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 gallery owners.
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 York.”
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.
Talking Point Films, 254 Jackson Street, Trenton 08611; 609-278-9206; Michael Klein, partner. www.talkingpointfilms.com