Chicago Gallerist Monique Meloche on Coining “Chrismukkah” and Her Go-to Holiday Recipe

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Home has played a pivotal role in Monique Meloche’s career—it is where the Chicagoan hosted her first exhibition, “Homewrecker,” in 2000. Since then, Meloche’s gallery has become renowned for nurturing a diverse roster of artists, Amy Sherald and Rashid Johnson among them, and bringing them to the international stage. Meanwhile, earlier this year, Meloche was named an honoree of the Chicago Artists Coalition for her work promoting local talent.

Between staging exhibitions at the gallery and participating in Art Basel Miami Beach, Meloche and her husband and business partner Evan Boris always make time for “Chrismukkuh” with family and friends, including the gallery’s artists. Ahead of the holidays, we caught up with Meloche to see how she celebrates.

Installation view, Monique Meloche Gallery at Art Basel Miami Beach, 2022. Courtesy of the gallery.

Installation view, Monique Meloche Gallery at Art Basel Miami Beach, 2022. Courtesy of the gallery.

What does this time of year look like for you? Does the gallery do anything special for the season?

Art Basel Miami Beach is on the tail end of Thanksgiving, so we are always getting ready for the fair and trying to fit in a little family time. After we finish the post-Miami follow-up, we make sure to celebrate with the staff—we have a boozy dinner with gifts and bonuses before we leave for the holidays.

I take great pride in selecting just the right gifts to send our artists for the New Year—personalized Moleskines and leather charging stations have been hits. I’m working on something special to ring in 2023, but can’t reveal it yet.

Outside the gallery, how do you like to spend the holidays?

First is Chrismukkah (for the record, we came up with the name years before the claims to have coined it in 2003!). This year, Evan will host his family at our home in Chicago, and we always invite any of our artists who might be flying solo. Ebony G. Patterson lives a few blocks away, so she’s practically at every family function!

We love to cook—we always start off with butternut-squash soup shooters that have flash-fried sage—and we love wine. So everyone is always cheering when we are the hosts.

How do you get ready for Chrismukkah?

We always have a large, fresh-cut Fraser fir that we decorate with Evan’s sister, curator Staci Boris; her husband, who’s an award-winning educational toy developer; and our amazing niece and nephew, who at 21 and 14 have celebrated this holiday with us since they were born (more proof of the stealing the term from us!).

The tree is decked in the Israeli colors of blue and white with lots of silver thrown in (which, if you know me, goes against my adoration of everything gold). Every year a new themed ornament is added—think Prince, Beyoncé, Lady Di, and of course Michael Jackson (in homage to our Gary, Indiana location, home of the Jackson 5)—and the tree topper is a stuffed Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster.

While unpacking our stockings, I am allowed my holiday playlist that ranges from Ella Fitzgerald to Run-D.M.C. and Madonna, and of course the South Park Christmas album.

Meloche's Chrismukkah tree. Courtesy of Monique Meloche.

Meloche’s Chrismukkah tree. Courtesy of Monique Meloche.

Any tips for keeping conversations flowing during a holiday party?

Our homes are filled with art, so normally we just light candles and our fire pit (bought during the early days of lockdown in 2020) for a little ambience and let the conversations flow around the works.

I find the art world is filled with so many interesting people that conversations always flow pretty easily, but I do like matchmaking at events—and you can be sure that I’m flitting around connecting folks.

Do you travel at all during the season?

We like to recharge at the end of the year by spending two weeks at our house in Miller Beach, which is located at the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan, at the start of the Indiana Dunes National Park.

On Boxing Day, my father, sister, and brother from Canada usually come to stay through the New Year. We always manage a couple of dune hikes, especially since we’ve not had big snow around the holidays for years.

How do you like to ring in the New Year?

We are pretty casual for holidays, but we do like to glam it up for New Years. A particularly memorable one a little over 10 years ago was -themed. I had three outfit changes and artist Mike Langlois and I nailed the beef Wellington. Many of our artists came with their partners; we know a couple of babies were conceived that night after many rounds of Vespers.

What are you looking forward to in 2023?

I’m really looking forward to easing back into more travel, including to Art Basel Hong Kong for the first time. We’ll have a solo booth with Layo Bright, whose first solo show just opened at the gallery and is on view through January 7, 2023.

And then there’s the big announcement that Ebony G. Patterson will take over the New York Botanical Garden in the summer. We’ve been working on this for several years and I am delighted to finally share the news!

What is your favorite recipe to make when you have people over during the holidays?

Chrismukkah eve is always fish. Evan and I each have our go-to salmon recipes—we switch off making them for our post-opening dinners at our home in Chicago.  taste-tested and published mine years ago:

Honey-peppered Salmon (Serves 4–6):

2 lbs salmon fillet (I prefer one big piece, then cut after cooking)

½ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

4 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I prefer the course ground)

6 cloves garlic, minced

4 teaspoons cayenne

1 teaspoon coriander

4 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt to taste

Mix the marinade and pour it over the salmon 30 minutes before cooking—which it is best to do directly on foil, on a baking sheet, loosely tented. Set the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 25­–30 minutes.

(This is fail-safe and can be left longer if you need to turn down the oven. You can also throw the salmon on the grill at medium heat for the same time—in the foil; no flipping.)

Serve with fresh dill and lemon!

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