When artist and collector Danny First built his gallery The Cabin in the backyard of his Hancock Park home in 2014, its diminutive size was part of the appeal. The space, oddly modelled on the hut where terrorist Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) holed up in Montana, is a high-ceilinged 10ft by 12ft structure that, even with its current show of large-scale canvases by the figurative painter Gabe Cortese, does not feel overcrowded. After seven years, First felt his programme—which also includes a month-long artist residency nearby—was ready to expand.
“I feel like I’m giving them a little bit more than The Cabin now,” First says of his revamped complex, which now includes a large gallery beneath his backyard, The Bunker, and a large podium for outdoor sculpture he christened The Fifth Plinth.
“Even for successful sculptors, it can be hard for them to display their works,” says First, whose own artistic practice includes bronze and ceramic sculptures of stylised figures. “It’s going to be fun, but also challenging to crane the pieces into the backyard.” He plans to install a new work around every six months. The first piece on the plinth, by Nathan Mabry, features a vivid blue wolf.
Though his gallery is very much a passion project rather than a commercial one, it has helped boost the careers of many young artists. Past shows have included the Ghanaian sensation Amoako Boafo, the conceptual artist Genevieve Gaignard (who now shows with Vielmetter Los Angeles) and painter Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, who is now represented by White Cube.
For now, First has no ambitions to expand further, but he often fields inquiries from collectors looking to create their own takes on The Cabin. “I get wealthy people asking me about starting their own residencies on their properties, and I tell them, ‘Location is really important’,” he says. “It’s a huge thing to be close to the art stores, the galleries and the museums. You can’t put them in some deserted place like Joshua Tree.”