Vancouver's Crack Gallery is truly one of a kind. A DIY gallery with no permanent space and an ethos revolving around championing your community, travelling the world to put on shows, and homies working with homies. To celebrate the exclusive UK launch of Crack Gallery's inaugural collection at Goodhood, we spent some time in conversation with gallery founder, Teen, to talk everything from his first show, chance meetings with Chito, to smoking too much weed with Weirdo Dave, and supporting your friends. Check it out.
Exclusive Crack Gallery mix:
GOODHOOD: How and why was Crack Gallery founded?
CRACK GALLERY: So we started in 2015. So it's been just over seven years, we started in January 2015. It was me and two friends, Pryce and Briggs. I had been doing some design stuff for a store that had a little brand. And this store, they spent a lot of money trying to do this. They did a really nice build out on a space, but it only lasted like a year. It just sort of ran into the ground like, and the investor in the store and the brand was the owners childhood friend, who I think sunk like half a million dollars lot of money into this thing. And it just sort of went belly up, like it just didn't work out. They had like a big falling out, and I was just kind of stuck in the middle, you know, I had been doing design stuff for them. It just kind of ended all of a sudden, and I felt really bad for the investor. He had put all this money into the space and and, I thought that was kind of the end of it, I gotta find another job or some other way to make money but Pryce and Briggs saw something I didn’t see, which was an opportunity to start using that space. We started doing Crack Gallery shows in this space, we had that first space for a year. We did some good shows in there, then after a year we lost that space. Everyone kind of went their separate ways, but I was pretty into it, so I kind of kept it going on my own. It's just been me the last six years, me and lots of friends, I couldn't ever do on my own. But yeah, it's kind of just been my little baby the last six years.
GH: What did you initially set out to achieve back in 2014 when you started?
CG: Yeah, we had no idea what we were doing. I didn't even know how to hang art properly on a wall. I kind of still don't, I think I'm still learning as I go here. Every show you do, it gets a little more refined and you learn something new. We set out to just sort of work with each other and work with our friends, we weren't money motivated. We were just more into working with our friends and in doing something that wasn't happening here in Vancouver. There's a couple of big galleries here, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the CAG (Contemporary Art Gallery). There's some other smaller galleries here, but they can come off quite pretentious and in uninviting, so we just wanted to provide something that just wasn’t here, something that was more inviting and something that was more for us.
GH: You mentioned working with friends. I wanted to ask, how do you choose the artists that you work with? How does that come about?
CG: Since it's just friends working with friends it flows pretty naturally and organically. I don't really like to force things, you know? Things just fall into place and they make sense. I'll notice maybe a friend has started to paint and another friend has like started to do tattoos, and another friend maybe moved into their house those two guys are living with from like Montreal or something. And then all of a sudden, there's this house with these three friends in it and they're all banging out rad artwork every day. I'll just be over there like looking at all the stuff they're doing and I'll just kind of be like, you guys should do a show. Next thing you know, we're doing a show and it's pretty chill. It just sort of happens. I don't really try to force it or talk people into it. There's no selling them on this idea of a show, It's just homies working with homies.
"THERE'S NO SELLING THEM ON THIS IDEA OF A SHOW, IT'S JUST HOMIES WORKING WITH HOMIES"
GH: That’s cool. Just hanging out and having fun. Not pretentious, just a really enjoyable way of doing it.
CG: Yeah, Crack Gallery shows can get kind of wild. Especially opening night, they can get pretty crazy. Like party vibes, you know? So I think everyone knows they're gonna have a good time if they do a show. And they only happen every couple of months, so people are always sort of down to do something because they know it's going to be good time. You know, something crazy is going to happen out front, something crazy might happen inside. Every show just becomes its own weird thing. Like, all these things happen, and it's it's super funny. And yeah, it's just friends working with friends.
GH: Sounds like a great time. Sounds really fun. Is there anyone you think we should know about at the moment? Artists on your radar right now that we should know about?
