The Industry’s Most Coveted Plaster Artisans Just Opened an Art Gallery
With locations in both Los Angeles and Brooklyn, Galerie Ground will uplift Kamp Studios founders Kim Collins and Amy Morgenstern’s favorite artists while putting the soft power of plaster on full display.
Venetian plaster is most likely popping up everywhere on your Instagram feed, but for Kim Collins and Amy Morgenstern—the founders of bicoastal plaster firm Kamp Studios—it’s much more than the material du jour. The duo first fell in love with the sought-after surface more than 15 years ago when their fledgling firm launched as an architectural wall finishing company that strictly offered gliding, faux bois, glazing, and other painterly finishes. At the time, they never anticipated plaster’s meteoric rise among the interiors industry’s most preeminent designers, or that their growing clientele would lean on them to “inspire choices that help inform a space,” they explain, “but we can always come to the table with something people haven’t seen before.”
Hence their desire to launch and curate an art gallery. “It only seemed natural to expand from finishing walls to curating what’s hung on the walls,” they say, noting how their clients were frequently asking them to commission artworks. “The idea of marrying architecture and fine art was becoming a very obvious path for us to take.” Opening in both Los Angeles and Brooklyn, Galerie Ground will uplift the duo’s favorite artists (they’ve become acquainted with a great many over the course of their career) while putting the power of plaster on full display not only through finishes, but their own never-before-seen custom furnishings. The two cavernous spaces lend themselves well to the venture—in Brooklyn, they’re taking over an erstwhile chandelier factory in Red Hook a stone’s throw from Pioneer Works; in Los Angeles, a former casting studio that they’ve revamped to evoke a Tuscan farmhouse.
Likewise, the artists on Galerie Ground’s roster pair seamlessly with plaster finishes. They encompass new discoveries like Madrid-based painter Armando Mesías to the architect and longtime Kamp Studios client Chris Baas, whose artistic prowess the pair realized when visiting his TriBeCa loft for a commission. “Our hope is that we can truly express our point of view in the most integral way, collaborating with those who we work with and those who want to work with us by creating stories and always bringing something new to the forefront.” Below, the duo divulges how they’re making that happen.
Opening a bicoastal gallery is a herculean feat right now. How are you feeling?
A feat indeed, however it’s also given us the time and space to create and curate the artists we envisioned for the gallery. While it’s been strenuous to consider opening on both coasts during an unforeseen pandemic, it has, in some ways, been a blessing. Life is challenging and often leads to growth, which is what this new venture is for us—a way to branch out and build this idea we’ve had for so many years now.
What motivated you to launch the gallery? Was there one experience in particular that inspired you to take the leap?
As Kamp Studios, an architectural plaster company, we’ve been on numerous projects where we were asked to create artwork, objects, and functional pieces. As it’s our nature to finish walls, there’s always the sentiment of “what else can you do?” We’ve always created artwork, so it made sense to offer our designers art for their projects. After being commissioned for as many pieces as we were, the idea of a gallery, representing artists in addition to our own pieces conceptually took shape. We wanted to expose our aesthetic—a gallery was a way to give people a cohesive experience inside the world of our art, the artists we love, objects, functional pieces and, of course, living in plaster.
What were some hurdles you faced launching during the pandemic?
It can only be said that venturing into anything new, despite being exciting, can also be cumbersome. Add a worldwide pandemic into the mix and there’s no way anyone couldn’t say we weren’t daring to do so. There was a sense of trepidation, but I never take life one step at a time—I dive into the deep end and force myself to swim. It’s how I live my life and what fuels me to keep pushing forward. Having a positive outlook and staying committed to seeing this through has made it easier for us to overcome the setbacks thus far.
The artists on your roster are so global and varied, from the evocative canvases of Armando Mesías to Christopher Baas’s sculptural reliefs. How did you select them?
We discovered Armando Mesía’s work last year and it was an undeniable match for Galerie Ground. From his approach with his medium to the intention he set while creating his pieces, his work’s overall feel was completely in line with what we wanted to express to our collectors: telling a story. Our relationship is nothing short of kismet.
Like Armando, Christopher Baas was somewhat of an organic discovery. Christopher is an architect who we were working with on a personal project of his. We were instantly drawn to each other artistically, having seen some pieces he was producing. They were protuberant, anatomical shapes that we immediately knew would sit beautifully on our plastered walls. Yet another dance with fate.
Armando and Christopher (who have yet to meet each other) both symbolize what Galerie Ground wants to promote with their own works and plastered walls: a genuine feeling of sophisticated organicism.
What can we expect from the inaugural show?
We have amazing collections from our artists that we plan to exhibit once the world opens back up. Everything is in progress currently as we just want to take the safest approach.
How did you fall in love with plaster? When did you discover its artistic potential?
Our love of plaster goes back more than 15 years ago. We were applying other types of decorative finishes that just didn’t fit our aesthetic. We decided to push our interpretation of plaster using actual lime plaster in a minimal, architectural way, as opposed to faux finishes. Our clientele fell in love with our approach. Flash forward to the explosion of Belgian architects such as Axel Vervoordt, Vincent Van Duysen, and Nicolas Schuybroek, and we were off and running, being one of the only companies in the U.S. to bring that feel to fruition. It’s been amazing to sit alongside them as plaster pioneers.
Plaster isn’t just for walls—its nature is truly versatile. On almost every project, we were always asked what else we could provide. We are “can do, figure it out” people who are ready to take on anything. The idea of using plaster as a medium was a no-brainer. This was just an obvious next step. Our pieces complemented our walls and made sense in the scheme of our projects.
We’re seeing Venetian plaster surging in popularity lately, especially in high-profile projects by Apparatus, Athena Calderone, and Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent. What do you think explains the material’s recent renaissance?
Plaster isn’t just having a moment—it’s always been here. It’s one of the oldest known materials for surface treatments that has actually stood the test of time. We refrain from using the term “decorative” as we see plaster as an architectural finish. Much like lighting and hardware, plaster can completely transform a space. We’ve seen plenty of spaces go from ordinary to extraordinary once plaster is applied. We can’t count the times we were faced with jaw drops from clients—it’s a complete gamechanger. It’s kind of the umami of architecture.
You’ve also been working on custom furniture under the Kamp Studios umbrella.
Our furniture and objects came to us naturally, having felt inspired by the likes of Brancusi, Noguchi, and Blunk. We wanted our collection to have that same sentiment of organically unearthed and shaped. From plastered coffee tables to shou sugi ban and plastered pedestals, our intention is to provide the basic needs for a home with a less obvious choice that feels intentional. We want no stone left unturned, be it a table for everyday use to a corner that’s dying for a sculpture or vessel on a pedestal.
What are you most excited about now that the gallery is here?
Honestly, we’re just excited to bring our artists to the forefront. It’s truly beautiful work that we stand behind. We want the world to see what we see. We’re also looking forward to showing everyone Galerie Ground’s art and furnishings. We poured our hearts into all angles of this gallery and really can’t wait to share it with everyone.
Galerie Ground is located at 254 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn, and 6900 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, by appointment only.