Art galleries run in David Totah’s family. His uncle founded the eponymous Edward Totah Gallery in London in the late 1970s and his father started Albert Totah’s gallery on SoHo’s Wooster Street in the 1980s. This past February, Totah opened his self-titled space on Stanton Street in New York’s Lower East Side, which is currently featuring a series of watercolours by the late Lauretta Vinciarelli, called 'Light Unveiled'. Vinciarelli was incredibly active in the art and architectural avant garde community as a professor at Columbia University and as Donald Judd’s partner. In fact, Totah later discovered that she taught the gallery’s architect, Raffaella Bortoluzzi.
Vinciarelli’s watercolours span from 1990 to 2007 and evoke similar boundary-stretching explorations of space, light and dimension as James Turrell, Olafur Eliasson and Dan Flavin. However, her ability to contrast precise lines with colour saturations and gradient washes creates a wholly unique effect.
‘I was particularly drawn to the ethereal aspects of her later works,’ says Totah. ‘Lauretta was too often referred to as Donald Judd's companion of 12 years, or as a much respected professor of architecture. I strongly believe that she transcends those definitions and is a truly iconoclastic artist with an unusual talent to express her internal spiritual journey.’
Totah’s focus on communication and transcendence expands well beyond 'Light Unveiled'; they are guiding principles for his new space, which he plans to grow into a ‘cultural hub’. He recently commissioned painter and street artist Kenny Scharf to create a mural on the storefront’s security gates – a nod to Scharf’s influence in the nearby East Village and Totah’s family (his uncle was familiar with the artist and showed his work). He also built a small stage below the gallery to host talks, film screenings and performance art.
‘We believe in [the] alchemy between artist and gallerist and in its power to give birth to inspiring projects,’ Totah concludes.