CG: The kids I did the last show with, Foolproof. Those kids are really rad. There's this kid Balti (@baltispykey), he’s from Montreal, he’s a really cool kid. He's like a unicorn of a person, just one of those rare breeds. His art is really cool and different looking to me, and a lot of people have started to notice his art. He did a bunch of snowboards for Burton that I think come out this season. Everyone in the Olympics was riding them actually. His two roommates are Tyson (@digital_tyson) and Brandon (@bcurciotattoo). Brandon's doing a lot of tattoos now and Tyson is painting. So those kids are cool.The show next month in June is a guy named Robin Hodgson (@reallyreallyrobin). He's an artist from here but he lives about three hours away in Kamloops. His art is really nice. Then there's my friend Matt (@twosmudge_). He's an indigenous kid from Alberta. He's Blackfoot, which is one of the clans that kind of went from Alberta, down into the states. We've done a lot of stuff together. He's doing some beading for Better Gift Shop. So he's definitely one to watch out for.
GH: Speaking of Better Gift Shop, we’ve seen you work with them a bit, as well as Sneeze Magazine. We're big fans of both of those guys here at Goodhood. Can you run through a little bit about your experience working with them. How it came about and what you've made with them?
CG: Nic who does Sneeze Mag, he’s from here. In the early 2000s I worked at a skate shop in North Vancouver, and I met Nic and his brother whilst working there. Nic was a photography student at UBC, and at the time he was just someone I met working in a skate shop. Then years later, he started Sneeze. We just always sort of talk about stuff and bounce ideas back and forth. I've helped them with the Sneeze calendar before, I've helped them choose artists for the calendar, I’m kind of helping them with that again right now. It's just a pretty chill. He’s a friend, I think I've known Nic about 20 years now. And he doesn't live here anymore. He lives in Montreal, but he still prints the magazine here. So every three months, I get to actually see him and we'll go up for dinner. And he's, he's just a homie, putting out this giant poster magazine every three months. That's how I met Avi Gold, who does Better, he worked for Sneeze too. I went to Toronto to do a Crack Gallery show and I needed a projector to cast an image onto a wall. Avi came through and found us a projector and we met and became friends. Avi’s a good homie, we talk almost every day and he carries a lot of Crack Gallery stuff. He's always supported what I'm doing, he started sponsoring shows this year, which has been nice and Sneeze are sponsoring shows now too. It helps out a lot when there’s costs of renting all the different gallery spaces.
GH: You used multiple different gallery spaces and you’ve not got a fixed location - why is this?
CG: I had a fixed location the first year. Yeah. We kind of blew it, I think the guy that was letting us use the space was definitely looking for more money than we were giving him. We would only do shows when it made sense, when something came along. From a money point of view, it's like a horrible business plan. When I lost that space after the first year, I started noticing spaces all over the city that you could kind of rent temporarily. Vancouver's expensive, I know London's really expensive too. To rent a nice gallery space here, like you're looking at least $3,000 a month. So I think if I had a permanent space, I might end up doing some stuff I wasn't really into just to pay the rent. By just using like temporary spaces there's like no pressure to pay rent every single month. I can move along more freely, find a space and do a show. I don’t want to get stuck in a lease and I don’t want to do whack shit just to be able to pay rent. The last space I used, I used for 5 years. I’d just book it when I had a show on. When COVID hit I had to cancel 5 shows. I’ve got a new space I’m using now a couple of a block away the old space. I've used it for the last two shows, and I'll use it for all the summer shows like there's a show next week that we're working on and show in June show in July show in August. So I have a new base now and it's kind of cutty, but I I like it kind of cutty. So it's chill.
GH: You work with Weirdo Dave a lot. How did you guys meet, and how did you end up working on projects together?
