Spencer Walker and Juno Youn of Mon Dieu Projects: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First…

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Spencer Walker and Juno Youn of Mon Dieu Projects: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Art Curator

“You become the company you keep” — We all have that friend who still hasn’t left the high school keg party. You can keep playing flip cup with them or call it a night because you have work in the morning. Don’t worry. You’ll see that friend again at the 20-year reunion and be happy you took another path.

As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist or Art Curator” I had the pleasure of interviewing Juno Youn and Spencer Walker of Mon Dieu Projects.

A native Angeleno art collector and a Korean based-Montrealer art dealer walk into a bar and ask, “What if we started a gallery?” LA-based writer Spencer Walker has been a client and close friend of Juno Youn of Galerie Youn for a decade. They share a passion for emerging and established artists with distinctive points of view. And, Korean BBQ. Now, they are sharing their idiosyncratic multilingual mashup of style, culture, and art in LA with Mon Dieu Projects at the newly opened second location of the notorious Mohilef Studios.

“Mon Dieu” the French expression of “My god!” and surprise is the reaction the curators hope to inspire. It also represents Galerie Youn’s Montreal roots with its roster of eccentric artists, who are thrilled for their West Coast debut. Mon Dieu Projects aims to bring some irreverence to the LA art world with its provocative curatorial choices.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Juno: I was born in Gangnam — Gu, Seoul, Korea and had Gangam style long before that Psy song. At the age of 16, I flew solo to North America to learn English and never left. Canada has been my home ever since. This beauty school dropout graduated art school, and after years as an artist, I became an art dealer. I ran SPIN gallery in Toronto for 7 years, and now Galerie Youn in Montreal, which has been going for 10 years.

Spencer: I was conceived in India while my parents were traveling the world, which sort of cut their trip short, and was born in LA. A product of divorce, I split my time between parents, and ended up living in London during my awkward tween years, then was later shipped off to an East Coast boarding school. This transient upbringing created the necessity to make new friends, which has served me well. Take Juno for example.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Juno: Back in my art school days in Toronto, I needed a physical space to show my thesis in order to graduate. My friend, Stewart, was in the same boat. Together, we found a location that hardly suited our needs, but we made our show work. Then, we started showing our art by our classmates, and even a few professors. This temporary space became a permanent gallery space. And fate transformed me from an accidental curator into a full time art gallery guy.

Spencer: I have been art-adjacent my whole life. My family is full of artists, collectors, and weirdos that embrace the beauty in the world. I have worked in the arts too, mostly entertainment and literature. And, I collect art. My wife and I met Juno in Montreal, and became clients and friends. When Juno talked about opening a gallery in LA, where I recently relocated back to after years abroad, I decided a bold new career path is just what I need.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Juno: I was hosting an after-afterhours event at my gallery in Toronto with DJs when the cops showed up. Nervous, I tried to reason with them not to bust us. But they were off duty, and came to party with their wives! I knew right then I was onto something.

Spencer: My career as an art dealer has just begun, so you’ll have to check back in with me later. But in my former life as a screenwriter, I produced a TV pilot I wrote in Dhaka, Bangladesh that changed my life. During my downtime, I met a disaster aid worker, who later became my wife.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Spencer Walker and Juno Youn: We are opening Mon Dieu Projects, an art gallery in Los Angeles together. That’s interesting, exciting, and terrifying! Spencer has never worked, officially, in the art world, and Juno is new to LA, although he visits often. But, we each bring something essential to this partnership. We hope the Mon Dieu artists are going to leave a mark on the city’s art and culture, plus, hopefully, beyond.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Juno: I curated a group exhibition called “SPIN THAT MUSIC” back in Toronto with the art of Ronnie Woods, Long John Baldry, and REM’s Michael Stipe. When I asked Michael Stipe what his photograph medium was, he answered, “Percocet, duct tape, and Polaroid”. Apparently, he took up photography while recovering from a leg injury in the hospital.

