My interview with Brook Dorsch of the Emerson Dorsch Gallery for, March 3, 2023


I like to think of Brook Dorsch, co-owner of the Emerson Dorsch gallery in Little Haiti, (a neighborhood in Miami) as the Lorne Michaels of gallerists. During the last 31 years, he has promoted more unknown artists than most anyone else. Many of the artists have become well known all over the world and they credit Brook for giving them their start.

“Isn’t that what it’s all about?” asks Brook as we talk about the art scene in Miami. It was his efforts that eventually made Miami one of the most important cities for art in the world. Ever since he was a young rocker in New York City working at Symphony Space, a multi-disciplinary performing arts organization on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Brook was visiting galleries in Greenwich Village, Soho, Tribeca, and the lower east side.

“I was interested in becoming an artist, as well as continuing my music. As time marched on, I realized I was a hobby artist at best. However, I did have a good eye for interesting work and I wasn’t afraid of presenting art in dramatic new ways. We have been known to rip down walls in our galleries to accommodate certain exhibits, pile up sand on our floors to provide the proper atmosphere, and hang flying objects from the ceilings to make visitors look at works from a different perspective. We don’t do it to shock our clients, we do it to spark the imagination.”

When Brook first arrived in Miami in 1991, most of the art galleries were in Coral Gables. “They were very traditional and didn’t really promote the artists, or their work, in any creative way. There really wasn’t much enthusiasm. I was grateful for their efforts because it motivated me to bring new life into the Miami art market.”

Brook’s story of how he first got started is a dream come true for many art lovers who always wanted to open a gallery. When he was in his 20s, he moved into a 900 square foot loft, over Parkway Drugs on Coral Way, (very close to the Viscaya Metro Rail Station) and turned it into an art gallery. The loft featured wooden floors that reminded him of his days in Soho so he loved the place immediately. He actually lived amongst the art he was exhibiting. He even closed off the windows and added special lighting to properly present the paintings and sculptures.

Word spread fast that a young guy from New York was featuring the work from artists who were enrolled in the University of Miami’s Visual Arts department. He was also featuring works from unknown artists that never showed in Miami before. The intrigue was also the space. Everyone wanted to be a part of the new cool factor. It was a brilliant move because it generated interest from a growing number of people who were l interested in seeing works from a much more diversified group of artists. Enthusiasts were showing up at his studio all the time. The Dorsch gallery quickly became an underground hangout.

The same thing happened when Brook decided to relocate his gallery to Wynwood in 2001. He just needed more space. This was the big time. The new Dorsch Gallery was now 7,000 square feet showing the works by Robert Chambers, Joshua Levine, Cooper, Andrew Binder and so many others. Big groups of art lovers would congregate in the back of his gallery at night as if it was a nightclub or bar. In those days Wynwood was a commercial warehouse district that few people ever entered. The streets were usually empty which meant there was plenty of parking space for everyone. The police always stopped by at night to check out if any funny stuff was going on. They were actually impressed that in the middle of so many dark empty streets, there was a crowd of people hanging out under a string of lights. This was a sanctuary for so many creative people.

Brook was always interested in getting people together to talk about all kinds of art, music, writing, theater, movies, photography, fashion, broadcast, etc. “That’s the beauty of owning a gallery. You promote dialog.”

One of the topics Brook has expounded on over the years is the importance of exposure. He feels that many tend to hide their work. They finish a piece and never show it to anyone. Brett Sokol, the New York Times art writer who happens to live in Miami, quoted Brooke in an article he wrote years ago for the Miami New Times. Brook said, “It’s much better to have your work on the wall of somebody’s house than sitting in the corner of your studio in a pile. As great an artist as you think you’re gonna be, you’ve got to get it out there, and that means letting it go for a little cheaper. They have these formulas for selling art. How many hours did you work on it? What was your medium, your materials? If you calculate all that stuff out, and then add in the dealer commission, by that time it’s expensive. So look, cut the price, get it out there.”

Brook is very much a realist. That’s why he has not only survived, but prospered over the years. His mother gave him one bit of advice that served him well for most of his career. When the family all moved from New York to Miami, she told him to get a college degree in something he would like other than art. She said it was important to have something to fall back on. Brook, who was always an eager beaver, wanted to make sure his love and interest in art was never at risk. He immediately enrolled in Miami Dade College and then Barry University focusing on computer science. For most of his art career, he has had a day job in technology for the cruise industry. Brooke, who says he is a damn good coder, loves the fact that computers gave him the freedom to express his creative side.

Brook’s wife, Tyler Emerson-Dorsch, joined the gallery as a co-owner in 2008 after earning a Masters from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. In 2013, the Dorsch Gallery was renamed to Emerson Dorsch. “Tyler brought in a strong academic territorial practice to the gallery. Tyler leads the curation of our shows and she is the resident writer for all of our materials. She brings in all of the professionalism we were missing.”

In January 2020, Ibett Yanez del Castillo joined the gallery as Director. Ibett was the Director of the de la Cruz Collection from its inception until 2019. Ibett runs the day to day operations. She gives Brook and Tyler great flexibility to focus on the future.

In June 2015, the gallery relocated to a building Brook and Tyler bought in Little Haiti because they wanted a gallery that offered more versatility. There is now room for art installations and outdoor performances. We are part of a migration of small businesses and art galleries from Wynwood to Little Haiti and Little River. Other galleries close to our new location are Nina Johnson, Pan American, and Anthony Spinello.

The gallery represents South Florida artists as well as emerging and mid-career visiting artists: Jenny Brillhart, Clifton Childree, Robert Chambers (sculptor), Felecia Chizuko Carlisle, Elisabeth Condon, Yanira Collado, Karen Rifas, Onajide Shabaka, Magnus Sigurdarson, Robert Thiele, Mette Tommerup, Frances Trombly, and Paula Wilson. Emerson Dorsch’s solo exhibitions include: Walter Darby Bannard, Corin Hewitt, Victoria Fu, Michael Jones McKean, Brookhart Jonquil, Siebren Versteeg, Arnold Mesches, Tameka Norris, Gustavo Matamoros and Saya Woolfalk.

Emerson Dorsch now offers cultural events as well as visual arts such as concerts and dance performances. Gestured artists include: Iron and Wine, SSingSSing, Arthur Doyle, Cock ESP, Otto von Schirach and Awesome New Republic.

Emerson-Dorsch Gallery recently celebrated its 31st anniversary.

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