Tchotchke Gallery aims to make art accessible at new Williamsburg space

tchotchke gallery founders
Danielle DeWar and Marlee Katz, the founders of the formerly all-digital Tcotchke Gallery, pose in their new physical space. Photo by Mateo Ruiz Gonzalez

After starting as an online art gallery during the pandemic, Tchotchke Gallery, founded by Brooklyn locals Danielle Dewar and Marlee Katz, is opening a brick and mortar space in Williamsburg with the goal of making art more accessible and approachable.

The gallery, on the ground floor of 311 Graham Avenue, was initially launched online in September 2020 by Dewar and Katz as a place to show young, living and often local artists, and create a sense of community and place for artists to grow, Katz told Brownstoner. “I think the main focus was having this sense of community and collaboration and really being able to build relationships with artists, that was kind of the starting point.”

Both Dewar and Katz have been involved in the arts for years, through practice, study and work. When the gallery where they both worked laid off its staff at the start of the pandemic, they decided the time was right to branch out on their own.

inside of tchotchke gallery with paintings on the wall
The gallery’s first show, “Homecoming,” opened on Jan. 10. Mateo Ruiz Gonzalez

“We were like, okay our overhead is low, we have a really great idea here, people are really utilizing social media, they’re buying art on Instagram and interacting with artists in a different way than they ever had before,” Katz said. And the online gallery took off, holding its first group show with around 20 artists.

Over the next two years Tchotchke Gallery continued to expand its reach, and a brick and mortar space was the natural next step, the pair said.

“We really wanted to be able to provide a physical space for the artists on our program to show their work and give them the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I’m showing my work in New York, I’m so excited’,” Katz said. After a couple of successful pop-ups on the Lower East Side, they decided to take the leap.

The pair settled on Williamsburg as both live nearby and a number of the artists on their program live or have studios in the area. The space at 311 Graham Avenue seemed to present itself to them: After walking past frequently and noticing it had been empty for a long time, the pair contacted a broker who told them the landlord was looking for a very easy tenant.

“We loved that it was ground floor, we love that it was off the Graham L. It was a really nice sized space, but it also was an older building and has some interesting little archways,” Katz said. “It’s homey, it’s not the traditional white cube, it has comfortability when you walk in and it’s warm.”

paintings on wall in art gallery
The curators wanted to feature lesser-known artists, as well as those who have worked with Tchotchke previously. Mateo Ruiz Gonzalez

In terms of art and the artists that Tchotchke Gallery will present, Katz said both she and Dewar were drawn to figurative work and artists who use narrative and color.

“For us, a lot of this selection process is really relationship based, we have four artists on our program right now and we work with artists that aren’t on our program as well. But a lot of it is creating a friendship with them, having a good rapport with them, and them trusting us to show their work and help them grow. And, you know, vice versa.”

Another driving force behind their curation, Dewar said, was giving lesser established artists exposure, as well working with the artists they’d worked with previously or who are on their program. “I would say our programming this year is fifty-fifty … it’s a good mix of both.”

“A driving force for us that we frequently discussed was that we definitely want to limit any barriers to entry into the art world, which is certainly something that we’ve encountered,” Dewar said. “We want to be as approachable and warm and even comforting to anyone who wants to view art, they can talk to us about art, which is, I think, much needed right now.”

outside of tchotchke gallery
Opening a physical gallery space was the obvious next step for Dewar and Katz, especially after a few pop-up shows in Manhattan went well. Mateo Ruiz Gonzalez

Tchotchke Gallery already has its programming set for 2023, starting with its first exhibition, Homecoming, which opens tonight. The show includes work from the gallery’s programmed artists: Josiah Ellner, Debora Koo, Elena Redmond and Rachael Tarravechia.

“It’s kind of like an homage to us finding a home, as well as giving our artists a place to show yearly and you know, guarantee they get solos in New York City, which is important to everyone on our program,” Dewar said. “That was certainly a driving force for us finding a space originally, so it’s like a celebration of all those things happening.”

Tchotchke Gallery will officially open for the opening of Homecoming between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. tonight and regular hours will be between noon and 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

This story first appeared on Brooklyn Paper’s sister site Brownstoner