Gallerist at Home: Monique Meloche

Hip, stylish, and ever-tasteful, Monique Meloche (the founder, owner, and namesake of monique meloche gallery) and her husband live in a contemporary single family home in Ukranian Village, Chicago.  After Meloche and her husband got married and moved into their home, they opened the gallery in that very residence in October of 2000 with an exhibition aptly called "Homewrecker” before opening to the public in 2001.

Rashid Johnson, Thug, 2000, neon and mahogany, 48 x 48 in. Image courtesy of artist and moniquemeloche; Photography by Heidi Norton.

Twelve years later, Meloche is still a tastemaker in the art world and gallery circuit.  Meloche also founded Gallery Weekend Chicago, an annual fall art fair that runs from September 21-23rd this year.  Having started the gallery in her home, Meloche is a perfect candidate for Gallerist at Home, as she is constantly testing and blurring the lines between personal and private -- home and gallery. - Ellen C. Caldwell

Ellen Caldwell: I love the Rashid Johnson “Thug” piece and the fact that you said people know your house by the warm pink glow – that’s awesome.  What made you know that piece belonged in your home?Monique Meloche: This is the first piece we bought by Rashid -- in fact my husband bought it to help out a then struggling artist back in 2000!  The use of pink was in reference to a body of work Rashid was working on using "Pink Lotion," a black hair-care product.  This was at the starting point of our more serious art collecting and certainly fits in with our very strong interest in African-American artists.

Living Room: featuring works: Wesley Kimler, 1999, acrylic on paper and Rashid Johnson, The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Thurgood). Images courtesy artist and moniquemeloche.
Rashid Johnson, The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Thurgood), 2008, Lambda print, 69 x 55 1/2 in. Image courtesy artist and moniquemeloche.

EC: And the unconventional pool-over-dining table is a great conversation piece, I am sure.  You have clearly created and cultivated this part of your house for hosting.  How did you choose the artwork for the larger backdrop of this dynamic social scene?  (Or what about the Johnson and Kimler pieces are felt fitting there?) MM: Besides opening the front door and seeing THUG, this is the most dramatic viewing spot in the house.  We have a vintage 1966 Brunswick pool table instead of formal dining room and do most of my post-opening dinners at my home with artists, collectors, curators playing pool. Kimler offered to make us a piece as a wedding/housewarming gift, and if you know him you would not be surprised that he chose the largest wall we have and it has been there ever since.   Several pieces have graced the back wall behind the pool table, but once we acquired the The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Thurgood)photo, it just belonged there.  More practically, all the work is glazed in this area since pool cues often graze the plexi.

Rashid Johnson, Black Love, 2008, black soap and wax with shea butter, incense, brass objects and vinyl albums, 4 x 8 feet. Image courtesy of artist and moniquemeloche.

EC: Clearly you are a big Rashid Johnson fan, as am I.  Do you represent him?  MM: I have represented Rashid Johnson since I opened my gallery in 2001 and we still do! We always collect work from the artists that I show, so you will always see work by gallery artists in my home alongside work by Luc Tuymans, Kehinde Wiley, Zac Prekop, Mark Flood, Michalene Thomas, Jonas Wood, Jeff Sonhouse, and Rachel Niffeneggerto name a few.

Jason Middlebrook, Double Negative 1969-1970, 2003, watercolor, graphite, and acrylic on paper (in 2 parts) , 80 x 111 in. overall. Image courtesy of artist and moniquemeloche.

EC: That’s a great collection. Your Middlebrook piece is fantastic.  What’s the story behind its journey to your house?      MM: My husband noticed this piece was coming up at auction and was intrigued.  We had just starting representing Jason Middlebrook and already had a wood sculpture in our collection, so adding a large-scale work on paper seemed like a nice addition.  The piece is so visually striking and the content in reference to Michael Heizer's seminal earthwork sums up so much of Jason's work.  My husband was convinced that it would be perfect over the dining table, so we took out the measuring tape and thought it would be nice to push the boundaries of scale to the limit and it worked!   His MTA mosaic tile installationin Brooklyn was just voted best new public art in the USA!!

Rinus Van de Velde, Please Not Now, 2009, Siberian charcoal on paper, 59 x 43 in. Image courtesy of artist and moniquemeloche.

EC:  I love that Rinus Van de Velde’s work inspired you to purchase work for your home, while also signing him.  MM: As I mentioned, our collecting is a wonderful representation of the gallery program that is rounded out by a diverse selection of non-gallery artists. Rinus Van de Veldeis a young Belgian artist whom we discovered at Art Basel Miami Beach.  We bought this on the spot and then offered him a show last year!

Carrie Schneider, Pines from the series "Derelict Self", 2006-2007, C-print, 36 x 30 in. Image courtesy of artist and moniquemeloche.

EC: Schneider’s series is so interesting.  Can you tell me more about her goals with the series and what drew you to it?  MM: Carrie Schneider's Derelict Self series was the first works I saw in her MFA show from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  Although not really self-portraits, Schneider is always present in her photos, videos, and films.  This is a series of ten photos in which she mimicked her brother’s movements—in this one she has literally climbed into the same sweater as him. I love this because it is about sibling rivalry but also about adoration or emulation of siblings, as she is his subconscious body double.  Quoting the artist, "Derelict Selfis inspired by the idea that mimicry can be a way to both gain and lose a sense of oneself, as well as my own experience of being a younger sibling."

Gallery installation view of Burning House. Image courtesy of artist and moniquemeloche.
Home interior view. Image courtesy of artist and moniquemeloche.

--- After curating at Chicago’s MCA and directing both Rhona Hoffman and Kavi Gupta galleries, Monique Meloche opened her own space in 2001. Meloche founded Gallery Weekend Chicago, which will once again bring collectors and curators from across the globe to Chicago in September 2012.  Upcoming exhibits at the gallery include art by Joel Ross and Justin Cooper. Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, editor, and writer.

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