Her Way of Art: Former Jamaican model Nicola Vassell opens gallery in New York
Nicola Vassell. The name which once echoed in the field of fashion is now ‘jaminating’ the art world. The Jamaica-born curator and art dealer recently opened her gallery located in Chelsea, New York, to the delight of aesthetes and dilettantes. The Sunday Gleaner recently caught up with the beautiful creative, post-viewing to discuss the event and Vassell’s plans for the future.
“It sell off! It was fabulous!” Vassell responded in excitement at the success of her opening. With ‘The Big Apple’ officially reopening just two days before her launch, she had the chance to make an indelible mark in the industry. The blessing came with people turning up in droves to show their love and support for Vassell, and the gallery, which stands as her namesake.
Her way of art is rooted in the vibrant waves and shores of the Caribbean. Born and raised in Jamaica, the then 16-year-old Vassell migrated in 1996 to embark on a thrilling journey into the life of trends, grandeur and haute couture as a model.
Over time, working in fashion manifested wonderfully, affording her the opportunity to write part-time. In finding her footing and discovering her voice, she developed a unique interest in art history and business and started to pursue it academically at New York University. Immersing herself in the eclectic mix of university studies and culture, this became her catalyst for connecting with fellow scholars, art pioneers, curators, art dealers and art lovers from all walks of life. In addition, she found solace in the notion of beauty and objecthood that are commonalities within fashion and art.
From her days of being an intern, Vassell received a job and went up through the ranks to become the director of Deitch Projects and the Pace Gallery in Manhattan. By 2014, she branched off into her own business, creating Concept NV. The Nicola Vassell Gallery is an active part of this game-changing movement.
The art world, Vassell said, has been invigorating, with lots of lessons. It’s a great place to explore the facets of the world and of humanity. “Art tells stories and talks about the lived experience. It is a tough business that is of high value, but it also touches on interesting institutional angles, where you work with all of these amazing artists that are essentially giving people a mirror to look at themselves,” Vassell revealed.
In last week’s opening, the gallery featured the work of a brilliant female photographer who goes by the name of Ming Smith. “She is an amazing photographer who has been working for five decades. She is a part of the super important black photography world and is a pioneer in the field. I was honoured to have her,” said Vassell. She plans to rotate the exhibits to highlight other artistic masterminds like Alvaro Barrington, Frida Orupabo, Lauren Halsey, Fred Eversley, and Wangari Mathenge.
The businesswoman agreed that art is about cycles. It’s anybody’s bet, she affirmed, noting that she has experienced figurative painting, abstract paintings, and now the world is going through an articulation of external social construct. “What is happening in the world is very much being exemplified in art. Artists have been anchors of conversations, particularly women, who are having their stories told.”
With plans to bask in the merriment of this incredible career achievement, she continues to earn the respect of fans, colleagues, mentors and trailblazers. Additionally, she hopes that with her gallery, she can approach the belly of the beast, setting creative conversations in motion, giving exposure to deserving super talents and, ultimately, keeping the beauty and wonder of art alive and thriving.