Daniel Rolnik, who calls himself “The World’s Most Adorable Art Critic,” will open his eponymous gallery in Santa Monica on Sept. 18 with its inaugural exhibition, Smile Isle. In addition to contributing to dozens of publications, the 25-year old impresario co-owns Intellectual Property Prints, runs Youtube channel For the Funk of It, and writes for artist interview series Underpainting. We reached him by phone and asked him about his motivations for starting a gallery, what his program will look like, and what visitors can expect.
“I wanted to create a space where the quality isn’t sacrificed by having a lower price point,” Rolnik explained. “So to do that, any piece in the show that is like a very expensive painting, is paired with a print of the same piece or something similar, so that there is an access point for everybody.”
“I feel like Napster in a weird way,” he went on, referencing the early-aughts file-sharing service, hailed by many (especially Metallica) as the beginning of the end of the music industry as we knew it, “cause they unveiled that music can be free. I’m unveiling fine art that can be accessible.” Unlike Napster’s Sean Fanning, however, Rolnik assured us that all his artists will be paid.
As for his program, “it’s gonna be really, really, really fun and about positive vibes and having fun and making people smile,” Rolnik gleefully announced, echoing no art dealer ever. It will focus on art from “the Americas. North and South, I have this love for America, I don’t know why, I think it’s cause I’m half first generation…it’s still the Wild West out here which I love, I’m gonna have a lot of Wild West-themed things.”
Rolnik’s gallery follows in the footsteps of other critic-run spaces like Matt Gleason’s Coagula Curatorial, located across town in L.A.’s Chinatown. As with dealers who moonlight as museum directors, there is the potential here for a conflict of interest when the line is blurred between arbiters of taste, and those who benefit financially from their pronouncements. Rolnik dismisses these concerns, saying “that’s only with shady people, I’ve surrounded myself with good people.”
He’ll begin the space with a three-month stint, noting “if it’s going grand and smooth we’re gonna keep the train rollin’, even taking it on the road.” In a couple of weeks, he plans a visit from artist and “magician/warlock” Gabriel Shaffer, who will perform a drought-ending ceremony in the space. “It’s always cool to have wizards on your side,” Rolnik exclaims, with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of an 8-year old.
The Daniel Rolnik Gallery will open with Smile Isle on Thursday, September 18th from 6-10pm. It is located at 1431 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401.