A Conversation with Los Angeles Art Maven Ellie Blankfort
By Genie Davis
Ellie Blankfort has a mission: to support the Los Angeles artist community. From creating her own start-up gallery in the 1970’s to the grants available today through the Davyd Whaley Foundation which she directs, Blankfort is an arts angel for the City of Angels.
The independent art adviser, consultant, and curator opened the Ellie Blankfort Gallery in 1972, and since that year has, among other achievements, curated exhibitions and advised the then Koplin Gallery, worked to install site specific public works, and mentored and coached countless area artists.
“I opened up a gallery in my private home because I was very gung-ho about showing the work of Los Angeles artists. In the early 70’s there were very few galleries interested in showing these works. My husband, Peter Clothier, and I decided to buy a house in the Hollywood Hills, and it seemed as if every artist I had followed came to the house. “One of them, Scott Greiger, suggested making it into a gallery,” Blankfort relates.
She took him up on the idea. Greiger, whose work she has also collected, is one of the artists she showed. She called her exhibition openings salons, and at times, as many as 200 people would show up at her door for these events.
“This private gallery turned out to be very successful. Somehow people managed to find me. Even though in those days most people didn’t travel east of La Cienega to see art, they came to me. It was a wonderful, halcyon moment in my life. I loved selling art,” she says.
However, after five years, the city of Los Angeles informed her that her home was not zoned for a commercial business and she decided to close down.
After the closure, she continued selling art, and worked as a private fine arts consultant to collectors and she started mentoring artists.
“I developed a kind of ‘Artist’s Matter’ approach which I have followed to this very day, helping artists realize their fullest potential in any way that I could,” she explains. “It’s very simple. I don’t advertise, it’s all word of mouth. I just found I had a really unique way of seeing an artist’s work. I am able to talk about it in a supportive way, in a way that allows artists to objectively see their own work. I was a person artists could go to beyond other artists, who could respond objectively to their work. I found that it really helped them to have somebody on their side of the ring.”
Her motivation is to support artists at all levels of their careers.
“Not every artist can be very famous, or show their work in blue chip galleries. So I try to give them alternative ideas about how to keep committed to their passion. I see the work I do as a collaboration with the artists who choose to meet with me.”
The Davyd Whaley Foundation is an outgrowth of that collaboration and support.
“Davyd was a client of mine, who came to me as most artists do, indirectly. In working with him, I saw he had a body of work that had the potential to realize his own ambition. I discussed with him his need to establish himself more fully in the arena of contemporary art. We worked together for over a year from 2012 – 2013. Several months after my last session with him I received a phone call from his husband, Norman Buckley, letting me know that Davyd had died. The news was stunning to me,” she attests.
Blankfort and Buckley joined forces to establish a legacy for artists which became a foundation in his name that would help support and recognize visual artists in the Los Angeles area. It took several months to establish a not-for-profit,” she says. “We are starting our first year with two grants. The first one is for an under-recognized mid career artist. The application is already available at the Davyd Whaley Foundation (www.davidwhaleyfoundation.org). The deadline to apply has recently been extended until January 15th. The second grant, scheduled for early spring 2017, is a grant for artists who are also teachers, the Artist /Teacher grant.
Both grants are for $10,000. The successful applicant for the mid career artist grant will be announced in early 2017; the artist/teacher grant applications will become available also in the early part of next year. Award recipients will be recognized with a showcase exhibition and sale of their work in the Los Angeles area.
“I have great hopes that this is just the beginning, and we are working hard to attract further financial support, to give a boost to the artistic energy in the city,” she states. “Artists are gifted people who define our culture. It is a real privilege to mentor and support them.”
For more information about the grants and Blankfort and Buckley’s foundation, visit www.davydwhaleyfoundation.org.