How Jet-Setting Curator Chris Sharp Is Shaking Up L.A.’s Gallery Scene

After a pandemic year spent in his new home base, Sharp lays down roots with a ’sublime’ new Mid-City gallery

When Chris Sharp arrived in Los Angeles in mid-March 2020, a few days before the lockdown would put an indefinite pause on his globe-trotting lifestyle, the last thing he planned to do was open a gallery. For starters, the 47-year-old curator and arts writer already had a thriving gallery, Lulu, in Mexico City, where he’d been living since 2012. But even that venture was somewhat of a fluke.

“I wanted to be a novelist,” says Sharp, dressed in a white-linen button-down, khaki shorts, and navy skate shoes on a warm afternoon in the backyard space of the newly minted Chris Sharp Gallery, which he opened in Mid-City in January. “I have no plans; shit just happens.”

Raised in San Francisco by a single mother who put her dreams of becoming a painter on hold to work two jobs to support the family, Sharp studied literature at the New School in New York. He moved to Paris in the early aughts to write and started working in the art world to pay the bills. He was toiling as a studio assistant to the Polish-American art star Piotr Uklanski, when the Parisian dealer Fabienne Leclerc enlisted him—for, he says, “no good reason”—to curate a group show. She flew him all across America to scout artists, and by the time he opened the show in 2006 he was hooked.

“Trying to write a novel, you spend a large majority of your time alone; but in art, it’s a collective enterprise,” says Sharp. “I love the syntactical nature of art. You can put objects into a room together and, depending how you position them, you can modify and create meaning while at the same time protect and preserve the intentions of the work.”

Over the next decade, Sharp became the editor of the Milan-based magazine Flash Art and continued to curate shows around the globe. After a residency took him to Mexico City in 2012, he moved into the apartment of artist Martin Soto Climent. The two eventually transformed their living room into a white-cube gallery they dubbed Lulu. In contrast to Mexico City’s obsession with conceptual art, Lulu made a name for itself by focusing on form and craft-driven paintings and sculpture.

“L.A. is very manufactured…it feels like a kind of fake city. But I feel like that is wonderful and a huge part of its charm.”

“I’m very interested in artists who think plastically, by which I mean artists who think through materials, medium, the history of that medium; who challenge it; and who are able to articulate or convey complex or sophisticated ideas,” he says.

Sharp initially moved to L.A. last spring to hunker down with his girlfriend, food writer BB Beugelmans. Their apartment became a gallery during the pandemic until the two found an old floral studio that they transformed into the Chris Sharp Gallery, with Beugelmans managing the space. It debuted earlier this year with seven ethereal paintings by young Kiwi abstract painter Emma McIntyre, who just finished her MFA at ArtCenter. In a glowing review, Frieze magazine dubbed the exhibition “sublime.” A show that closed earlier this month was devoted to young Brit Sophie Barber and her chunky paintings depicting celebrity portraits taken by celebrity photographers—think Tyler Mitchell shooting Harry Styles. Sharp is also still involved in various international projects, including a massive new aquatic-themed show on the French isle of Porquerolles, featuring works by Jeff Koons, Paul Klee, and Alex Olson. But he’s most excited about settling here and building up his L.A. program.

“The fact that L.A. is very manufactured—in the sense that it’s got faux Spanish villas, the moviemaking industry, the strip mall—it feels like a kind of fake city. But I feel like that is wonderful and a huge part of its charm,” he says. “The life of the independent curator—where you’re on a different plane all over the world if you’re lucky—gets pretty tiring. I like being in one place. I find it really refreshing to be home.”

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