Friday, 17 February 2012

A Month in the Life of a Dulwich Art Dealer: January 2012

Still being somewhat New Year it seems appropriate to think about the year that just flashed by. 2011 was an exciting time as gallerist, curator and artist. The gallery programme moved into second phase one person shows for gallery artists Sam Jackson and John Stark, and Nika Neelova and James Jessop were given debut exhibitions. We also launched our open call prize show Anthology with kind support from The Mark Clannachan Collection and a lot of effort from my fellow jury members Paul Carey-Kent, Roy Exley, Edward Lucie-Smith and Werner Grub. Three of these exhibitions were sell out shows, those being Stark, Neelova and Anthology, with Neelova’s monumental piece Scaffolds Today, Monuments Tomorrow going into The Saatchi Gallery Collection and Stark selling to collectors from France, the US and the UK. Interestingly all but two pieces shipped to the States.
Nika Neelova 'Scaffolds Today, Monuments Tomorrow' Burnt & waxed wood, paper & ink 2011

John Stark at CHARLIE SMITH london: 'Apiculture'

The Anthology show was an exciting although time consuming project that provided the jury members with a massive overview of artists working globally at various stages of their careers, with applications from Italy, France, Iran, Turkey, Germany, the US and more. It’s difficult and perhaps counter intuitive that although we gallerists / curators spend our lives looking for artists we simultaneously spend our lives telling them that we don’t really want to look at new work when they make enquiries. Although when I occasionally give my ‘Professional Practice’ lectures to undergraduates and post graduates we discuss how to approach galleries, in fact there is no set rule. All we do know is that it is certain that almost every unsolicited application to any gallery will not be looked at, and so how does the artist ensure that their work will be looked at? Politely phoning through first? Sending an enquiring email? Gently asking at the gallery? Sorry! It is rare that any of these approaches will work. And I think that just as collectors enjoy the hunt and the thrill of discovering artists for themselves so do gallerists and curators. I can only think of one way that might work and one way that will certainly work. The former is to get to know the main protagonists, which if course is difficult in itself. But the latter, through my experience of running the Anthology application process, is to apply to prize shows. Of course this is good professional practice and recommended anyway – nothing new there. But, having personally devised the said process and handled around 1,500 enquiries and over 750 applicants I know that each of these artists was assessed by all five jury members. Some of them we knew already, many we didn’t. But either way, each was given due consideration by a gallerist, a collector, a critic and two critic / curators. And I know that it is not just me that continues to think about some of these artists.  Personally I was delighted with the winner Tom Ormond, a fantastic painter with a good track record in having shown at Alison Jacques and the Serpentine amongst others. I have become a big fan and have placed him in collections in the UK and Los Angeles, curated him into The Future Can Wait, and plan to work with him further. So, when artists now ask me how to get their work seen my answer is simple: it is very unlikely that anyone will look at emails, cd’s, slides etc, especially when unsolicited. However, if you apply to an open call show – in my case Anthology – it is guaranteed that your work will be assessed thoroughly by key individuals and exciting things might just happen. I look forward to this year’s process and am currently putting together the selection committee with three down and two to go.      

Tom Ormond 'Cometh the Makers' Oil on linen 183x162.5cm 2011

The Saatchi theme continued with mine and Simon Rumley’s project The Future Can Wait going into partnership with Saatchi’s New Sensations to surely create the longest named show in London during Frieze week: The Saatchi Gallery & Channel 4’s New Sensations and THE FUTURE CAN WAIT. With both parties celebrating our fifth anniversaries and both wanting to move from the east end to central London, we ultimately teamed up to put on a fantastic show in a 22,000 sq ft museum quality space in Bloomsbury Square. It was a pleasure working in tandem with Rebecca Wilson and the result worth the effort. We had excellent attendance with some genuinely world class collectors visiting and responding very positively, one of whom was of course Mr Saatchi. Simon and I were delighted to place Wendy with, let's say, one of the country's biggest collectors, and I doff my hat to Simon on this one. He spotted, championed and nurtured Wendy and she became arguably the star of the show. Other pieces were also sold to European collectors. Consequently I have invited Simon to curate a one person show at the gallery for Wendy and she is currently pushing hard on making a new collection for an early April launch. Wendy is an amazingly technical sculptor who creates bizarre, life-like waxwork sculptures. They are beguiling and usually deeply disturbing so living with ten or so of these pieces for six weeks will be quite an experience.      

The Future Can Wait 2012

The Future Can Wait 2012

Chris Jones at The Future Can Wait

Wendy Mayer at The Future Can Wait

To present matters though, first we have a Hugh Mendes one person opening on February 23rd and running through March. The show will consist only if his obituary paintings and so will complement his recent one person at Kenny Schachter / ROVE very well, which was a ten year retrospective of Mendes’ pursuit of The War on Terror. Hugh was recently acquired by Jerry Hall at auction, which was swiftly followed by Bill Wyman acquiring two pieces. So, only Mick, Keith and Ronnie to go...    

Hugh Mendes 'Obituary: Lucian Freud' Oil on Canvas 25.5x25.5cm 2011

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