The Real World: Orchard

R.H. Quaytman, Orchard Spreadsheet, 2009, inkjet, ed. 10, 82×51 in., published by MER Paper Kunstahalle, Gent, which won Specific Object’s Publication of the Year

We had a small kid and were living in two cities, so I barely made it to a handful of their shows, but Orchard has always felt like one of the defining presences in my art life. I knew some of the members, so I felt drawn to it, but not well enough to really get sucked in, alas. It was new and wild—for being limited-term, historically aware, and not-so-commercial, which doesn’t seem like much to type it, but it was really a lot—and people were always talking about it.

But not like this. Frieze has an oral history of Orchard, and it blows my mind how conflicted and contentious it sounds:

R.H. Quaytman I remember there being two factions: the group that included me, Rhea [Anastas] and Andrea [Fraser]; and the one with Jeff [Preiss], Nicolás [Guagnini] and Karin [Schneider]. Nic had the idea to open an office; Andrea wanted to open a gallery and be the dealer. So, we ended up meeting.

This is the true story
of twelve art world people
who chose to start a gallery
work together
and fifteen years later
to find out what happens
when people stop being polite
and start getting real.

So to someone teetering on the other side of the fence from Orchard, none of the conflicts were apparent by the time they were all putting on their shows. It already felt so transparent at the time, that in 2009, when Rebecca Quaytman published Orchard Spreadsheet, a three-year ledger of the gallery’s finances—in reverse chronological order, like a blog—as a print edition, the only surprise was that, contrary to what my art star-fixated mind had originally assumed, it hadn’t been primarily underwritten by Dan Graham.

And while Quaytman’s work was the huge discovery for me from Orchard—and, it sounds like, for her, too—to learn Fraser wanted to “open a gallery and be the dealer” makes excruciatingly perfect sense.

If anything, her responses here still show her extraordinary awareness of how the dynamics and structures of art and art history operate, and that includes art magazine oral histories. Orchard felt like The Real Art World, and it was, but it was not only that, which feels worth remembering.

Remembering Orchard, New York’s Iconic Artist-Run Gallery [frieze]
Orchard []
Orchard Spreadsheet, Specific Object’s 2009 Publication of The Year [specificobject]
Download a PDF version of Orchard Spreadsheet [specific object]