New York dealer Sean Kelly’s son takes the reins at Los Angeles outpost

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Thomas Kelly joined the gallery business in 2011. He had been working in Manhattan real estate and was helping his father, Sean Kelly, find a new gallery space. They ended up at 475 Tenth Street, and the younger Kelly transitioned to the family business. He began by working on art fairs, and then moving into sales and artists liaison. Today he’s a partner in the gallery—along with his father and sister—and is the recently minted director of its Los Angeles outpost.

“In the 30-year history of the gallery, this is the first time that we’ve ever had two spaces,” he says, “so it’s a big move for us.” Kelly was very much behind the push, especially after realising that 30 of the 36 artists the gallery represents had never had a solo show in Los Angeles. They also had no artists based in the Los Angeles area.

He adds, “By raising my hand and saying, ‘Listen, I myself and my family are willing to move to Los Angeles and open this space,’ that was a huge determining factor in getting the go ahead. That Sean’s son was moving out here, there would be no issues of consistency.”

Thomas Kelly, director of Sean Kelly Gallery in Los Angeles Photo by Sarah Muehlbauer, courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery

In 2021 they started looking for a Los Angeles space and found a corner on Highland Avenue near a number of other galleries including Kohn Gallery and Regen Projects. It was an older, one-storey building attached to a newer three-storey building, with an adjacent lot with parking for up to 40 cars—or an outdoors reception. They opened Sean Kelly, Los Angeles, last September, and are currently featuring a show by Janaina Tschäpe (until 4 March).

“We’re just incredibly excited to be part of the Los Angeles arts community,” Thomas says, “and to have a space here and become closer with the institutions, the museums, the collectors that are based here.”

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