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Olivia Barrett Is Leading The LA Art Scene With A Mix Of Passion, Consideration, And Curation

To love art to the degree that you have the desire to open and direct a gallery takes passion. It also takes an understanding of art born through observation and deep consideration. In addition to those things, some people also have a gift for sensing the intentions of an artist and for indicating what is truly remarkable and in need of an audience. Olivia Barrett is one such person, blending passion, consideration, and a flair for curation.

As the founder and director of Los Angeles’ Château Shatto, Barrett is a vital eye in the Los Angeles Art Scene, and a key connection between the artist, the worlds they create, and those who admire their work.

“The most effective artworks usually arise from an uneasy coexistence between reason and intuition,” Barrett tells Uproxx when we reached out to have a conversation about her inclusion as a part of The Next 9 by Porsche and how she defines great art. “Borrowing from Anne Carson, a sustained incongruence of the emotional and the cognitive… It’s the paradox of the artificial assuming a form that speaks to something that is both resounding and ineffable. Most art that I consider to be ‘great’ is in possession of this improbable balance of expressiveness and muteness, which produces an inexhaustible tension.”

When asked about her connection to Porsche, Olivia spoke of a friend and his appreciation for the history of the brand; expressed through his ownership of various vintage models. She also waxed nostalgic about time spent driving in the backseat of his 1989 Carrera 911 and how it spoke to a very specific definition of success that’s driven by a want to be in the front seat and at the wheel. “Luxury requires a differential, so being positioned in the backseat immediately produces an aspiration to be in the front,” she said.

Though no one’s ambition factors in a need to sift through spreadsheets, Barrett possesses a keen ability to balance and understand the inherent cool of the emotion-driven world of art with the practicality of running a successful business.

“This vocation demands keeping one leg in the space of the artists, the work, the ideas, the exhibitions, the discursive matter that grows from the program and the other leg in the space of the practicalities of running a business. So the goals of the gallery arise from the artists, of course, but also from the struggle and cooperation of these two positions.”

That may seem like a stressful dichotomy to serve, but Barrett pulls it off with a mix of practicality, and flexibility.

“I consider what galleries do to be programmatic, and there is a very specific dramaturgy to a gallery program in that each exhibition or artist being presented inflects upon what comes before and what comes after,” she says. It also takes a certain sort of sensitivity and that makes Barrett an artist in her own right.

“Sometimes I think of Cháteau Shatto’s program within the tradition of the novel: there is form, ideas, language, narrative, theatricality, reflexivity, and sociality. These are the markers of consistency but also the ever-present possibility to pivot at any moment.”

That artistic viewpoint and willingness to pivot and explore new ideas and expressions is doubtlessly a part of her success story, same as it is surely a benefit to the artists whose trust in her and the gallery reward the endeavor and the community it serves.

“Perhaps the passion I expressed towards art was legible to the artists who I sought the confidence of in the early years and who then placed enough trust in me to represent their work.”

With her uniquely keen visual sensibility, practicality, ability to interface with artists, and a gift for taking and translating the pulse of the moment, Olivia Barrett is a key player behind the scenes in curating the culture of our contemporary art world. It’s a career built to be described as iconic and inspirational, and she’s just getting started.

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