In the latest development arising from the fragmentation of Deitch Projects, gallery director Nicola Vassell has signed on as a director with the Pace Gallery, the 50-year-old dealership that recently split from classic art purveyors Wildenstein to focus more exclusively on contemporary art. Vassell’s move to Pace, made in the run-up to dealer Jeffrey Deitch’s impending departure for MoCA Los Angeles this June, follows the news — broken by ARTINFO — of fellow Deitch director Kathy Grayson’s plans to take many of the gallery’s artists to start a new venture.
Vassell, 31, began working as an intern at Deitch projects five and a half years ago after beginning a career in the fashion world. (A world she never left, exactly: non-art-insiders will recognize her from her ubiquitous presence in a new Cole Haan ad.) Vassell says that after Deitch’s decision to take over MoCA and dissolve his gallery, she initially considered launching her own new venture — like Grayson — but opted to work for Pace because of the uncertain economic climate, and because she feels she would like to continue to learn. “I’m still new to this business,” she says.
When she begins at Pace in early May, Vassell will join former Ibid Projects director Vita Zaman as part of a new guard at the gallery, which represents both young artists like Sterling Ruby and established ones like Chuck Close. While she declined to confirm whether any of the artists she has worked closely with at Deitch — Tauba Auerbach, Francesco Clemente, Raqib Shaw, and Kehinde Wiley among them — will follow her to Pace, Vassell says she “doesn’t discount the possibility” that some will. “My wish is for every artist at the gallery to find the perfect match for him or herself,” she says. “Most have solid ideas of what they want their futures to be like. They will be making strategic decisions about how to fulfill that.”
While Vassell says Deitch’s January announcement that he’ll be moving to MoCA was “definitely a surprise,” she considers it a “brilliant move” and calls Deitch’s career trajectory an inspiration. “The art world is one of the few worlds where you can even entertain the thought of making such radical shifts,” she says. “The beginning of one’s career doesn’t always predict what the end will be.” Speaking of which, the Cole Haan ad is nicely timed to fete Vassell’s high-profile transition. “I didn’t expect them to roll out a massive campaign,” she says of the ad. “But I’m happy because my mother was so excited.”