CG: The first year of Crack Gallery. So I grew up skating and doing a lot of graffiti, and there was a really famous, kinda the king of our city in the 90s in the early 2000s. I won’t say his writer name, but his name is Zak, and we’re good friends now. Zak moved to New York to paint because New York is one of the birth places of graffiti. Somehow when he moved out there, he ended up getting a job out there and over the years at that job he ended up becoming good friends with Dave. When I had the first Crack Gallery space in the first year, Zak was like ‘yo, you should have my homie Dave here to do a show’. So through Zak, I met Weirdo Dave. Dave came up here in 2015 for about a week, and we did a show which was a lot of fun. He's the ultimate digger. He's always looking for stuff for all that work. Whether it's on the ground, or a label off like an old porno on a VHS tape. He does not stop, ya know. He'll have a list of old bookstores. He'll show me the list and I'll recognise a few but a couple I won't know. I just felt like he opened my eyes to how much stuff is actually out there. In a market, on the sidewalk or the street. We made a shirt for his show too. It's probably my favourite Crack Gallery shirt of all times. So every now and again, I'll put it out again. We still talk all the time, mostly about skateboarding. And Vans. We both like Vans. So we're always like, what shoe you wearing? today? Are you wearing? What did you think of this part? We don't even talk about like art or doing shows or anything like that. It's more just like skateboarding and Vans. He’s a good homie.
"HE'S THE ULTIMATE DIGGER... THERE'S NO ONE QUITE LIKE HIM"
GH: You also have a really close personal working relationship with Chito - how did you guys first meet?
CG: Kind of a crazy story, it was pretty chance meeting. We met in spring 2017 in Tokyo. This was my second trip to Tokyo, I went there by myself to go to these art islands pretty far south in Naoshima, for 10 days. I met him at the end of my trip, I checked out in my Airbnb. I had my big roller bag and my skateboard was attached to it. And I was supposed to meet a friend to go for lunch. He was gonna introduce me to his girlfriend. I was waiting for my friend at the Scramble, you know that famous Tokyo crosswalk with thousands of people crossing? My friend was running late, so I was just standing there people watching. Then Chito, D Brad and Tone just rolled up and they stood out I guess because they weren’t Japanese, and they were speaking English. Chito had a Have A Good Time shirt on, Stone Island shorts, 990s. These dudes really stood out from everything else that was passing by. I had a FA Jason Dill board strapped to my bag the Stevie Wonder one, and D-Brad started talking to me like ‘oh shit, is that Stevie Wonder?’, he’s a pretty outgoing guy, we started talking. I got chatting to Chito, I didn’t know who he was, he said he does art and modelling. We exchanged Instagram handles and we had mutuals. Like, you’re homies with some homies of mine, cool. Then my friend showed up, and I had to get on the train to the airport. So I'm taking the train back to the airport, I had a bunch of magazines I had just bought like Grind and stuff. I open the Grind and there he is, Chito modelling and I was just like, what the fuck? Art imitates life? We kept in touch. He ended up doing his first show in the summer here in Vancouver, and we became good friends.
GH: That really is by chance, but like it was supposed to happen. Meeting at one of the busiest crossroads in the world, what are the chances?
CG: Super chance meeting. We both kind of think maybe it was like meant to be. Chito would have gone on to do Chito things, whether he met me or not, he was well on his way, like when we met. He really helped me a lot. He sort of opened my eyes to, to what he was doing and like what his friends were doing. Yeah. And in in Crack gallery definitely wouldn't be what it is or where it is today. Without him. It was just such a fluke meeting. I'm really glad it happened. Because yeah, Chito’s the homie.
GH: So what’s the best city you’ve exhibited in, and why?
CG: I really like showing here in Vancouver because there's not much going on here, you can bring all your friends together from where you live. I think the shows here are the most fun for me, but Paris was a lot of fun to show in too. You know, we weren't in the nice part of Paris, it was a bit of a no-go area at one time. Pretty cutty, and pretty far removed from what was going on at Fashion Week, which was happening whilst we were there. Tokyo was cool to show at too, but pretty different because we showed in existing galleries. It was a lot of work, I went there with Chito the one time and we didn't pull off the show. That's when I realise these gallery people really like to plan things like months in advance, and we are people down to do something out of the blue with no notice. When we decided to do Roid Cycle in Japan, I had already failed at doing a show there. We found this gallery called Gallery Target, where they did like the Larry Clark Polaroids for 100 bucks. It was a very like real gallery doing things in the real art world, and Crack Gallery is kind of the opposite of that. It's kind of cutty and rough around the edges, so to pull that show off in Tokyo, it felt like I robbed a bank or something. That opening turned into a bit more of a party. The next day, the gallery employees said it wasn’t a good environment for selling art. They started talking to each other and I was like, these people hate me. But it was okay.
