A Conversation with Mon Dieu Projects’ Founders: Unveiling the Inspiring Artistic Origins

A Conversation with Mon Dieu Projects' Founders: Unveiling the Artistic Origins
JEFF NACHTIGALL, “Crash Landing 2″, Acrylic, latex & spraypaint on canvas, 90 x 58 inches, 2021

A native Angeleno art collector and a Korean based-Montrealer art dealer walk into a bar and ask, “What if we started a gallery?” LA-based writer Spencer Walker has been a client and close friend of Juno Youn of Galerie Youn for a decade. They share a passion for emerging and established artists with distinctive points of view. And, Korean BBQ. Now, they are sharing their idiosyncratic multilingual mashup of style, culture, and art in LA with Mon Dieu Projects at the newly opened second location of the notorious Mohilef Studios.

Please share with us a little about yourselves and your backgrounds in the art world.

Juno Youn (J): I was born and raised in Seoul, Korea until my teenage years when I relocated to Toronto, Canada by myself. My family followed later and much to my immigrant parent’s chagrin, I went to art school and graduated from OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design). I accidentally became a gallerist during my art school days when I had to find a space in order to show my final thesis. That began my career representing artists that took me from Toronto to Montreal, where I continue to run Galerie Youn. And now gallery in Los Angeles with Mon Dieu Projects.

Spencer Walker (S): I was conceived in India and was partially raised in Southern California, then had stints in London, New England, Colorado, New York, the Philippines, Micronesia, and now I’m back in LA. I have been art-adjacent my entire life, coming from a family of artists and collectors. My art skills were meh, so my creative skills were applied to words as a TV animation writer/executive, blogger turned author, and food writer. Now, I have become an art world interloper, co-founding Mon Dieu Projects with Juno.

A Conversation with Mon Dieu Projects' Founders: Unveiling the Artistic Origins
NADEGE MONCHERA BAER, “Glory”, Acrylic and colored pencil on velum, 27.5 x 39 inches, 2022
A Conversation with Mon Dieu Projects' Founders: Unveiling the Artistic Origins
RICK BOLING, “Crowd 7 (Confetti)”, Oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches, 2023

Were you always interested in the arts from a young age?

J: Like many Asian children, I was classically trained with a musical instrument, and in my case the piano. My parents wanted my older brother to play on stage of the world’s great hall, but he hated it, so I took his lessons instead. I loved it, but I’m more disco than classical. Moreover, I was more drawn to the visual arts, primarily painting, which eventually led to art school, and, ultimately, I paused my own art practices to focus on my gallery business. I hope to return to my own art practice one day.

S: My grandfather ran a small arts supply business manufacturing paint and clay. That made me his free test subject. I grew up in a family that valued art and they would drag me to art galleries and museums, which I now appreciate in retrospect. I spent a lot of time painting, drawing, and sculpting clay monsters as a child, but the closest I got to being a real artist was my comic strips with detailed and very naughty doodles that often landed me in detention. To the surprise of no one, my first career was in animation.

How did your dreams of being a gallerist come true and what do you love best about it?

J: As I said earlier, I am an accidental gallerist that opened a space as a necessity (the mother of all invention) in order to graduate. It wasn’t my dream. I wanted to be a visual artist. But I learned I was better suited as an art dealer. My skill set is perfect for the business side in arts. I love the process of finding an artist, studio visits, mounting exhibitions, promoting artists to the public, art fairs, publishing catalogs, and, of course, the art parties. My parties at SPIN Toronto were legendary. But, most gallery work is not glamorous and can be downright tedious. But the joy of curation makes it all worth it.

S: If it wasn’t for Juno, I would still be toiling away on fart jokes rather than writing this Q&A. This is my first art rodeo and it’s been an avalanche of learning experiences. I have always loved being around art and the artists that make it. And I know so many that don’t have representation, but deserve it. This is my way to fill the hole in the market and create opportunities for artists I admire that haven’t had their break yet. My joy comes from the discovery of new talent and the ability to help them on their journey. And there sure is so much untapped talent out there!

A Conversation with Mon Dieu Projects' Founders: Unveiling the Artistic Origins
JAEHONG AHN, “Reconciliation of The Three Tyrants”, Oil on canvas, 74 3/4 x 98 1/2 inches, 2023
A Conversation with Mon Dieu Projects' Founders: Unveiling the Artistic Origins
LUCAS BIAGINI, “Global Funk”, Oil through wax on panel, 11 x 16 inches, 2020

Mon Dieu Projects only launched this past April, what are you most proud of from the past few months?

S&J: Three months feels like three years because it has been a wild ride with so many highs and lows packed into the first 90 days. The heavy construction at the gallery’s building made operating our business a challenge, but we are eternal optimists. We borrowed the contractor’s scissor lift to install Andrew Morrow’s 16×8’ opus “Transitional Device” onto the gallery ceiling like our own naughty Sistine Chapel.

But, it is the community that Mon Dieu Projects created that we are most proud of. Beyond just the openings, which were proper bangers, it is the day-to-day at the gallery where we saw the impact. The gallery became a nexus for local artists, collectors, and art lovers to commingle, admire the work, and inspire younger artists to shoot for the moon. We love our little sanctuary from art world pretension where the love of art is the point.

What’s next for Mon Dieu Projects?

J&S: Mon Dieu Projects and the physical space we occupy at the Mohilef Studios building was supposed to be a pop up. But during this exploratory committee, we found that Mon Dieu has legs (and knows how to use ‘em) and so we must continue. Mon Dieu Projects is building out an online space through our website to sell art that is accessible, affordable, and fits our “never boring” mantra.

The eCommerce site will offer limited edition prints, inexpensive original art that can easily be shipped, and perhaps some NFTs from our roster of artists. Beyond that, we hope to open a new location that can double as an event space to further expand the Mon Dieu community with art-focused events, mentorships, and perhaps small-scale art fairs for emerging artists.

A Conversation with Mon Dieu Projects' Founders: Unveiling the Artistic Origins
DL ALVAREZ, “Quest”, Colored pencil and graphite on paper, 13 x 16.5 inches, 2023
A Conversation with Mon Dieu Projects' Founders: Unveiling the Artistic Origins
CHRISTOPHER KHUN, “A Cosmic Gumbo”, Oil & acrylic on canvas, 60 x 84 inches, 2023

Visit: www.mondieuprojects.com

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