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Former Whitney Museum Curator Christopher Y. Lew Heads to New L.A. Artist Residency Program

After leaving the Whitney Museum last month, Christopher Y. Lew, a star curator of the New York scene, has joined a new foundation and artist residency program in Los Angeles. Named Horizon, the program is founded by collectors Jason Li and Harry Hu, both of whom are based in the city, as well as May Xue, who was formerly director of educational and institutional relations and general manager at the Hong Kong–based K11 Art Foundation. Xue will serve as the chief executive director of Horizon.

Set in a 4,800-square-foot space Downtown Los Angeles, Horizon aims to offer support to early- and mid-career artists. Four artists will be selected to participate in the 2022 cycle of the residency program.

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In a phone interview, Lew said that the goal of the residency program was to free artists of the strictures that typically hinder artistic creativity. “We’re going to really invite artists to do things in an open-ended way, which is quite different from a deadline-oriented one,” he explained, asking, “How can we create an experience that’s impactful for an artist’s career?” He plans to focus on “new artistic voices,” including artists of color who have yet to achieve wide recognition in mainstream spaces.

Lew comes from an institutional background, having held a curatorial post at MoMA PS1 before joining the Whitney seven years ago. At both museums, Lew generated a reputation for finding young, cutting-edge artists worth watching and elevating them to larger fame.

With Horizon, Lew, who will remain based in New York, said he hopes to lure artists from outside L.A. to “experience an exciting scene only gathering momentum,” thanks to initiatives like the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time exhibition series. There won’t be a built-in gallery for artists to exhibit work at Horizon, but there will be ample studio space where artists can invite people to see what they’re making. There will also be a living stipend for selected artists that’s intended to support them financially as they work at Horizon.

To help find the artists for the residency program, Horizon will enlist two well-known curators: Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis chief curator Wassan Al-Khudhairi and Pérez Art Museum Miami curator María Elena Ortiz.

Lew will serve as chief artistic director of the Horizon Art Foundation. It is, as it happens, not the only new position he has taken on. He is also currently chief artistic director of Outland, a new digital platform focused on art and technology. Outland is also founded by Jason Li and May Xue, who serves as its artistic director for Asia. (A representative for Horizon said that the residency program and foundation were not officially related to Outland.)

In a statement, Xue said, “Given the challenges artists face at the present moment, our aim with HORIZON is to bridge the gap between artists and patrons, creating a space where artists can truly focus and find new directions for their practice.”

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