At the beginning of her career, gallerist and magazine founder Rosa Park, 37, had no intention of starting her own business. Park, who was born in South Korea, moved between Seoul and Vancouver as a kid before heading to the U.S. for university. At 25, she was working in marketing for Sephora in New York when she decided to move to Bristol, England, to earn a master’s in English literature. After graduation, she stayed on in the nearby city of Bath to work for a local publication. “It was the first time I had worked for a smaller company, and I realized, oh, maybe it’s not as difficult or out of reach to start my own thing,” she recalls. “It really was Rich that pushed me over the edge,” she says of her then-boyfriend, now-husband, photographer Rich Stapleton, 38. “He was like…just do it, take a risk.”
So in 2012, the couple started Cereal, a biannual travel and style publication. It was a time when numerous magazines, such as Kinfolk, The Gentlewoman and The Happy Reader, were launching. “We were definitely part of that wave,” says Park. Together, Park and Stapleton crafted a distinctive visual language, defined by muted, soft tones, forms and spaces. Over the past decade, Cereal has garnered an audience of around 120,000 readers and over a million followers on social media. And alongside the Cereal brand, the couple has also served as creative consultants on campaigns for brands such as B&B Italia.
“I knew nothing about publishing before Cereal, and I realized that worked out to my advantage,” Park says. “I sometimes think not knowing is the greatest blessing because you don’t even know what to be afraid of.”
While working on Cereal, she often traveled to interview artists and view collections firsthand. “That’s when I started to think, Can I open a gallery?” she recalls. “What would it be like? And will people come?” She called the project Francis, after her father, and held her first show in 2018 in a temporary space in London. Over a span of 10 days, the nearly sold-out group exhibition received about 800 visitors in total.
Luciano Giubbilei, a London-based landscape designer, attended that first Francis show. He was there to see works by the artist Mari-Ruth Oda, with whom he’d collaborated. “It was so beautiful the way that Rosa curated [it],” he says. “There’s a real attention to every detail and an exquisite sense of assembling pieces together, how the scale of each piece has been cared for.”
In 2019, Francis opened in a permanent space in Bath. “I dived both times [for Cereal and for Francis],” says Park. “I didn’t even know where the sharks might be or what stone I might hit on the way down.”
Now she and Stapleton, with their 20-month-old son, Turner, have taken another dive, moving to L.A. to settle in a 1920s home and open a new West Hollywood outpost of Francis. They’ve applied their well-defined aesthetic to a two-floor, 4,000-square-foot Spanish Colonial house, where everything is purposely low and soft, a way of babyproofing that also honors Korean traditions of low-to-the-ground furnishings. “I’ll have [B&B Italia’s] Camaleonda sofa, which is a ’70s Italian icon, with two antique minhwa paintings, then a Korean antique side table and a buncheong moon jar next to a Faye Toogood Roly-Poly [armchair],” says Park. “My home is an expression of our cumulative life experience.”
A calming palette of beige, sand and oatmeal reigns, while the forest green of the bathroom and kitchen bring a sense of verdancy that’s often associated with the English countryside. “I’m trying to fill my house with elements of what I miss the most of England,” says Park. All the fabrics and textures point to ease and comfort: carpeting, linen, jute, wool and silk.
Ten minutes’ walk away is the new Francis space, which opens on October 7. For Park, it represents a full circle back to the beginning. When she founded the gallery, one of her goals was to promote Korean artists and artists interested in Korean culture. L.A.’s vibrant Korean community was a big draw.
Designers Lindsey Chan and Jerome Byron of the design studio BC worked with Park to integrate Korean features, including a courtyard, into the gallery’s new location. Park chose a maple tree, from a genus native to Asia, to be planted in the middle of the courtyard’s window frame. Inside, the space takes on an earthy identity, the walls limewashed in an off-white hue. Park installed a partition inspired by a Korean moon jar. “I love to play on themes of intimacy and domesticity,” she says.
In the West, her aesthetic may be seen as minimalist, but for Park, the objective is deeper. “What I love most about East Asian aesthetic culture, specifically Chinese, Korean and Japanese, is what is not there says just as much as what is there,” notes Park. “When I choose not to have a painting on that wall, I need it to be empty because that emptiness is saying something.”
The inaugural L.A. show will feature Korean and Korean-American artists, such as sculptor Rahee Yoon, painter John Zabawa and photographer Koo Bohnchang, who has documented antique moon jars. “Whilst [Francis] L.A. is doing larger-scale works [and] bolder expressions and being much more true to Korean roots, Bath will run concurrently creating programs that are even more English,” says Park. Her roster comprises mostly emerging to mid-career artists, such as ceramist Nancy Kwon and painter Rosemarie Auberson. The relatively accessible prices attract young and first-time buyers alongside serious collectors. “The barrier to entry into Francis is low and very intentional. That’s who I am,” Park says.
Earlier this year, Cereal announced it was ending the print edition and going digital upon its 10th anniversary. A new website, launching this autumn, will house an archive and newly created content. Under the Cereal brand, Park and Stapleton will publish limited-edition books in collaboration with artists, designers and architects. “Cereal has been going on for a decade,” says Park. “I was saying to Rich the other day, had you told me this is to be my life then, I couldn’t even fathom it.”
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