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What do New York dealers Matthew Marks and Zach Feuer know about architecture? Ask Peter Zellner

May 11, 2010 |  4:47 pm

When New York powerhouse Matthew Marks decided last year to open a gallery in Hollywood, he hired Los Angeles architect Peter Zellner to design it. 

When next-generation New York dealer Zach Feuer decided this year to find a larger space in Chelsea (he hopes to sign the lease this week on a one-of-a-kind property — check back for details), he tapped Zellner for what could be a radical remodel.

In a short time, Zellner of Zellner Plus has become a go-to architect for the art world, thanks mainly to his work in the gallery neighborhood of Culver City (which actually, technically, spills out into Los Angeles). Just five years ago, it had more auto shops than art spaces. Now, there are a couple dozen galleries, with Blum and Poe still playing an anchor tenant sort of role from its new two-story building. 

And Zellner, 40, has had a hand in the growth. He has done conversions for the Project (now defunct), LAXART, Walter Maciel Gallery and Susanne Vielmetter’s new 7,500 square-foot space, the last of which was once a pool hall.

His look is raw. And his thinking is that galleries today must be flexible enough to accommodate artists who drill holes in the floors, ram columns through the walls or, in the case of Paul McCarthy, turn the white cube of the gallery into a brown mess — a fully operational chocolate factory churning out perverse chocolate Santas, just in time for the holidays.

“I’m willing to let artists completely destroy my work,” he told me for a feature in the May issue of Art+Auction magazine (my last before starting this job), with photographs by Elena Dorfman.

He also talks about

  • the “garage-band” firms that make the history of architecture in L.A. interesting
  • what it’s like to work for his wife, LAXART founder Lauri Firstenberg
  • why the utopian vision that brought Schindler, Neutra and others to Southern California no longer applies

-- Jori Finkel

You can follow the writer on Twitter: @jorifinkel.

Peter Zellner at LAXART, founded by his wife, Lauri Firstenberg. Photograph by Elena Dorfman.