Joseph Ian Henrikson – Founder, Anonymous Gallery


Joseph Ian Henrikson

I am excited to bring you this week’s Frank Talk with Joseph Ian Henrikson. Joseph founded anonymous gallery in 2008 in New York City, with the goal of creating a platform for contemporary art, public art and community involvement. The gallery moved its headquarters to Mexico City in 2011 and has continued its commitment to presenting ambitious projects featuring international emerging, mid-career and historically significant artists. Joseph is a notable gallerist and has lots of great advice for you here in his Frank Talk. Please enjoy!

What was your first job in the Arts?

The gallery was really the first job I had in the arts. I started it quite blindly, opening the 1st space in the basement of another gallery with very little knowledge of how to operate – but an idealistic approach to promoting artists and involving the community.

What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?

It was my first experience with professional failure. I opened anonymous gallery off the Bowery in September of 2008 – the same month as the financial crash. It wasn’t long before I lost everything I initially invested. It quickly revealed my capacity for persistence, determination, and ingenuity.

What do you do now?

I own and operate anonymous gallery. Now primarily located in Mexico City, the gallery hosts around 4-8 group or solo exhibitions per year that sometimes coincide with a residency for artists. The gallery continues to activate programming in the public sphere – in both Mexico City and New York City – where I work to organize pop-up exhibitions, public art projects, film screenings, and events with renowned artists and curators.

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Madison, Wisconsin

What is the arts community like there?

The University of Wisconsin is there and Madison has always been a liberal and politically active town. The Chazen Museum has been in Madison since the 70s and now the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. There is an active local scene of creatives that contribute to everything from community gardens to local art fair that features Wisconsin based artists in booths sounding the capitol building.

Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?

I think the influences I grew up with have greatly shaped my perspective and impact what I choose to support and present at the gallery. I grew up skateboarding, listening to hip-hop and trying to get in and out of as much trouble as possible. However, I also had an insatiable appetite for stories – comics, films, autobiographies, poetry and more. I remember admiring what I read about the days of the Warhol Factory and the dissident side of what was influencing the artworld in 90s. I think those influences, along with exposure to education, diversity, and occasional trips to Chicago or the Minneapolis Walker Museum, helped shape my taste for the more subversive cultural movements that motivate artistic production.

What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?

Consume as much information about your industry as possible.

What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?

Over the last 10 years anonymous gallery has produced over 70 exhibitions, projects, and participated in a variety of art fairs. I am particularly proud of collaborating with the Andy Warhol Museum in 2016, and being the first commercial gallery in Mexico to present an exhibition of Andy Warhol’s work in film

What has been a challenge for you?

Balancing ambitions with the books.

What is something you do every day at work?

I create a to-do list for myself each day as a reminder of my goals, tasks, and priorities.

What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?

In the early days of the gallery we bought an airstream trailer and renovated it to function as a retail art shop for the sale of limited editions. One year we packed it full of art, supplies, 6 people, and hauled it down to Miami for Art Basel. That weekend the vehicle we used to tow the airstream was impounded, we had to bail a colleague out of jail, and we sold an installation to the Saatchi collection.

What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?

Reliability, dependability and accountability are huge for both employee and employer.

Enthusiasm and resourcefulness are also part of a strong work ethic that I think defines a good employee.

There is a dual sense of confidence and humility that is necessary when being an effective employer. As important as it is to be decisive and direct, I think you have to be open to dialogue and evaluation. You have to try and understand what inspires people as individuals but also as a team.

What do you think makes a person hirable?

Someone that can display proficiency in the job they are interviewing for, but also the willingness to learn more about the industry and applicable components for the betterment of company productivity, promotion and sales.

What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace?

Take initiative. It shows you are motivated to proactively advance opportunities for company but also for yourself and your career.

What are things you can do proactively boost your CV?

A CV is no longer just a resume and a cover letter. It extends to the internet and I would suggest being aware of your ‘personal brand’ (as much as I do not like that term) because employers use online searches as a resource. I guess there are proactive ways of managing some of that.

I’m always interested in learning about a potential employee’s work experience outside of the art world. If you have volunteered or contributed to organizations it can show a sense of selflessness and drive that is important.

Are there any tips you can give people entering the workforce?

Be ambitious, be resourceful, and be unafraid to ask questions.

What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?

Just outside of the year – but Meriem Bennani’s ‘Siham & Hafida’ at The Kitchen last September and October still stands out to me.

If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?

Cady Noland, Cy Twombly, David Hammons, Isa Genzken, maybe a Basquiat / Warhol collaboration (Is that 6?)

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