Meet Good Luck Dry Cleaners, The Art Collective For a New Age
The art world has never been more commercial than it is right now, run by speculators who push work by “hot” young artists, before burning them out and using them up, all the while alienating regular people with insane prices and unchecked pretentiousness. But it doesn’t have to be this way. And Good Luck Dry Cleaners are here to prove it. GLDC is an art collective created by Phil Reese and Jeremy Penn. With respective backgrounds in marketing and fine art, Reese and Penn founded GLDC out of an empty old dry cleaners in Williamsburg, likewise taking their name from its decaying old marquee. That space has since closed, but Phil and Jeremy have been keeping the GLDC legacy alive since May 2017, transitioning into designing immersive art spaces for fashion and clothing brands like Saks Fifth Avenue and Lululemon. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Phil and Jeremy also know how to throw a good party, opening up these installations with DJs, drinks, and dancing in epic events that last until the wee hours of the morning. And, as any good collective should, Phil and Jeremy also have a revolving crew of artists and innovators surrounding them, injecting the creativity and support of legends like photographer Ricky Powell and hip hop super group Handsome Boy Modeling School into everything they do. With that kind of squad and a history of fierce integrity, we couldn’t help but ask GLDC to be our guest curators for July’s O.N.S Manual and were thrilled when they agreed. Though the stories in this issue speak for themselves, we still tapped Phil and Jeremy to give us their insiders’ views on the Good Luck Dry Cleaners phenomenon.
Good Luck Dry Cleaners has made a name for itself creating immersive art installations for big brands and parties. Can you tell me a little bit more about both of your backgrounds and how they make doing that kind of work doing that kind of work possible?
Jeremy: I come from a traditional art background. I had my first New York solo show in 2007 and have been exhibiting domestically and abroad since then. I am not one to talk about myself, so I would like to talk about Phil. The dude refers to himself a “self-taught” artist, but he is an artistic giant. I love seeing that come to life.
Phil: Unlike my brother Jeremy, I am a double black belt when it comes to talking about myself. Kidding. But seriously, I am the son of an artist-interior designer, so art has literally always been a part of my DNA. I was an actor and joined SAG at age six. Later, I sang in a punk band that toured all over, so I have always been fueled by creativity and the arts in general. In the corporate world, my background is in sports and entertainment marketing and business development, so I worked as the conduit between celebrity talent and brands. This plays a major role in terms of how Good Luck Dry Cleaners operates when it comes to who we choose to align ourselves with. Although Good Luck Dry Cleaners is just over a year old, a lot of the relationships from the brand and talent side go back a really long time. For example, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Getty Images for almost 20 years. We’re very fortunate to have the support that we do and obviously take our relationships very seriously. We’re able to execute so efficiently because we have the right partners.
With that in mind, what do you think defines the intersection of art and commerce right now?
Phil: First off, I just want to say that there’s nothing wrong with commerce, but there’s something wrong with the incredible amount of pretentiousness that’s been so prevalent in the art world for so long. We’re taking a different approach to the industry. We don’t represent artists, therefore we have total freedom to curate art based on what speaks to us and present it in a way that very few galleries, if any, do. We feel that art is subjective, so whatever piece resonates with you, then that’s the best one in the gallery for you. That’s art in its purest form. I alway say that you can’t convince someone what their favorite song should be or that a sunset is beautiful, so why should the experience with art be any different? This is at the core of everything we do. On the corporate side, a lot of brands are trying to figure out how to utilize art and are going about it in the complete wrong way. It’s painful to see how contrived some of these campaigns are and how execs continue to judge artists by how many followers they have. If you’re looking to do a social media influencer deal, then that’s an entirely different animal than simply trying to curate the right art that best conveys your brand’s messaging. We take pride in how carefully we curate. For example, when Saks Fifth Avenue sent us images of the fashion for their Spring Book, which included brands like Prada, Armani, Issey Miyake, Altuzarra, and Calvin Klein, we presented artists whose work would not only complement the fashion, but bring it to the forefront and make it pop. If you look at the campaign, you can see that we absolutely nailed it. It came out gorgeous. We weren’t taking this “Moneyball” approach in judging artists by their follower count, but rather by the quality of their work which would best serve the client’s needs.
Jeremy: A lot of brands are trying to get into the art game now. They are beginning to finally realize that art is always on the forefront of change. There is a big difference between brands using art to look fresh and brands celebrating art. Passion for art can’t be faked. We won’t work with brands who just want to use art to look current. The ethos of GLDC is authenticity. It has to be done the right way, otherwise we won’t do it.
Music and style seem to be a big part of what you do and how you’ve cultivated the extended Good Luck Dry Cleaners family. Do you see those things as part of GLDC’s “art” as well?
Jeremy: Absolutely. GLDC is known for the vibes we bring to a space. This is a result of our meticulous curation and attention to detail, which is extremely important. We even have GLDC channel on Spotify where we have guest playlists made by some of our favorite artists
Phil: Music is a huge part of what we do. We firmly believe that the music amplifies the art and the art amplifies the music. As Jeremy just said, music is a key component when it comes to curating the perfect vibe for any space we occupy. It’s all a part of the human experience and connecting to the art.
