State of the Art: Superchief LA

By Kimberly B. Johnson
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Downtown LA contemporary art access point Superchief has friends and fans in high places. The gallery is a year and a half into its LA residency and is already beloved by magazines, blogs, and creative figures with art-world clout. With two gallery locations in New York—one in SOHO and the other in Brooklyn— plus the gallery’s newest location in an in-the-cut, 4,000-square-foot warehouse space in DTLA, Superchief is a bicoastal gem for art geeks and creative freaks.

We entered Superchief on a sunny afternoon in the days leading up to the LA Art Show. A tour of the gallery and mural space, led by gallery proprietors Ed Zipco and Bill Dunleavy, followed suit. The space is ideal for the angle Superchief has taken over the art landscape of LA: spacious, broad, and poignantly curated to meet local art market needs. Admittedly, business for Zipco and Dunleavy has been bright. Since opening the gallery’s LA sector in 2014, co-owner Ed Zipco says, “It’s been awesome.”

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“We started strong and it’s been going strong the whole time,” adds Dunleavy. “The sheer amount of people who show up now is almost our new worry. Moby came and bought some art our first year, so that was awesome. He even invited us to his 50th birthday party at the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre. I went, and thought he’d obviously forget who I was, so I gave him a ‘Hi Moby, it’s Bill from Superchief Gallery,’ and he was just like, ‘I know. How’s it going.’” Oh, the glorious validation.

It’s obvious Zipco and Dunleavy have an on-point plan in their curation process, hosting some of the most talked about and highly attended indie art openings in LA. Contemporary, timely, and thematic, the gallery is proving itself to produce standout events. For their May 2015 event Booty Worship, the team saw an onslaught of attention. “Booty Worship was a hundred-person group art show all in praise of the booty. That’s the show where we really started breaking into four-digit attendance. There were over 1,600 people here for the event. It was like a carnival.”

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Zipco says the crowd is a nice mix of art appreciation and bougie art opening. “We don’t push party too hard, and we don’t push bougie pretension. A great group of people just come out. It ends up being a lively social marathon for us, just meeting people and shaking hands and making sales happen; it really makes five hours fly by. The most fun is when you wake up the next day and check the hashtag and realize—whoa, people love it.”

Zipco and Dunleavy are cool kids, but it’s not as if popularity is the only determinant of success, though having a legion of supporters does allow sustainable growth. In only a year and a half, they’ve made a must-see Halloween haunted house, curated shows with legends, introduced out-of-town visionaries to the LA landscape, and brought attention to need-to-know bourgeoning locals. They even have an upcoming show with Brooklyn-based artist, Swoon, rumored to be their biggest show yet.

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Zipco and Dunleavy wear the success—and the humility— well. While Superchief is still this twinkling gem for New Yorkers and Angelenos, Dunleavy and Zipco do pinpoint plans to take the Superchief aesthetic international.

“Tokyo or Hong Kong are our next interests, and then from there, the next move would be looking at São Paulo, Brazil.”

So before Superchief becomes an international attraction, make your trip while it’s still a somewhat hidden jewel.

SUPERCHIEF GALLERY LA

739 Kohler st. Los Angeles 90021

Superchiefgallery.com

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