GH: Wow. Are you still in touch with that gallery, no bad blood?
CG: No hard feelings. The owner actually collects bootleg Incredible Hulk figures. He had a big collection up in his office. I found a lot of them, I think I just sent him like five of them. So yeah, we still have like a pretty good relationship. Some of Zak’s stuff from that show actually ended up in Drake's house.
"IT'S KIND OF CUTTY AND ROUGH AROUND THE EDGES, SO TO PULL OFF THAT SHOW IN TOKYO, IT FELT LIKE I ROBBED A BANK"
GH: Drake’s house is pretty crazy. What about stuff in your house, what’s the best art book / zine in your collection, personal or Crack Gallery archive, and how did you acquire it?
CG: I kept some stuff from the fuck this life we did for the Dave show. We only made 30 of these, it was a re-release of a zine like he had already put out. And he has like a little stamp to make it kind of special Crack Gallery. So there's only 30 of these in the world so this is pretty special to me. The photos are glued to paper and then we scanned pages from the original and we blew them up super big and I think there's seven prints in the show, all one of ones. We scanned them all full colour from the original zine and then had them printed on high quality poster stock. The original plan was to find a blueprint printing place and have the prints printed black and white on cheap newsprint paper with the original zine next to it.
GH: Why one of ones, what’s the reason behind not doing an edition?
CG: I don't think I knew what I was doing so much back then, it was seven years ago. This is just kinda what I ended up doing. I think the original plan was to find a place that prints blueprints for architects, but we didn’t do that. Instead we did it on cheap newsprint paper, and had the original from the zine hanging next to it. But like I said, like we totally didn't know what we were doing. I think I smoked more weed that week with Weirdo Dave than I've ever smoked in my life. We were just fried.
GH: Do you collect any other items?
CG: I like to steal ashtrays. From restaurants and bars mostly in Japan. I don't know how it is now but you could smoke in every bar and restaurant there. It's a weird little quirky thing to collect, I guess. I also have a record collection, I like to collect records but haven’t had a turntable for a little bit. So I've sort of slowed down on collecting records.
GH: Do you have a favourite record from your collection?
CG: My friend Derek does a house music label here, it’s called Pacific rhythm. He's a really good DJ too. I traded him a skateboard for a bunch of records. As a Christmas present, I bought another friend Aphex Twin's 'Selected Ambient Works'. Because I love that record so much. You can listen to it from start to end, which you can't often do with a lot of electronic. It's such a beautiful, perfect album to me. I think everyone should have it in their collection. When you give one of your favourite records to someone else, it's like you're giving a little piece of yourself.
GH: Are you reading anything at the moment that you'd like to let us know about? Anything cool that we should get a copy of?
CG: I don't know if you would consider it cool, but I think it's important. I'm reading this book called fighting for space. It's basically a book about the neighbourhood where I do shows. It's about how a group of drug users transformed one cities struggle with addiction.
GH: What’s your favourite Crack Gallery show to date?
CG: I think the Weirdo Dave show. That was a wonderful week, he's always kind of got the funniest stuff to say, and he has a really rad way of looking at things. So the Weirdo Dave show for sure. Both Chito shows were really special, his show here was his first show ever and, and he gave me that opportunity to do that. We had only just met on the street in Tokyo and just became Instagram friends and he trusted me with that.
GH: What's your dream city anywhere in the world to exhibit in?
CG: Mexico City's pretty high on my list. London is up there too. I saw you did a show with Doyun and Bergen from Lilypad Magazine, they're both the homies. Going back to Tokyo, and going back to Paris would be cool. But also, like, doing something like somewhere like just totally weird would be cool to you know, like doing a show in India or doing a show in Iceland. Something like people wouldn't expect would be pretty cool. What if you did a show in Antarctica, and just like penguins came? That could be kind of cool. It's just like you and the penguins. In a way I think I've already like sort of showed in those dream cities like Tokyo and Paris.