I just trust my gut and it makes sense to me, but maybe it doesn’t to everyone else.
WW: What are you working on this winter?
JS: We’re hosting a Gertrude Stein-style salon in mid-November with my friend Vere Van Gool and a panel of interesting, thought-provoking contributors, then hoping to do a smaller show in late January so stay tuned!
WW: What are you looking forward to in 2023?
JS: More collaborations, more friendships, more excitement, and more joy working beside people that I truly admire.