Don’t get me wrong, part of what I love about the Arts District is my stumble into a new bar and restaurant (welcome, The Fat Dog) about every six months, and I love that I can throw a stone and hit about three theatres and five collectives. But I just really thought there would be more visual art galleries. Many of the online listed galleries have either closed shop or shut down their brick and mortar, having moved completely online. I get it, we’re all still struggling with the recession despite housing market forecasts climbing.
However, in my quest to find a gallery in NoHo, I came across L’Imagerie Gallery.
L’Imagerie Gallery sits with Cahuenga and Victory as its crossroads. Although it’s a small space with a nice but modest façade, you can’t help but understand something massive is going on inside. And I’m speaking to the more existential, not only the massive parking lot L’Imagerie boasts (always a good thing to know in L.A.).
I suppose it’s only right that an art gallery that’s survived decades has been curating for decades.
Debbie, the owner, sat down after she let me tour around, and very personally gave me the history of the gallery. Debbie’s family has owned and operated the gallery since 1973. Her widowed mother raised four children, of which Debbie was the eldest. All my fellow eldest siblings know that our two main, delegated duties as such are to 1) torment our younger siblings, and 2) help with our family businesses (okay, I may have made up that first one). It’s through her mother that Debbie learned tricks of the trade she says, but you really need a gut intuition and savvy about you to survive in the gallery business. I don’t know from first hand experience, but judging by the number of galleries in the Arts District, I can only guess.
Debbie’s mom began collecting turn of the century fine art, and moved into Warhol and Rockwell pieces. Debbie says she definitely was influenced by her mother’s curation slant. She told me of how she began collecting rock posters in 1979, and kept moving forward. She got a sparkle about her when she explained that she curates popsurrealism art with a permanent collection. The gallery backs her up on this, because she has massive, original works by the movement’s father, Robert Williams, and many others such as Audrey Kawasaki, Glenn Barr, Lori Early, and Camille Rose Garcia, just to name a few.
This is all alongside her well preserved, expansive, movie and concert poster collection.
It’s truly, truly impressive. You want an original Jimi Hendrix poster? You want a Clint Eastwood movie poster… in Italian? She has it. From movie A to Z, I bet you’d be hard pressed to find an original poster, and even a version of an original poster, she doesn’t have.
She seemed tired, but running a gallery, inventory, restoration, custom framing business, and shipping to both international buyers and collector’s clients all in the same business wears me out just thinking of it. She’s got that wisened smile where you know she’s seen the ins and outs of the art world. While she mentioned retirement is on the horizon, with her workaholic ethos, I don’t think she could stand still.
I walked away from the gallery in sort of in a daze, uncertain of what to make of how many successful businesses were rolled into one.
I finally came to terms with my feeling about the gallery after I went on a long run in NoHo Park. L’Imagerie Gallery is just a hugely successful paradox of a family owned and founded, old school poster gallery that pushes the envelope of a 21st century art curation business model. While the gallery and even Debbie herself are to be marveled at, she humbly thinks that L’Imagerie is successful because of its personal touch and appeal.
The uniqueness of L’Imagerie is the historical touchstone of its artwork.
Everyone likes movies. And many people have a particular point in time that they like to hang onto.