Clutch Gallery

Contact: Meg Duguid
Open Hours: yes


How is the project operated?
Clutch is an artist-run project.

How long has it been in existence?
Clutch has been running since December 2009.

What was your motivation?
“I carry a purse and now I am going to use it.”

This was my introduction to Clutch Gallery, a 25-square-inch space located in the heart of my purse. I initially conceived of Clutch when I moved back to Chicago from New York after an almost seven-year absence. My intent was to play on the grand, and somewhat unwritten, history of artist-run spaces in this city. It felt at that time it was almost a given that artists should open their own space and so I opened Clutch in my space, my purse.

Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
So far Clutch has been programmed by me (Meg Duguid) (2009-2011), Emma Robbins (January-July 2012), Paul Hopkin (October 2012 and May/June 2015), Georgina Valverde (Society of Smallness) (2013-2016), and Tanner Woodford (Chicago Design Museum) (2017).

How are programs funded?
Clutch is fully self-funded. The start-up costs included $5 plus shipping for the purse on eBay, and a little wood and paint to make the gallery space. After that initial investment, each carrier has been responsible for wall upkeep and any exhibition costs (which are nominal).

Who is responsible for the programming?
Each carrier/curator has been responsible for programming.

Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
Clutch has done anywhere from 4- to 15 exhibitions per year with some additional programming depending on the curator.

What kind of events are usually organized?
This curatorial project is dedicated to exhibiting contemporary art of all media. It has exhibited sculpture, painting and drawing, installation, video, and performance.

Do you accept proposals/submissions?
Sometimes. It has depended on the person running it at the time

What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
In opening Clutch, I initially intended to maintain regular programming through December 2010, but I continued to carry and program it until the end of 2011 in the belief that it would die a fitting and natural death by wearing out from daily use.

In running Clutch, I was responsible for each job in my gallery—I was preparator, gallery assistant, director, marketing director, but most importantly I was a performer. The space for me was really an extension of my practice that a number of other artists were generous enough to collaborate in.

Toward the end of 2011, carrying Clutch had started to feel more like a Sisyphean task rather than a Herculean one. I had thought that the purse itself would wear out in 2011, but it did not. So I put it up for others to carry and curate. Clutch at that point evolved from being an extension of my performance practice to being a tool that others could use to extend their practices. For Emma it served as a direct curatorial tool to expand what she could do with her curatorial practice. Her shows had longer runs, and she brought Clutch international, taking it to Buenos Aires. Paul Hopkin, who is the director of Slow, also extended his gallery practice into Clutch twice. The first time, in 2012, Hopkin used clutch to play on the idea of the group show with an exhibition of seven artists, and the second time he used Clutch as a literal direct extension of the project in his space where Slow presented The Break Age, a three-and-a-half solo shows by Benjamin Zellmer Bellas across four venues: Slow, Modest Contemporary, DO Mus, and Clutch.

Georgina Valverde of the Society of Smallness used Clutch as an expansion of her Society of Smallness, “a collective of enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds exploring the potential for small actions to generate creative opportunities for everyone. We believe less is less and thinking small is a needed antidote in an age of supersizing and overachieving”. Valverde was able to expand Clutch’s reach through her lens as collective collaborator and her role as a museum educator at The Art Institute of Chicago. During her time with Clutch, she added a guest book, expanded programming to include lunchtime lectures at the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection, and collaborated with classes on projects in Clutch—this on top of curating regular exhibition programming.

Clutch spent its last year with Tanner Woodford at the Chicago Design Museum. He curated three exhibitions expanding on design. In Clutch’s time at the museum, it took on its object-hood in a new way—sitting on Woodford’s desk, living under a vitrine in the mall just outside the museum, and being lent to the members at the Soho House with a show by Studio Gang.

What’s working? What’s not working?
Clutch is a social object. It has been in the care of artists, curators, and museum professionals (though many of the caretakers have worn more than one of these monikers).

Clutch contains an element of constant duration. Its energy remains potential when not in active viewing mode, ensnaring all activity around it as its own. Clutch is larger than just the act of opening up the object to someone at any moment or explaining the nature of the work. The durational aspect of Clutch is both constant and not at all, simultaneously, meaning it holds potential and kinetic energy at once. The potential energy of just holding the space, maintaining the space, and sitting near the space allows its performative potentiality to radiate into all things Clutch, and the moment someone approaches Clutch’s conceptual sphere, the person becomes a part of it whether the purse is in a state of rest or motion.

Clutch is an object that needs regular care; the walls need to come out to be refurbished on at least a yearly basis; the outside needs to be refinished from time to time. Clutch has gone from cherry to a dark ash color over the last eight years.

Clutch has interacted with artists, baristas, retail associates, museum patrons, collectors, museum employees, cultural officials, club members, hardware professionals, car thieves, White House tour guides, TSA, customs officials, the Secret Service, and the generally curious human.

Clutch has moved from being a DIY project that was literally run out of my pocket(book) to being a tool for others to use to explore their practices. In its last year it has moved into the realm of the institution, living within the walls of a museum. The cycle of culture seems complete.

What idea are you most excited about for the future?
When lending Clutch out, I always thought that it would die a fitting death for an accessory. It would fall apart from daily use. I had always requested that each curator bring Clutch back and talk to me about their time with the purse. I would give my assurance that curators will not be held accountable if the gallery breaks. My only
request was to please document the devastation before picking it up or cleaning it up.

I believed that when Clutch broke, that would be the end of the project. Instead Clutch achieved a milestone that I had never thought it would. It became institutional. To send it back out in the universe the same way it has functioned in the last six years, would be like jumping the shark.

Clutch is ready for a new chapter.

So as any good artist-run administrator would do, I have written a memo:

Re: Clutch: This is how a gallery ends.



Images courtesy of Clutch Gallery.

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