New Kids on the Block: Tennis Elbow at The Journal Gallery

It all started when they were just babies, at the Montserrat College Of Art in Beverly, Mass., in 1999. Michael Nevin was a former pro snowboarder who started a magazine that celebrated the snowboarding and skateboarding culture – with some art thrown in. Julia Dippelhofer was a continuing ed student working as an au pair, just in from Germany. It was called The Journal.

A few years later, after a move to New York, their chance encounter with a Buddhist artist in the East Village resulted in (what seemed like at the time) a subtle shift. They were publishing the magazine out of a space on East 6th Street between B and C and started showing his work in the front of the store. That became The Journal Gallery.

“By then we knew something about publishing, but the gallery was trial and error,” said Michael (born in Park Slope, family moves to Vermont when he is 8). “I was shocked when a collector came in and bought something. It was a revelation.”

From there things evolved – quickly. The pair (once romantic, now divorced, still business partners) opened a gallery in Williamsburg in 2007 showing only emerging artists; five years later they had a 4,000-square-foot gallery space. And with that bigger space came bigger shows, a bigger staff and all the energy of the openings and of course, the buzz. “It was really a great time,” said Julia, “but we missed that independent spirit, that spontaneity.”

When the building was sold last fall, they decided to move to Tribeca and reinvent their entire business model. It’s now called “Tennis Elbow” at The Journal Gallery and the idea is regular repetition, over and over again, till you’re really good at it. There are weekly rotating shows in a small viewing gallery on White Street, a big change from the huge shows in BK that took two years to prep. They travel lighter; they can take risks. And they jettisoned routines that they decided were not serving the artist or the collector.

“We said, ‘What would it look like if we did all the these things that galleries didn’t do,’” said Michael. Tossed aside were show titles, press releases, openings, dinners, and what seems to me the biggest departure: representation. They don’t rep artists, and they show artists that are repped by other galleries. A new show opens every Saturday at noon (the artist is announced on Friday at noon). And they sell the work online through a membership-only site. To join is free, but collectors must be approved and agree to some rules, including no resale for two years. “We want to democratize the collector market – make it more transparent in terms of pricing – but protect the artist market,” said Julia.

Relocating to Tribeca was an easy choice. They wanted to be part of a gallery community, but everyone is leaving Chelsea and the East Village, well, they did that already. It’s expensive, but they note, so is everything in Manhattan. And then this little ode to the neighborhood, from Michael, for those moments when things are getting you down: “Tribeca just has this elegant identity and these beautiful buildings. It feels like old New York and new New York mixed. Everyone complains about how everything is changing, but here it feels like people have been here for a long time. For us, this is old New York.”

Starting today through Sept. 12: new art work by Helmut Lang.

Tennis Elbow at The Journal Gallery
45 White Street
Open every day, 12 – 6p
Weekly solo exhibitions, opening every Saturday at noon