You’re both New Yorkers and talk about the things you miss from the “old New York,” when things were a bit more free and wild. Who or what do you see as keeping those old, wild traditions alive in the city today?
Jeremy: Culture and history can’t be revised. They say energy can’t die and there is an energy to this city that can’t be slowed by a shiny new high rise. Punk rock music is a great metaphor for NYC. This city kicks you in the nuts and is unapologetic about doing so. That energy is still present. Phil and I are just honoring it.
Phil: I completely agree with Jeremy. That being said, we throw the types of events that we want to go to. It’s more of a throwback basement party vibe where everyone is having a great time and no one wants the night to end.
Good Luck Dry Cleaners’ windows for Saks Fifth Avenue. Image courtesy of John Domine.
In terms of the talented people you’ve brought to this collaborative O.N.S Manual issue, hip-hop seems to be a big influence. Why is hip-hop so important to everything GLDC does and stands for?
Jeremy: We grew up in the golden age of hip-hop. hip-hop is the expression of the streets. It shifts culture by delivering a dose of reality.
Phil: Again, I completely agree with Jeremy. Good Luck Dry Cleaners is very hip-hop and very punk rock. It’s the voice of the people, which is why we identify so closely with hip-hop and punk rock. I opened Good Luck Dry Cleaners out of an old abandoned dry cleaner in Williamsburg that was falling apart… it’s hard to get more punk rock that.
Beyond hip-hop though, what other kinds of music do you like? What else has influenced you?
Jeremy: Personally, I dig a lot of old country and folk music. Musicians like Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. There is a level of authenticity to their work that reminds me a lot of hip-hop.
Phil: I’m just in love with music in general. I’m a huge punk fan and my all-time favorite band is The Clash, followed closely by The Menzingers, who are an absolutely amazing band out of Philly that I highly recommend you check out if you haven’t yet. A lot of the hip-hop artists I love also incorporate different genres into their music. Listen to the genius that is Handsome Boy Modeling School, MICK, DJ Cobra/Andrew Grant, The Hood Internet, and Biz Markie for example. They’re brilliant. And we’re extremely fortunate to be in a position where we maintain a relationship with all of those incredible people. That’s something that continues to inspire me on a daily basis and something that I’m extremely grateful for. We reunited Handsome Boy Modeling School during Fashion Week at a black tie cocktail party we threw at Saks and I rapped Del’s verse on “The Projects” during their performance. That’s something that I still can’t believe actually happened. And now Dan The Automator and Prince Paul are a part of the Good Luck Dry Cleaners family. It’s very humbling and almost surreal, but totally on brand for Good Luck Dry Cleaners. We work with incredibly talented people who all are incredible people as well.
GLDC’s installations are all so Instagram-worthy and perfect for social media, but still seem to recall a time before everyone lived life online so much. How do you balance those competing influences and interests?
Jeremy: We don’t approach any installation like we are creating a Instagram photo booth. For us, it’s about energy and creating a unique experience for people. Our installations often end up on the ‘Gram but it’s the context of the art that sets us apart from someplace that builds Instagram candy environments. Art is always on the forefront of everything we do.
Phil: As Jeremy said, our goal is to simply create an environment where people have a unique experience and establish a personal connection to the art. Instagram is obviously a visual medium and a very powerful tool, but our primary objective is to always create something that amplifies the human experience.
Most of GLDC’s work and installations seem to be temporary, set up for an event or party for a certain amount of time, and then torn out and destroyed. How does that inform what you do? Is there romance in your work’s temporary status? Do you think that makes the installations and experiences more valuable?
Jeremy: There is definitely romance to the transient nature of our projects. We are always evolving and continue to keep people guessing. That’s part of the excitement of our brand. You never know where we are going to pop up. People run to our next project because they know that the clock is ticking before we destroy it.
Phil: I absolutely agree. There is a real romanticism to what we do. It’s bittersweet to know that something beautiful we create is only temporary, but this always keeps things fresh and keeps us constantly creating which obviously is important. As Jeremy said, we love keeping people guessing.
With so much of contemporary culture being crated online, do you think there’s still room for authentic, independent movements and subcultures to emerge in real life, out on the streets as it were?
Jeremy: Use your “Authenticity never runs out of style” line here. We grew up here and we see and feel the sterilization of the city. The good news is, NYC isn’t happy. You can’t drive a Porsche at 55 mph on cruise control in the HOV land. You need to open the car up to keep it running right.
Phil: Absolutely. As long as there’s a mainstream, there will always be a punk rock counter-cultural movement to swim against the current. What we do is try to create an exclusive yet inclusive experience for people where they can enjoy art in its many forms without any pretense. We try to shake things up in a way like when The Clash and Sex Pistols arrived on the scene in ’77 or when Nirvana put hair bands out of business in the early ’90s. We’re very passionate about our interests and values and anyone who has been a part of the Good Luck Dry Cleaners experience can attest to that.
To wrap things up, what’s GLDC’s overall philosophy and mission?
Jeremy: All you Phil.
Phil: Now after shooting with O.N.S.: Less art, more modeling.
Be sure to follow Good Luck Dry Cleaners on IG here
Photography: Eduardo Brassai