Q&A with LOYAL GALLERY
In December, Loyal Gallery will release their Loyal Hundredth Exhibition book in celebration of 15 years since the start of Loyal Gallery. For this edition, Loyal reached out to Diemonde as a collaborative partner for the creation of an exclusive tote bag to go with.
This is the Q&A we had with the co-founders - Amy Giunta and Martin Lilja!
IF LOYAL GALLERY COULD RUN A SIDE BUSINESS - WHAT WOULD IT BE?
We’d like to open a curated record store with only a hundred records at the time. Some sort of ever changing group of "must have" records. And when the first 100 are sold you ask someone to curate a new store. So it’s constantly evolving. Whatever you pick as a customer it's going to be a good record. We also dream of being city architects, but that isn't realistic enough..?
WHEN/ WHERE DID THE INITIAL IDEA FOR THE COLLABORATION COME FROM - WHAT WAS THE SETTING?
The initial first time the idea came up was when we first saw the Diemonde pop-up in Åhlens. Amy had gone in to go get something from the Muji shop and Martin was waiting outside, and Amy came out and said, Martin you have to come inside, there’s something happening in there. We listened to the talks and saw Esther perform. We bought a dark blue wool jacket with a bright yellow satin lining. It felt like home. The pop up truly transformed the place. It was fresh and exciting and full of energy and style. If you can do that to Åhlens on a Tuesday afternoon you are onto something, and Diemonde stuck with us since.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COLLABORATE WITH DIEMONDE FOR THIS PROJECT?
We really liked everything Diemonde makes and how it is designed and presented and everything we heard about the philosophy behind what you do and ideas about the New Sweden and what you were doing with Fugeetex. The way Diemonde presents itself and the philosophy really spoke to us and we wanted to see what would come about if we collaborated on a project. We've been searching for a perfect tote bag to give to people who buy our books and to make something special out of an ordinary utilitarian item like a bag seemed like a good challenge. We have always since the start of Loyal, been bringing in new voices in art to Sweden. Mainly from New York where Amy is from and we used to live, and from Los Angeles where we have spent a lot of time getting to know the city and the artists there like Alex Gardner who we are showing now at Loyal and who saw the first Loyal / Diemonde totes to be delivered to us while he was here in Stockholm. We always follow that movement and see what happens.
We wanted to have a special tote bag to put in the Loyal Hundredth exhibition book in celebration of 15 years of Loyal. That’s why we reached out now.
HOW DID LOYAL GALLERY COME TO BE?
The answer to this question can be best answered in this text Sasha Chapin wrote for our 100th Exhibition book celebrating 15 years of Loyal.
"It couldn’t have turned out better if they’d planned it. Which they didn’t, strictly speaking. It’s not that there wasn’t any planning, or strategy--it’s just that the plan was a principle, rather than a list of goals or targets. Loyal wanted to build something around their intuition. And in the artists, they searched for a certain kind of feverishness. Beyond that there wasn’t a complicated agenda, or an attempt to dance along with every season’s weather. They weren’t here to play the big normal game. They liked what they liked. The emphatic and the smeary. The invisibly precise. The unguarded smithereens. However, this liking took a lot of work to accomplish. They were, perhaps more than anything, human Geiger counters. It clicked or it didn’t. Sometimes you achieve what seems like luck by kicking the machine as hard as you can.
Looking at ‘100!’, some commonalities are clear. It’s not like they don’t have inclinations. Loyal admires a certain kind of urgency, unapologetic vividness, rhythmic economy--the tangled, shimmering, and visionary. But strict criteria, or a rigid system of judgement, would be beside the point. Loyal meant loyalty to the artists as well as their instincts. The tilted world they’ve created was assembled organically, piece by piece.
Based on its current location, you wouldn’t know that Loyal Gallery was once a magazine whose first issue was assembled in a computer lab for troubled teens. The gallery now occupies a former Brazilian embassy, with stone floors and a dignified square footage.
Martin met Amy in Stockholm when she visited from New York in 2001. Martin had started Loyal with Kristian whom he had met in London, when, due to the expansion of the EU, Swedes were allowed to infiltrate English barista jobs for the first time. Their first meeting, according to their friend Stephen Weingarten, was awkward. But the situation improved: the two bonded over many things. Thus the magazine, founded in 2000, which Amy joined. In its pages, the trio were the champions of somewhere else, away from the galas and psychodrama.
Sometimes the magazine wasn’t entirely factual. An early issue featured an interview with Keith Richards, with whom they had barely spoken. There were reviews of the murals in the local liquor store and weird modernist literary exercises. They knew they couldn’t describe the distinctness of the world around them with the impoverishment of strict accuracy.
They didn’t know it would culminate in a gallery, but there was always a certain ‘what if’ in the air. As they once wrote, they had accidentally built “an underground tunnel from New York’s art scene to Stockholm.” They did need somewhere to put the smuggled goods. Maybe they could be the missing space for all their friends floating out there in the American endlessness.
Their space in Stockholm was the natural conclusion. A family needs a home. And that’s what they wanted to be. Not a needy, overbearing family that's disgusted by your weird aspirations, but the kind of family where you can always come home with whatever treasures you think you’ve found. Supportive and secure, a home for the erudite and the particular. Somewhere where these young forces could multiply rather than antagonize. It was a little like building a new country or like planning to conquer the world with the other kids you’d found in detention. It was chaotic and giddy and warm and uncertain. Soon, they expanded to a bigger space, and then, a salt warehouse in an industrial harbor, then a little storefront again, adapting and changing to the conditions, the spaces changed but it was always about finding a beautiful place to build something new.
But intuition isn’t the absence of rigor or determination. Loyal have also been perfectionists, just of a kind that doesn’t involve making a thousand spreadsheets co-operate. They are practitioners of artistic biology, fertilizing the human system in which striking work will grow, as if by magic, from the right kind of soil. As with the mycelium in a wild forest, there is a mysterious network of influence which binds artists together in a complex, subtle, fragmentary web. This is impossible to artificially create, just as a planted forest will never be as rich as a wild one, but it can be participated in, observed, noticed, and supported.
At some point you realize that other people are looking at you like you’re the boss. Somewhere in there, Loyal had gone pro, even as they, occasionally, felt as if they were simply wearing gallerist masks over their younger faces. They had legal representation, stationery, accurate records. It had to be done. They tried not to be like the old boss. Sometimes it had to be a bit of both. But they mostly kept it casual, standing in the sensory afternoons with the artists, enjoying the intimacy of the squeezed-out tube on the table, the viscosity of frazzled, friendly minds trying to explain their intentions. They could always be counted on for a quick talk, or a walk through the leaves, no matter how polished their enterprise became, or how their ambitions grew.
And now here they are, for the moment. Their 100th exhibition. They never found it difficult to stay true to their trains of thought, even as they mutated constantly. Fortunately, this is what they like to do. While they’re loyal to their past, and to those present in their company, they also remain driven by all the charming artifacts of a future yet unknown. They will continue doing this indefinitely. It would be silly not to fall in love with it. Perhaps, finally, that is the point of their profession."
- Sasha Chapin, Los Angeles, 2021