Contributed by andi argast
Much like its Dundas West neighbourhood, LE Gallery is quickly establishing itself as a destination of choice. When I stop by LE one evening to chat with owner Wil Kucey, the long, narrow gallery is quiet - unlike the last time I was here, at the jam-packed opening of Katie Pretti's Dominant Recessives and Genevieve Jodouin's Home Decor show. Opened in 2003, LE was conceived as a space where young but talented artists could showcase their work.
"Canada has a lot of emerging artists, and I want to help them get established on the national and international scene," Wil says, adding that unlike most gallery owners, he encourages his artists to "get their stuff out there as much as possible." A good relationship between artist and gallery is built on mutual trust and respect, he notes.
"I find working with driven, and ambitious artists creates a relationship that pushes their careers and the gallery in exciting directions," Wil adds. "I represent an artist's practice, and not their work. I want to be fully invested in the person over simply choosing a facet of their production to focus on."
This approach seems to be paying off - several artists who have shown at LE, including Nicholas Di Genova (whose work was acquired by Whitney Museum of American Art this year) have gone on to national and international acclaim.
LE exhibits a wide range of media: sculpture, painting, drawing, prints and installation are all showcased in this slice of a space. I mention that the gallery space is quite narrow, and Wil cheerfully agrees - but ever a consummate salesman, he points out that the intimate setting gives buyers a sense of how the piece will look when it's hanging on the wall at home.
Now, I will admit to being partial to tales of success wrought from blood, sweat and tears, but the story of how LE Gallery came to be is pretty inspiring stuff. At the end of his second year of OCAD's Criticism & Curatorial program, at an age when most students are trying to figure out how to both pay rent and eat, Wil decided he was tired of just talking about curatorial practice. Looking at the Toronto art scene, he realized that he could fill a niche by showcasing the work of young artists, and thus LE was born.
It took two years to get the business rolling, and it was tough going at first. Still in school and unable to secure a bank loan, Wil worked four or five jobs - mostly manual labour, he says - borrowing money on as many credit cards as possible, and actually living in the back of the gallery space for the first year. But his hard work paid off, and this small gallery is starting to have a larger impact on the Toronto art world - and beyond. Be sure to watch this space for more exciting things to come.