How a new generation of art galleries is making the exclusive industry more accessible - Business Insider

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Jonathan Day Nālamakūikapō Ahsing knows what it's like to feel excluded. The new gallery representing him wants to make sure that never happens again.
Passage Arts seeks to showcase underrepresented artists and cultivate next-gen art collectors.

Cofounder Reilly Clark says young people feel the art market is too exclusive and unwelcoming.

The gallery opened last summer and has signed five artists from underrepresented communities.

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In the art world, so often, there is one question that starts the game: Do you have the means, or perhaps the desire, to buy what some gallery in Chelsea has to offer? Do you have a market and if so, whom? Actually, scratch that: Who are you?

Jonathan Day Nālamakūikapō Ahsing, 22, knows what that feels like. He's a Kanaka Maoli storyteller and up-and-coming artist based in Hawaii.

"I've definitely had negative experiences in the art market — People turning me away or not wanting to work with me because of the nature of my work," Ahsing said, adding that he's been around people who weren't allowed to enter certain galleries based on the color of their skin or because they were from certain economic backgrounds.

"If a gallery is only concerned with the numeric value of an art piece and not concerned with the movement of empowering the community, it doesn't feel like they really, truly care about the message they are trying to convey," he said.

A few years ago, Ahsing was hosting an exhibition of his work when he struck up a conversation with the co-founder of Passage Arts gallery Alema Fitisemanu, 24, and his co-founders Reilly Clark, 24, and Reily Haag, 23.

Their conversation spanned inequity, racism, the mis- and underrepresentation of indigenous voices, and the unequal power dynamic between galleries, artists, and collectors.

Both Clark and Haag are white, while Fitisemanu is of Pacific Islander descent. Clark recognized his privilege as a white man but said young people in general — both artists and collectors — want inclusivity. They don't want to leave galleries feeling as if they don't belong. And everyone wants, no…
Dominic-Madori Davis
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