When Michael Klein moved to Trenton two years ago he
bought a house in Mill Hill for the price he would have
paid for a studio apartment in Manhattan. "I am not near
any culture," he said in an interview last year, "but I am
surrounded by culture at work."
Work, for Klein, involves art on the web. Talking Point
Films, the company he founded with Matt Bertles, does
Internet-based documentary films primarily for museums and
galleries. It might seem difficult to sell this concept,
but Klein has the contacts to succeed. Just mentioning a
recent job, "curator of the Microsoft collection," would
draw awe from techies, and the fact that he used to own a
gallery in Manhattan’s Soho gives him credence with other
But Trenton has lost its charm for Klein, an inveterate
New Yorker. With his house up for sale, and his business
portable, he is headed back to the Big Apple. "I don’t
have any social life here. My base has always been New
As a boy, Klein’s family lived on Riverside Drive and took
him to the Metropolitan Museum every weekend. His parents
had emigrated after World War II, his father, a
businessman, was from Poland, and his mother, a millinery
designer, was from Vienna. He majored in art history at
New York University, Class of 1975, and earned a master’s
degree in art history at Williams College.
As a Rockefeller fellow he worked for the Walker Art
Center in Minneapolis, directed the Max Protetch Gallery
in New York, went off on his own to freelance, spending
time in Amsterdam to learn the European art scene, and
teaching and writing. He opened his own gallery in 1984,
focusing on merging and mid career artists from America
and Europe with works that sold from $1,000 to $100,000.
Microsoft hired him in 1999 "because I knew about art, had
a sense about business, and could also speak and write,"
he says. As curator, he had to explain the collection to
the employees and visitors. His most exciting acquisition:
A Sol Lewitt wall drawing, 20 feet by 50 feet, with
abstract shapes and colors.
But he wanted to be with his parents at the end of their
lives, he came back east and took a job at the
International Sculpture Center, the publisher of Sculpture
magazine, located at Grounds for Sculpture. He was eager
to return to what he terms "the momentum and tension on
the east coast." When the job didn’t work out, he and
Bertles founded Talking Point Films.
One recent contract is with a gallery in Chelsea, the
Betty Cuningham Gallery. "The purpose of the films is to
ask business founders, leaders and entrepreneurs why they
do what they do," says Bertles. "This type of behind the
scenes look at what makes a business work and who is
crucial to that business is part of the core process of
Talking Point Films."
The pair is also producing six films for the Manhattan
Square Park Conservancy, documenting a series of outdoor
installations and featuring interviews with the artist.
"The films really help any company connect in a very
personal way with web users. The films also serve as an
instant archive for a company’s history, projects and
personnel," says Klein.