^ S. R. Sharp and Brooke Wise at the opening of I Won't Bite (2020) curated by Brooke Wise for Tom of Finland Foundation.

OTP Short-Forms: Brooke Wise


An interview with the LA-based curator.

'I Won't Bite' for Tom of Finland Foundation, Paul McCarthy at the Hammer and working to support Planned Parenthood.

Whilst studying for a BFA at Parsons, Brooke Wise got hold of the event space at the Bowery Hotel and curated a show of work by her peers that would pave the way for a string of successful exhibitions in the years to come. After moving to the West Coast and quickly attracting the attention of LA’s art-world cognoscenti, Wise’s sharp eye for vibrant and quasi-absurd work by early and mid-career artists has been in high demand ever since.

In addition to her work for galleries and non-profit organisations, in 2018 Wise produced the first edition of her comedy short film festival 'Aloha From Hell'. Since its inception the festival has grown in size and ambition and, after partnering with Sexy Beast and Comedy Central for 'Aloha From Hell 3', the annual event is now held to raise proceeds for Planned Parenthood LA. 


Brooke Wise’s curatorial work includes: I Won’t Bite, Tom of Finland Foundation at Neue House (2020; group), King Dogs Never Grow Old, Diane Rosenstein Gallery (2019; group), A Cat’s Meow, Shrine & Sargent’s Daughters (2019; group) and Smothered Awake, Steve Turner (2018; solo show by George Rouy).

OTP What’s important to you?

BW Family, friends, the state of the world, mental and physical health, siamese cats, empathy and equality.


^ I Won't Bite (2020) curated by Brooke Wise for Tom of Finland Foundation, installation view.

OTP You have collaborated with Tom of Finland a number of times now, how did you first come across Laaksonen’s work?

BW I can’t remember the first time I saw Laaksonen’s work, but when I moved to Los Angeles in 2017, I saw that the Tom of Finland Foundation was based in Echo Park, and I set up a walk-through visit.

The house was incredible, and I spent hours there speaking with the head curator Marc Bellenger about the history of the foundation and viewing the archive. We didn’t speak about working together right there and then, but I kept it in mind for future projects.

When I finally had a show to put together in LA, for Diane Rosenstein, I reached out to the foundation about how this could come to fruition. It was a very long process since Tom’s work doesn’t normally appear in group shows, but I worked with his Fine Art representation (David Kordansky) and the foundation to make it happen.

OTP Could I ask you to talk a little bit about the curatorial theme for 'I Won't Bite'?

BW The theme for 'I Won’t Bite' was a very simple one for a very simple cause: to show allies of Tom’s legacy and to provide support for LGBTQIA+ art and artists.


I had the opportunity to work with the foundation and go through their permanent collection, which allowed me to include work by artists such as Mike Kelley and John Waters.


All the other artists agreed to be in the show because they wanted to offer support to the cause and honour Tom’s memory. This would have been his centennial.


^ I Won't Bite (2020) curated by Brooke Wise for Tom of Finland Foundation, installation view.

OTP Was it a lengthy process sourcing the works for the show?

BW It wasn’t as lengthy as you’d imagine because the opportunity for this show came about so quickly - with a one month deadline.

I worked every day, very late hours in order to get it together on time. This sort of thing should have been done a year or so in advance, but we only had a small window of time to pull it all together.


I’m thrilled with how it turned out, but it was hectic.

OTP What are the big differences between curating a show for a non-profit organisation and collaborating with a commercial gallery?

BW When curating a show for a gallery, there’s a lot more room for creativity and boundary-pushing in terms of what I can show and what the show can be about.


While selling work and financial profit is nice, I’m more concerned with the integrity of the exhibition and the dialogue the works create. 

When working with a non-profit like Tom of Finland Foundation, the work needs to be likely to sell in order to raise funds for the foundation.


Of course this isn’t the only important thing, but this is a bigger factor to consider than when working with a conventional gallery.


^ King Dogs Never Grow Old (2020) curated by Brooke Wise, installation view, courtesy of Diane Rosenstein Gallery.

OTP 'Aloha From Hell' seems to going from strength to strength and I am hoping we will get to see an iteration in Europe soon - did you produce any video art when you were at Parsons?

BW Once it’s safe to travel again I would love to do an Aloha From Hell in Europe!

Aloha From Hell 4 will be in October, assuming things calm down by then and it’s able to happen. At Parsons I majored in Fine Art, which meant taking 2D, 3D and 4D classes. I loved 4D, and loved watching what my peers produced.


In 2017 I was given access to a space (Public Arts at Public Hotel) that had a screening room, and realized a lot of friends and peers of mine were still making video art, comedic video art at that, and decided to put together a film festival to screen all of it. 

OTP Why did you decide to move to LA after graduating?

BW My move to LA was pretty spontaneous. I always knew I wanted to live there at some point, not forever, but maybe for a year or two. 

In January of 2017 my apartment lease was up and i figured it was a good time to move to LA, so I airbnb’ed a really cheap place and looked for apartments with my friend and artist Brittney Scott who was also looking.

A bunch of my New York friends were also moving to LA and a few galleries I was excited about opened up spaces there as well, and things stuck. Now, two and a half years later, I’m still here.

I miss New York tremendously, and whenever I’m back I do the same things I did when I lived there; walk around Tompkins Square park with friends, get Japanese food at Takahachi, visit galleries in the Lower East Side.


^ King Dogs Never Grow Old (2020) curated by Brooke Wise, installation view, courtesy of Diane Rosenstein Gallery.

OTP Are there many curators you particularly look up to?

BW Some curators or creative people I look up to are Thelma Golden, Jeffrey Deitch, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Maura Reilly. 

OTP What was the last exhibition you saw that left a strong emotional impact?

CF A really great show I recently saw was ‘Head Space’ at the Hammer museum, by Paul McCarthy. There were over 600 surreal drawings, some comedic and some nightmarish. It was a really powerful retrospective. 

OTP Do you have any aspirations to start or your own gallery?

CF I do, but that would be in a very long time from now.


Right now my goals are to keep curating shows internationally, keep up my yearly film festival in support of planned parenthood and explore other creative event opportunities.


^ Aloha From Hell 3 poster produced by Brooke Wise in partnership with Sexy Beast and Comedy Central for Planned Parenthood LA.

OTP How do you navigate sibling rivalry (if there is any)?

BW There isn’t any. We’re both in the art world, but our jobs and goals are extremely different. We support each other and lift each other up.


Maybe if we were both curators or both painters that would be different, but I’m grateful that isn’t the case. 

OTP If I turned up in LA looking for festivities / to meet some interesting people involved in art, where should I head?

BW I’d say head to some art openings, some great galleries are Jeffrey Deitch, Various Small Fires, Smart Objects and Ghebaly.

You could also get coffee or drinks at Cafe Stella, Maru, Marvin, La Poubelle or Go Get Em Tiger, all these places seem to be filled with creative people and feels like the closest thing to New York.

In the summer, movie screenings at the Hollywood Forever cemetery or NeueHouse rooftop are also a good place to meet art-involved people.

See more from Brooke Wise: