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Michael Foley's Bookcases

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday June 11, 2020

"Pimp Your Bookcases" continues with Michael Foley, who has kept busy getting the vote out while his Lower East Side gallery is temporarily closed.


Peggy Roalf: Just guessing that you might have more than one library: If so, how do they differ? Where are they located? And how do you manage your collection?

Michael Foley: You are correct, Peggy! My man stash is in the gallery basement. Sounds odd, I know, but the temperatures are cool there with little humidity. It’s not the sexiest place to do some reading, but it’s a great storage space. Most other selections are at home, but only the ones I go to often. They look nice and pretty whereas the gallery cellar is more like a “man cave.”

PR: What were you involved when you decided on your career choice?

MF: If you mean working in galleries, I was pouring coffee in San Francisco when I got hit on by Fraenkel Gallery. They were very good at seducing me! Actually, I was quite lucky to have been considered to work there let alone fix their coffee. I was an artist, doing odd job when the invitation came.

PR: Is there anything you might want to include about favorite libraries for doing research in the early years? And what best amplifies your research today?

MF: The library at Fraenkel Gallery was amazing and probably even more amazing today. I spent my lunch in their library which was also a presentation room. It was cool and quiet and when I was reading there, no one ever disturbed me. I used to wear a pin with an “L” on it which meant I was on “Lunch” but it also was a nod to my nickname, “Lance Casual.”

PR: When did you realize that you had a serious addiction to art and photo books?

MF: Well, I’m a reader and a looker. Books like that were expensive for me, so every purchase was well thought out. So, it didn’t come until after college. I got to know a lot of artists in SF and they always had one or two books that they thought I should look at. It was a “one book at a time” education.

PR: Have your shelves ever collapsed under the weight of your books? Or have your photo-and-artbook caused any other type of disaster caused by big heavy books?

MF: I did have one disaster…it was a dog named Natasha (RIP). She fell in love with my Gursky book and couldn’t get enough of that German flavor! It’s gone now. She also went after the tasty “Art of Our Century.” I kept that in memory of her.

PR: What went into your choice of bookcases — any research? Any seen/envied among friends/colleagues/institutions? Any particular manufacturers, and the like?

MF: I always loved those floor to ceiling ones. All white. Like a giant tidal wave of coolness. But mine are more function than form. I actually pulled them off the street (thank you, my interns, for helping me!). You know, big art books always sag the middle, so these were super thick (and heavy) and they do the job.


PR: What you like most about your bookcases? Are they everything you every hoped for or is there room for improvement?

MF: As long as they don’t sag! One day, I will have that wall of books. One day!

PR: How you organize your photo, design and-art books?

MF: Everything is together by the alphabet, except books with a lot of words in them! That’s the theory section. That’s at the bottom.  I mainly go to these when I teach.

PR: What do you do when you run out of shelf space?

MF: Stacks all around or leaners. I suppose I’ve loaned some out, unconsciously hoping they wouldn’t return…to make more room for new selections!

PR: Have your shelves ever collapsed under the weight of your books? Or have your photo-and-artbook caused any other type of disaster caused by big heavy books?

MF: I did have one disaster…it was a dog named Natasha (RIP). She fell in love with my Gursky book and couldn’t get enough of that German flavor! It’s gone now. She also went after the tasty “Art of Our Century.” I kept that in memory of her.

How do you maintain your library? For example, do you periodically take it apart and reorganize, or something along those lines?

MF: The stacks usually get “un-maintained” over time. The alphabet changes order and I just give up.  Every time I try to purge…well, it’s useless.

PR: Have you ever had to move your library? What are the best and worst things about moving this kind of collection?

MF: Since the bulk of the library moves with the gallery (I’ve had four locations), it’s the tedious packing that gets to me. I don’t enjoy it. When I unpack each book, I often ask, “Now, why did I pack this?!”

PR: Please feel free to make this a mashup:

  • What is the first photo-or-artbook you ever bought and why did it catch your attention?

David Sylvester interviews with Francis Bacon, “The Brutality of Fact.” Getting into the mind of that genius. I wanted to be Francis Bacon!

  • What was the last photo-or-artbook you purchased?

Stephen Frailey’s, Looking at Photography.” I love him. It’s a great primer on a deep selection of contemporary and not so contemporary photography. He does all the writing. He must be tired.

       • What is the next photo-or-artbook you might purchase?

Ooh…there’s that recent collection of Lucian Freud, two volume set from Phaidon. My birthday is coming up, so maybe…

  • Is there a rarity that somehow got away that you regret not grabbing when it was affordable?

Well, it’s a different kind of art, but a first edition of “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” by Oscar Wilde. It was a 100 bucks at a fancy antiques show at the Park Avenue Armory. I just didn’t collect then, but it’s one of my favorite stories.

Michael Foley opened Foley Gallery in the fall of 2004 after several years of working with notable photography galleries including Fraenkel Gallery, Howard Greenberg Gallery and Yancey Richardson Gallery. His current gallery is located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In 2009, Foley co-founded The Exhibition Lab, a study center for people involved in various aspects of fine art photography. He is an exhibiting artist in photography and collage with several solo exhibitions in the United States and Europe and currently teaches at International Center of Photography. 

 
@foleygallery
https://www.theexhibitionlab.org/ 

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