Art Picking At Aaron Rose’s Known Gallery Fire Sale

In the past few months I’ve become completely obsessed with American Pickers on History Channel. American hoarders are fascinating subjects; and whether pawned, picked or sold, random pieces of history hidden in garages, storage spaces and backyards around the country have become highly collectible and profitable. This past Saturday night, kids of all ages lined up by the hundreds, waiting in the heat of Fairfax for Known Gallery to unveil Aaron Rose‘s “Cash and Carry” fire sale. Sign of the times? I think so.

If you’re in the business of curating and collecting art, you’ll inevitably at one point make bets on emerging artists at the beginning of their career – bets that may or may not pay off. Aaron Rose is famous for making the right choices. For ten years (1992-2002), he was owner and director of the Alleged Gallery in New York. A prominent figure of New York’s underground scene, he launched the careers of artists like Barry McGee, Ed Templeton and Mark Gonzales.

When he moved to California, he took all of his “leftovers” with him (once a show’s over, if the artwork isn’t bought or picked up from the gallery by the artist it’ll most likely go straight to storage) leaving a random mix of trash and treasures to collect dust in a Burbank storage for the past ten years.

I first walked in to meet with Rose on Fourth of July – four days before the show – to discover piles of boxes; posters, skateboards, photography, original drawings, original silkscreens – some signed, some not, posters, tons of fanzines, books, artist sneakers, paintings, unfinished pieces, books, toys and more. In the next few days, his team and the gallery’s employees were to unbox, catalogue, price and install ten years worth of art memorabilia, pretty much warping Known Gallery back to the 1990’s.

Does this make you miss New York to go through all of this shit, I asked? “Definitely,” he smiled. But Rose clearly feels that there’s something intensely liberating about selling the past to make room for the future.

“I’m getting rid of a lot of good stuff too, because if people search I want to make it worth their while,” he told me. In fact, the show was purposefully curated in a way that if you knew what you were looking for, you could find some true gems for an amazingly ridiculous price. “It’s happened to me so many times to stumble onto a steal and get so stoked. I think it’s great if people of this neighborhood have the opportunity to experience that,” Rose explained.

And best thing is, the money is going straight back to the community. On the opening night, Rose raised above $20K for Make Something. Since its inception in 2008, the foundation he co-founded provided over 2000 high school students worldwide with hands-on creative workshops and an opportunity to work with and learn from world renowned creative personalities.

“Our focus is on connecting the ideas behind DYI (Do-It-Yourself) creativity with the artists of tomorrow incorporating elements of art, design, music, fashion and film into our programs.” The foundation has been operating under the radar, and part of Rose’s purpose to run this fire sale was to raise money for Make Something to officially become a non-profit – which sums up to around $7K lawyer fees. The rest will go to setting up more classes and workshops.

The show runs through July 21 with new pieces added daily – I can’t believe that storage unit isn’t empty yet!

All photos by Dennis Martin

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