Spencer: I’ve interacted with plenty of celebrities. But the most interesting person is a deaf, alcoholic woodcarver, who lives in a rural village on the island of Yap, Micronesia. Rudol the carver is one of the most gifted artists I have ever met, sourcing his own wood from the jungle, and then carves out the most detailed scenes of Yap’s ancient island folklore. We once traded 4 carvings for a chainsaw I bought off island to cut up fallen trees easier, giving him more time to carve.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?

Juno: Audrey Hepburn is my North Star. We are talking about the original fashion icon. Not only a gifted actress, but a collaborator with fashion houses, such as Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent. Not to mention her work with UNICEF, and advocating for children. Hepburn meant everything to this awkward South Korean boy, who didn’t feel like he belonged in his conservative culture. She gave me a window into the English-speaking world that I wanted to be a part of. And now I’m here. Thanks, Audrey!

Spencer: The people in my life are where I get my inspiration. Juno is a great example of someone who inspires me… I’m going to business with the guy after all! My wife, Tara, inspires me by the work she does. Here you have an ivy league graduate forgoing that sweet private sector nectar to do disaster risk reduction projects across the developing world. After we met in Bangladesh, I gave up my comfy NYC lifestyle to follow her to the Philippines and Micronesia. How’s that for inspiration?!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Spencer Walker and Juno Youn: Paying it forward is key. Everyone should be lucky enough to have someone take an interest in their professional growth. We were both lucky enough to have had that person. And so, we offer our shoulders to stand on. That means hiring a smart intern who later becomes a key executive or taking a chance on an unknown artist we believe in.

Addendum: Spencer is also married to a saint, so he has a karmic offset.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Spencer: “Always follow up”

I landed my first real job ever not because of my qualifications, but for my handwritten note thanking my future boss for her time. Even a short email will do. Remind that future employer that you’re still out there , and have such good manners.

2. Spencer: “But don’t be too eager”

I was up for my first serious job opportunity out of college. My mother’s advice was to call every day, two times a day if I had to, until they gave me the job. Spoiler alert: They did not give me the job and probably thought I was insane for calling that much.

3. Juno: “Learn to say NO!”

This is especially important in the art business. You have to. I will always offer my advice and make introductions when I can. But there is not enough time to help everyone. You need to be shrewd with your time, and who you work with.

4. Juno: “Know when to make a contingency plan”

You should never remain on a sinking ship, professionally or in real life. I burned years at obviously failing enterprises, and just waited for the ax like a turkey on Prozac. This can set you back years. Better to hustle your skills and downgrade from the Titanic to the Love Boat.

5. Spencer: “You become the company you keep”

We all have that friend who still hasn’t left the high school keg party. You can keep playing flip cup with them or call it a night because you have work in the morning. Don’t worry. You’ll see that friend again at the 20-year reunion and be happy you took another path.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Juno: I’m not a great fan of the word #influencer, but I am influenced by beauty in this world. I suppose that could be a movement. Once a day, stop, take a breath, and look at a new piece of art, even for just 30 seconds. Absorb its beauty and carry that with you the rest of the day.

Spencer: I like to cook. Cooking grounds me. And I love cooking for others. It bonds you to someone in profound ways that eclipse a shared meal at a restaurant. My movement would be a dinner party pact. Once a week, a group of friends prepare a meal together, rotating kitchens and cuisines. Let the wine and community flow. Bonus points for inviting a stranger.

We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.

Juno: Dries Van Noten is my style guru. His genius is matching fabrics and embroidery that are shiny and loud, classy yet elegant. The perfect blend of masculine and feminine. Like me. He comes from an art collector family, speaks many languages, and always had his late dog, Harry, with him. In my dreams, Dries and his partner Patrick cook me lunch at their Belgium palace, and I would sneak Harry food under the table.

Spencer: Trey Parker. I’m dating myself, but I went to college in Colorado when South Park debuted on TV. I used to drive through the real South Park area on the way to go snowboarding. It’s pretty out there. Trey Parker and his fellow Coloradan Matt Stone were an inspiration to me, pushing the boundaries and opening, and led me to work in animation. Over fish tacos, I’d ask Trey how he keeps it fresh 25 years on.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?


Mon Dieu Projects (FB)



Galerie Youn (FB)

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Spencer Walker and Juno Youn of Mon Dieu Projects: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.