My usual subjects are those who design or create but lately there is this gnawingly recurrent question that keeps popping up and that would be “is fashion an art form?” So, what better way to speak to the subject than interviewing a gallery owner, a gallerist if you will, located in New York City.
Mr. Cooney and I met through his association with Richard Haines, the uber talented menswear illustrator. I was invited to Richard’s opening gallery show chez Daniel Cooney and so my interest began there. In essence, Daniel will “speak” to us from a far different perspective than those who are totally and solely immersed in fashion as you will read in his responses.
By the way the man is a warrior with a soul and yes it comes through right here!
Jeffrey Felner: Can you catch us up on how you arrived at your present profession?
Daniel Cooney: I came to New York as an artist using photography and video immediately after receiving an MFA from the University of Illinois. That was in 1996. I had some luck showing my work in group shows but I was unprepared for life as an artist in New York. As a day job I worked at galleries. I needed that kind of structure and I liked the work. Eventually I ended up at Sotheby’s but got laid off in less than a year. What an opportunity that was because I was ready and free to create my own destiny. That was 2003 and I’m still at it.
JF: What would be your dream collaboration or who and why?
DC: As it is I get to collaborate with a lot of amazing people and I’m grateful for all of those experiences. My true dream collaboration would be with the New York State Lottery. I would love to buy a large building in Manhattan just like the one I rent in now. I would establish a large residency program for artists of all ages and career levels based on need and various aspects of their work. Rent would be based on a conservative scale of what the individual can afford and I’d do the same for galleries because there are so many important galleries getting priced out of business now. Then I would create a large museum in the building and hire some exciting curators to do their best and wildest work. I’d also maintain a large community room for people from the area to hold meetings, classes and activities.
JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner, who would they be and why?
DC: Hillary Clinton because I would like to thank her for her lifetime of work and dedication and for being a huge personal inspiration in my life. I’m also dying to know what she is going to do next. I’m on the edge of my seat! Marie Antoinette because her story is so fascinating; a total victim of circumstance born into a position of great power and responsibility but she still had no control over her own life. She was loved and hated and was completely oblivious to reality. Plus she lived with decadence and depravity at the same time. How amazing is that? Janis Joplin because I’d love to hear her sing in person. What a powerful presence she must have been. Frederick Douglass, the most photographed person of the 19th century. I’d love to know how he came to understand the power of the new medium of photography so thoroughly and put it to use with such expertise to tell his story. George Platt Lynes because he and his circle intrigue me; I would love to have been a part of the elite gay art crowd of New York in the 30’s and 40’s. It seems so complex and fun, full of innuendo and secrets…
JF: You obviously have a link or affinity to fashion and I am wondering why and how you choose your artists and their works?
DC: I’m learning a lot about current style and fashion by working with artist’s like Richard Haines and Benoit Delhomme and trends of the 1930’s and 40’s with the estate of photographer Nina Leen. As for choosing artists to represent at the gallery, I am especially interested in artist’s that represent certain subcultures or have been overlooked by the mainstream. Arlene Gottfried is an amazing street photographer who has been photographing New York City for over forty years. We had her first solo exhibition about three or four years a go. Steven Arnold is also a good example, he created gay inspired fantasy tableau in LA during the 80’s and early 90’s before he died of AIDS in 1994. I am also interested in artists who have created an identity for themselves elsewhere such as Benoit Delhomme who is a very successful Director of Photography in Hollywood but has never exhibited his paintings.
JF: Like every other business these days, there is enormous competition out there, can you speak to the reasons why you feel you “bring something to the table” as far as your gallery is concerned?
DC: Great question! The only thing I bring to the table is my perspective and intuition. It’s all I have.
Credits, works from top to bottom by Arlene Gottfried, Richard Haines, Steven Arnold...