Ensuring art thrives by creatively meeting challenges

Kim Larson- Co-owner& Director, Modern Eden Gallery, San Francisco, California

Feature | 18 January 2022
Kim started as an artist but drew upon her family’s experience in running businesses to start the gallery to ensure emerging artists would be seen by new audiences. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
Located in San Francisco’s Lower Polk is contemporary art gallery, Modern Eden. The gallery started in 2010 by artists Kim Larson and Bradley Paltz, showcases a range of contemporary work from realism to surrealism, and features exhibits by established and up and coming artists.

On a warm summer day we get the chance to visit the Sutter Street gallery and speak with Director Kim Larson, while viewing the current installations.

“I think the most exciting thing are the openings and working with artists, you know just being creative,” Kim says with a smile and sparkle in her eyes. “Just giving an artist that we believe in a show, and then seeing what they are able to come up with is a thrill! And I think that’s why we keep doing it.”

As an artist herself, Kim shares that her passion for art began when she was a young girl. “I did jewelry and sculpture,” Larson says. “But as the gallery has gained momentum, it has taken over, and that has now become more of a side hobby,” she confesses. “But I like it, it’s creative and I have found my outlet,” she emphasizes in regard to the art gallery.

On her journey to becoming an art gallery owner, Larson, says it was a chance happening. “We didn’t set out to be gallery owners. We set out to be artists,” she confidently states. “We met at an art store, so it’s interesting how our paths led us here, but we quickly learned we were really good at it,” she emphasizes.

The art world is driven by constantly changing tastes which drives Kim work diligently to find new artists beyond San Francisco and being attuned to art buyer’s trends. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
“I come from a family of small business owners and Bradley is really hard working so it really works,” Kim says of the two co-owners complementing each other in their work.

As exciting as owning a gallery and working with artists is, Kim admits it is not without challenges as with any business. She cites the lack of stability as one major challenge.

“The most challenging thing is probably the stability of it, it is an ebb and flow kind of business. You can have a great show and life is great, and then you have a bad show and it’s hard. Especially being in San Francisco our costs are super high so it can be extremely stressful. Things go up and down in the art world and it’s like riding a roller coaster.”

The high costs of living in San Francisco have impacted Larson’s business as many of the locally based artists are constantly getting priced out, forcing them to move out of the area. “It affects us very much because our artists can’t live here, and we’ve seen a mass exodus of our art community,” she reveals.

“When they move to different cities, it’s harder and more of a struggle for them,” Kim says. “They have to take on more jobs just to get by and make ends meet. Most artists aren’t just artists, they work multiple jobs. This impacts our art community greatly as artists are stretched and not as productive in creating art, which means we are also not productive. It’s definitely a struggle.”

The digital marketplace has become increasingly important to growing the customer base for the gallery. However, Kim loves interacting with people and creating opportunities for artists and clients to meet. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
Despite many of the struggles artists and the art community endure, Larson highlights that they are also resilient. “If anyone can survive their struggle it’s an artist,” she proclaims with a knowing smile.

She stresses that healthcare, in addition to stability, is what artists and small business owners need in order to thrive. “That is always the number one thing, not having healthcare. It’s a huge problem for us.”

In discussing technology’s role in her work, Kim says “while a lot of gallerists frown about it,” she recognizes how important it is to her business. “Sometimes attendance can be down and we are well aware that we need to move with changing patterns to be able to stay relevant,” she underscores. “We are willing to do what we have to and are open and excited about technology.” She adds that there is also a virtual component to the gallery, as well as an e-commerce interaction and in person human interaction side, both of which work well.

Outside of her gallery work, Kim is also a mom. Her wish for her daughter’s future is to live in a “world of beauty, love, compassion and hope.” “Our goal is to keep dreaming and showing her that our hard work and dedication is something we care about, and that it is also worth it,” she smiles while scanning the gallery space, with her arms open wide.

Just as she says this the gallery doors open and a new group of viewers usher themselves in, keen on exploring and learning about the current pieces on show and the artists who created them.