Q+A: Klompching Gallery
Owned and operated by Debra Klomp Ching and Darren Ching, The Klompching Gallery quickly earned a solid reputation in contemporary fine art photography since it came to Dumbo in September 2007. It has made appearances in numerous notable publications including The New Yorker, Art Review, Modern Painters, Wall, Street Journal, etc. We sat down with Darren Ching to learn more about the gallery and what brought them to Dumbo.
Tell us about the Klompching gallery. What is the origin story?
I started this gallery with my wife, Debra Klomp Ching. We got married in 2006, and we opened this gallery in 2007. Our first location was on Front street, but we’ve been in this current space (89 Water St.) for almost two and a half years. The initial idea started off as a blue-sky conversation we were having one night about things we were interested in eventually doing. The both of us have a lot of experience in the field of photography. So, we joked over a glass of wine that it would be so much fun if we had an art gallery. The more we thought about it, the more we realized we had the appropriate skill set for it. We talked to a lot of our friends who own art galleries and we decided that it was one of those things where if you have a passion for it, you just make it happen. We knew that it was a real gamble to open an art gallery, but ultimately, we felt that our passion towards photography was so strong. We found a lot of people who were interested in being art collectors, and it was quite clear to us that there is a market. It works out for us because if someone wants to start collecting art, it is a lot easier to get started through collecting works that are photographs. So, that’s how our gallery started.
The main reason we exist and people buy from us is because they trust our opinion. This is an exciting time in terms of being an art collector because there is so much out there. We live in a day and age where so much photography is viewed online and quickly. The internet makes it so easy to sit and look through hundreds of images. Which is why, one of the things that we passionately feel about having an art gallery, is creating an environment where people can walk in here, slow down, and spend the time to look at a smaller selection of artwork and spend time with each piece of artworks. We have a space that shows artwork in a way they are meant to be seen. They could see art in scale and get a better sense of texture. Everyone is welcome to stop by and engage in a dialogue about the artwork. That’s one of the things we love the most.
What type of art does your gallery focus on?
We focus primarily on contemporary photography. We are very excited by the emerging talents out there, but we also have photographers that are quite established – that have made a good name for themselves in Europe but are less known in the United States. There’s a lot of photographers and photography art galleries out there, but I think the one thing that binds our vision are the works that have a good amount of hand-work in their art.
How many artists do you represent? Can you tell us about one or two of them?
We represent about 30 photographers. We have portfolios of all their different bodies of work for sale. It’s quite different from painting galleries where an artist will exhibit their works for a certain period then move onto the next space. Our most established photographer is Helen Sear. Her art is very interesting because there is a great amount of interplay between digital technologies and an analog approach. Another artist we represent is a British photographer whose name is Antony Crossfield. He works with a lot of digital technology, but the amount of hand-work he puts into it is amazing. He finds spaces and builds a set, sometimes merging 16 different images to create the final photograph. With his work, he’s interested in focusing on men. He emphasizes on the age group that is in transition from young and youthful to wrinkles He deals with the impending deterioration of health and youthfulness, which is a tough age for a lot of men.
How do you select the artists you represent?
There is a bunch of different ways that we find our artists. We attend a lot of graduate shows at the various art schools, group shows, and there is also a lot of word-of-mouth that goes around. There are certain people who we trust their taste. They would call us and say ‘there’s an artist that you really have to look at. We think it will fit into your space very well.’ Every single art gallery is a direct reflection of the taste of whoever owns it. So, for us, even though we have many artists, they must have a vision that fits into our vision. Our vision is essentially artwork that technically pushes the whole genre of photography and sparks an emotional response. There is a lot of good photography out there, but as a gallery, we are interest in works that exhibit a certain amount of appropriate technical excellence, but at the same time, are emblematic of what the artist is really trying to say. We’re not only interested in techniques, but in works that try to say something in a layered type of way. This is because with fine-art photography, the intention is to have a long-term relationship with the work hanging on your wall, knowing that even after ages, it will still maintain a sense of mystery. These are the works we feel are special and worth collecting.
Why did you decide to locate in Dumbo?
We live in Brooklyn, and we absolutely love this neighborhood. Our primary reason is that there is so much history to this location. We walk onto the streets and there is the Manhattan Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, cobble stones. We felt that it was very much a neighborhood on the ups, and we were very interested in being a part of that. In the art field now, our clients are all over the place because of the internet. But a lot of our clients are in Dumbo because of the amount of apartment buildings here. What we love about Dumbo is that it is a very cultural neighborhood. There is a certain amount of energy here and people are really interested in culture. It’s been good for us.
What is your favorite place in Dumbo?
Aside from Klomgching gallery, my favorite place in Dumbo would have to be the Empire Stores rooftop garden. It’s absolutely fantastic. It’s odd because it’s in a very central location but it feels like it’s off the beaten path – not a lot of tourist know about it. It’s so well designed and gives you such a great view of Manhattan. Being on the ground floor surrounded by artwork and dealing with people who walk in all day, the rooftop just feels like a reprieve where I can appreciate the East River and Manhattan. I find it to be a very peaceful place, so I love it.