‘It’s Not a Side Project, It’s Part of My Practice’


‘It’s Not a Side Project, It’s Part of My Practice’: Artist Titus Kaphar Is Expanding His New Haven Nonprofit—With a Big Boost From Gagosian


Nate Freeman for for Artnet - 10 August 2020


The mega-gallery will provide financial backing and extensive programming for the New Haven art space that Kaphar started in 2015.


When Gagosian director Sam Orlofsky went to New Haven last year to visit the artist Titus Kaphar, the first stop wasn’t the artist’s studio, where he has established a practice of making large-scale paintings that engage with art history—paintings that have landed on the cover of Time magazine and earned him a MacArthur “Genius” grant. The first stop was NXTHVN, the nonprofit artist incubator (pronounced “Next Haven”) housed in former factory buildings in New Haven’s predominantly African American community of Dixwell that Kaphar co-founded in 2017.

“NXTHVN is my heart—it’s not a side project, it’s part of my practice,” Kaphar said by phone this weekend. “I was meeting with several galleries, and Sam got it immediately: We went to NXTHVN before we went to my studio.”

And now, a few months after Gagosian announced that Kaphar would be joining the mega-gallery’s roster, the artist and gallery have announced a series of initiatives for NXTHVN that mark a landmark commitment to the Kaphar’s nonprofit endeavor—and also a new level of community engagement for a gallery best known for blockbuster shows of blue-chip artists. 

Gagosian will fully endow the NXTHVN apprenticeship program, which is currently in its second year, and currently includes six students from New Haven high schools that have predominantly African American and Latinx students. They work in paid apprenticeships where they shadow one of the NXTHVN studio fellows, absorbing every aspect of an artist’s practice, working toward a future job in a creative field. Kaphar has aspirations to introduce the NXTHVN model in other cities, where Gagosian will continue to sponsor the program.

In addition to endowing the apprentices, Gagosian will throw its weight behind a professional development program, where its top directors globally will go on virtual studio visits with the 2020 NXTHVN fellows, building on the nonprofit’s extensive programming by offering a chance to chat with veterans of the gallery, who will touch on practical tips for the artists—including social media strategy and how to handle digital assets. There will also be a series of roundtable discussions with reps from various departments at the gallery: a talk about publishing and marketing; one about logistical operations such as installing a show and consigning works; and another about navigating art fairs and establishing a collector base. 

Orlofsky, who was on the call with Kaphar, said that the different aspects of support for NXTHVN were in development for the past year, but required coming up with a new plan at the last minute once the global shutdowns began. The gallery bootstrapped its artist spotlight program to help the many on the roster who are seeing their shows postponed, and Orlofsky said that the virtual studio visits and roundtables will provide that same kind of support, but for artists at the start of their careers. 

“The artist fellows at NXTHVN have had their plans for the year severely compromised, so this feels like an opportunity to bridge the gap between what they would already be provided by NXTHVN and will continue until things go back to normal,” he said. “NXTHVN already has a program that doesn’t need improving upon. We’re here to provide a backup program in the meantime.”