Gallerist at Home: Walter Maciel

Walter Maciel, director and owner of the Walter Maciel Gallery in Culver City, began his career in 1992 after graduating from UC Berkeley with a double major in Art History and Studio Art. After working as the director of two galleries in San Francisco, Maciel moved to Los Angeles and opened his own gallery in 2006. Showing art that is edgy, youthful, creative, and not always traditional, Maciel has cultivated a gallery that is both experimental and modern – and always fun to explore.

Maciel’s home: living room and dining room.

In Gallerist at Home, I like to examine home collections not only to hear the stories behind the works, but also to see the ways in which art-related careers impact personal collections and display processes. Maciel’s home collection is unique, thoughtful, humorous, and aesthetically pleasing, all at once. Though he speaks as if it is still developing, my favorite part of his private collection is the way in which he has grouped and curated his personal space – including one large salon-style wall, a humorous mash-up of items on his shelves, and one possibly-temporary larger than life piece of sculpture that peaks out playfully from a handful of his home portraits below. - Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor

Bottom line: the variety of art Maciel collects in his home is intriguing and engaging – every piece is unique and not necessarily an obvious companion piece to one another.  But the combination creates a homey feel, in the subtlest of ways. 

Hung Liu in Maciel’s bedroom.

Hung Liu | Sisters in Arms I, 2003, Six-color lithograph with collage, 30” x 36”

Ellen Caldwell: The piece above your bed is really great – can you tell me about this one?

Walter Maciel: Hung Liu gifted this print to me as a going away present when I left San Francisco.  The print was done in a series of work at Tamarind Press in Albuquerque, New Mexico and shows a group of three woman workers who are posed in a stoic gesture gazing at the viewer.  I have this print hanging over my bed as if they are keeping watch on me.  I love the facial expressions and the use of collage.  Hung has gifted many paintings and prints and the most special piece I have by her is an intimate drawing of my mother which she did for me after she passed away in 2001.

Tracey Moffatt | Up in the Sky #17, 1998, Off-set lithograph, 24” x 30”

EC: That’s so nice; I am sure that your collection is much more rich and intimate because of the personal ties you have from your gallery work. What other pieces speak to this?

WM: I bought this [Tracy Moffatt] piece while I was working as the Director of Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco in 1999.  We showed the complete series of 25 images that detailed the repercussions of a mixed race baby in a white family set within the Outback of Australia, all staged in a cinematic format.  The image I selected appealed to me because it shows two men fighting as they fall to the ground but it could also be an embracing kiss.

I loved the ambiguity and also the guy in the background is looking “up in the sky” which is the name of the series.  I began working at Rena’s gallery in 1998 and I started to collect a few of the artists that we represented at the gallery.

Vik Muniz | Pictures of Wire, Leaking Bucket, 1995, Gelatin silver print, 20” x 20”

Vik Muniz | Pictures of Wire, Leaking Bucket – INSTALLATION VIEW

EC: And then you mentioned the Muniz print also came from that time?  His process of turning three dimensional sculptures into two dimensional prints is so interesting.

WM: Yes, I also bought this photograph while working at Rena Bransten Gallery.  I had the privilege to work closely with Vik on several shows during my tenure at Rena’s gallery and I rarely am taken by the creative energy and intelligence of an artist the way I was with Vik.  The series was done using wire bent into recognizable objects and then photographed to be shown as a black and white image.  Rena had shown this series in 1996 before I worked there and she owned the photo.  I bought it from her.  Vik is an amazing artist who has proven that his ideas and ways of working are not simply “one liners.”   I wish I would have bought more work.

The Art Guys | Fuck a Duck, 1997, Taxidermy duck and dildo, 16” x 14” x 12”

EC: It is great to find long-lasting artists like Muniz who stand the test of time. And what about some of your more interesting sculptural pieces like the duck on your shelf? 

WM: I bought this sculpture while working as the Director of Braunstein Quay Gallery in 1997.  The piece is by the Houston based art duo The Art Guys which consists of Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing and was included in a show entitled The Great Hunting and Fishing Expo.  The work is pretty straightforward tongue and cheek humor and anyone who knows me would understand the instant attraction.  I loved the “use of materials” which draws the attention to many first time visitors to my home.  A good friend of mine bought another piece from the show called Dust Bunnies which were actually bunnies made out of dust (with an inner support to create the basic shape) shown with a broom and dust pan to complete the installation.

Maciel’s Collage Wall.

EC: And your “collage wall,” as you call it, in your living room is truly fabulous.  I could get lost in all of this work.  Could you tell me about a couple of the pieces specifically?

WM: I bought this piece from Richard Heller at an art fair in 2000 or 2001.  I love Marcel Dzama’s work and was able to buy this image before he started showing with David Zwirner and his prices went up.  I also bought an image by his uncle Neil Farber and I have them hanging next to each other on my salon style wall in my living room.  The drawing reveals 12 “creatures” dressed in their finest for a day or evening excursion in New York.  The work fits in nicely with my psychological/narrative drawings that are one part of my collection.

Marcel Dzama | We are going to New York, 2000, Ink and watercolor on paper, 12 ½” x 10’

EC: Yes, I have found that many “gallerists” really think about the way we pair our artwork and it is great imagery to see an uncle and nephew’s work hanging together.  It is clear that much of your personal collection has been influenced by your gallery work, but how do you distinguish your art at home from your art at work?

WM: The art in my home is similar to the art that I show at my gallery in that I own several of the artists who show with me at the gallery.  Obviously my personal tastes are carried over into my business.  My aesthetic is quite diverse from process-oriented abstraction to psychological-narrative.  There are many different artists in my personal collection which is reflective of the many gifts that artists have generously given me or pieces that I have purchased at art fairs or from other dealers.  I am very impulsive but also on a budget, so if the price is right and I immediately love it than I usually buy it.  I bought my first piece of art by an artist named Thomas Nakada from Gallery Paule Anglim when I was an intern there.  That was in 1992 and I have been building my collection ever since.

Maciel at Home with cat Phoebe, photo by Jake Martinez.

Robb Putnam | Stumblebum, 2012, fabric, plastic, vinyl, leather, rubber, thread, glue and mixed media, 95” x 42” x 44” and Liu print.

EC: And finally, could you tell me a bit about your large Putnam sculpture? I felt like it was something of a humorous "elephant in the living room" as it kept popping up in the background of photos…

WM: I am temporarily housing Putnam’s sculpture Stumblebum with hopes that he will be staying here on a permanent basis.  I chose the dining area as the location since he is such a great greeter to guests and I only use the dining room table when entertaining.

Walter Maciel Gallery is showing the works of Colin Doherty and Andrea Cohen through July 7th, with Walt Cessna following through August 18th.  In addition to his gallery work, Maciel has served on many boards and committees including Southern Exposure, Headlands Center for the Arts, Hospitality House and the San Francisco Art Dealers Association. He has also been on lecture panels at UCLA, Mills College, University of Missouri, Kansas City, San Francisco Art Institute, California College of the Arts and the Institute for Contemporary Art San Jose.


Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, editor, and writer

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