The man behind Peres Projects tells all —well, a few things — about his meteoric rise to the art world’s upper echelon
Story by Ken Courtney / Photography by Dan Monick
Javier Peres, the elusive gallerist at the helm of super-hot, LA-based gallery Peres Projects, is a hard man to find. But I finally tracked him down on his way to Berlin, where he lives and also operates a second gallery space. Cultivating a roster of provocative young artists from around the world, including rock star artist Terence Koh, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Bruce La Bruce, Dan Colen, Agathe Snow, Dean Sameshima, and Dash Snow, Peres has made quite an impact in his five years in the art world. On a plane back to Berlin from LA, he took time out to answer some of my questions.
So, where do you live?
Berlin and Los Angeles.
Did you ever live in New York?
Yeah, but I don’t really remember it. I was like nine years old and my parents had some work to do in the city but it didn’t last very long.
Tell me about Peres Projects. I know there are two gallery spaces, one in Los Angeles and one in Berlin, but there seems to be more to it than just the gallery spaces.
Well, that is the name of the gallery so on a certain level that is all it is. But on another it also represents a particular aesthetic approach, as well as an approach to managing an arts business.
Why Los Angeles and Berlin?
LA is where my family lives and Berlin is where I like to live. But I love being in LA when I am in the US. It is my favorite American city. And Berlin is just rad!
How much time do you spend in each city?
It varies from year to year, but lately I have been in Berlin, or at least Europe, around 80 percent of the time. I travel a lot, so I am rarely in one city for more than two weeks without going somewhere else for at least a few days.
As much of a fan as I am of Peres Projects, I honestly don’t know much about the history. It seems you popped onto the scene out of nowhere. Can you give us some information on how it started and how it’s grown into what it is today?
Really? Do you really want to know this? Isn’t it better to just not know some things? I don’t think my past is that interesting and I prefer to keep it in the past. I had an office job, I practiced law, and studied art history my whole life. I also come from an entrepreneurial family, so when I stopped practicing law I mixed my main interests. I enjoy it a great deal.
I heard a rumor that you used to work for Jeffrey Deitch. Is it true?
Not true at all. I have never worked for any gallery. I do admire Jeffrey, but I think if I had worked for a gallery I would have more likely worked at Gagosian.
What was your first job?
Thinking, thinking . . . I did some acting when I was younger, worked in my family’s business, that sort of stuff.
How did you get into art?
My grandparents collected modern art, and through them I became interested in art as a boy.
Where did you go to college and what did you study?
I studied in the U.S. and Europe and focused on international politics, with a focus on West European diplomatic relations. Then I obtained a law degree.
Have you had a mentor or mentors at any point in your career who helped you?
Not particularly, other than my grandparents, and from them my own interest took over.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
An art collector and house husband. My main ambition has always been to hang out, have a good time and go from thing to thing but always with lots of support.
Were you aware of art when you were a kid? Who was your favorite artist?
Absolutely, and initially it was Pablo Picasso and also Francis Picabia, but I was also very into Juan Gris for a bit.
From what I can tell, Peres Projects was instrumental in Terence Koh’s career. Do you agree?
Sure, I gave him his first solo exhibition and have continued to champion his work and nurture his ambitions. I feel that our professional histories are quite linked, and even our personal experiences of the last six years.
What’s your favorite work by Koh?
Oh gosh, there are so many. The Whole Family installation is instrumental in understanding Terence’s outlook. His installation at the Zurich Kunsthalle was mind blowing. Also, his Coffin is sublime, his tombstone made of sugar for his first Berlin solo. His singular light for his Whitney solo is so beautiful, and the large-scale Last Supper called GOD. I could really go on and on. There are a lot of factors that I look to in deciding who I work with, the main issue being an artist that I feel has a very complete handle on what they do, and how it relates to who they are.
I think the art fair phenomenon is getting out of control. It seems that every time I turn around, there’s a new biennale or art fair. What are your thoughts?
I like art fairs for what they are. They are events geared at seeing a great deal, gathering information, conducting business. One problem I have with fairs these days are the large numbers of uninterested tourists that come through and waste your time. Art fairs are just that, fairs to conduct the business of art. Anyone not interested in that should stay home, or at least out of my way.
What are your five favorite things in Los Angeles and Berlin?
In Los Angeles, it is all about the great restaurants like The Palms Thai Restaurant, Siete Mares Mexican Restaurant, Empress Pavillion, and Daikokuya in Little Tokyo. In Berlin, I love going to the Broken Hearts Club, and Museum Island is amazing.
What are your top five museums?
Zurich Kunsthalle; Ethnographic Museum in Berlin; The Serpentine Gallery; The Hamburger Banhoff; MUSAC in Leon, Spain; and, of course, El Prado is amazing, too. This list could be a lot longer — I go to museums often and really enjoy it!
What are your top five cities in the world?
London, Berlin, Antwerp, Hong Kong, and I am heading to Tokyo in a couple of weeks and am sure it will be one my new favorites!
Anything I didn’t ask that you want the world to know?
I really don’t like the world knowing anything about me. The less that people know about me I think the better. Of course, this doesn’t apply to the people that I interact with directly.