Max Moinian Disrupts the Fine Art Photography Market
Photography: Malik Winslow
For Your Guest Bathroom is an online source for affordable framed photography that already counts DJs Simi & Haze and Virgil Abloh as supporters. Max Moinian conceived the company in response to a void of quality yet reasonably priced art that she perceived while working in her family’s real estate business. In addition to the site’s art selection, FYGB offers curation services to clients who are unsure how to begin arranging art within their interiors. She’s on a mission to cure our curatorial anxiety. Her Instagram bio reads “DM us your empty walls” and she's serious. She will photoshop straight from her phone to mock up how the art will fit over your bed, and how well it matches your pillows. Recently, FYGB staged a weeklong pop-up boutique on Melrose Place in collaboration with local interior design vendors, where Moinian curated a space that reflected the brand’s cool aesthetic sensibility. As sincere as she is driven, Moinian exudes an unpretentious good taste that is reflected in her apartment, where she was photographed for this piece, surrounded by works available on her site. With a commitment to socially and environmentally responsible practices (cue @futureearth, her work in climate education with Steph Shepherd) FYGB validates Moinian’s belief that good art doesn’t have to be expensive, and cheap art doesn’t have to be bad.
MW: How did the name For Your Guest Bathroom come about?
MM: FYGB happened when I was swimming in the ocean with two friends, talking about how I wanted art that wasn’t pretentious; it wasn’t a part of the “art world” at all. I said, “I want you to be able to put it anywhere. You could put it in your bedroom, you could put it in your hallway, your kids’ room, your office…” and my friend joked, “It’s so cheap you could put it in your guest bathroom!” And we both loved it in that moment. You know, the concept of a guest bathroom is so bougie—I don’t have a guest bathroom—but it speaks to a certain audience. You can buy a $5,000 couch, but spending $5,000 on art is an investment. I wanted to offer quality art that is affordable and that you don’t have to think about too much.
It came back to me when I had a pop-up, and people kept talking about my “gallery”, and I was like, “This isn’t a gallery, this is a store.”
MW: How did your background lead you on the path to start the company?
MM: I grew up in New York walking around the city. I could communicate what I was seeing and feeling best through photos. I went to Barnard for Urban Planning, and then MIT for a masters in Urban Design. I became more serious about photography at MIT because my peers had backgrounds in architecture and I didn’t. I collaged my photographs to convey concepts and designs, and it was after doing something “serious” with my photos that I felt ready to take myself seriously as a photographer
MW: How would you describe your audience?
MM: People who consider finding art and going to the framer to be a complete nuisance headache. Who like, save, and screenshot great photography on their Instagram but have empty walls at home.
MW: What values is the company founded on?
MM: I don’t mean to sound negative, but I found the confidence to start the company from seeing poor quality wall adornment everywhere…hotels, coffee shops, AirBnB listings. Ethos is to elevate the standards of affordable art, to get away from the generic pop art nonsense and quotes and things like that.
Photography is also something that I’ve always done for fun. All of these photos were just sitting in my hard drive, and I never got to enjoy them or see them in real life. They weren’t physical in any sense, which I thought was strange for analog photography.
MW: How do you source your guest artists?
MM: I started out with friends of mine, and people I knew peripherally whose work I discovered on Instagram. Most of them are not photographers by profession, but never thought twice about doing much with their photos. The first photographer I brought on, Alexandra Bernabei, was taking amazing photos on her phone. A mutual friend gave her a Yaschica and now her work is hanging in hotels, in a matcha cafe in Tokyo… Renell Medrano got one of her pieces and we both bugged because we love Renell’s work. Proud mom moment.
MW: I know Virgil Abloh has one of your prints; can you tell me about that?
MM: Virgil was DJing at Coachella and he had on the screen behind him a bunch of questions, like “Did you call your mom today?” or “Did you brush your teeth?” It was interesting to see which questions the most people in the audience would take pictures of. And then he put up “Do you recycle?” and I freaked… so I put that photo on the site. A conversation we had when I was just starting the business was so impactful... How do I connect people that love Baldessari and Max Lamb chairs, and know what shoes are cool and all that… with a photograph to go in their foyer? How do I bridge that large disconnect that we both noticed? I brought him that piece, called Trash Sucks, when I went to Paris, and he hung it in his office at Louis Vuitton. It matched the couch perfectly.
Photos of Max by Malik Winslow. Pop-up photos by Michael Wells.