Show Me The Money: complete transcript

August 3rd, 2011 | Posted by admin in art | discussion | event | gallery | slideshow
From left: Market Project’s Annabel Dover, Cathy Lomax of Transition Gallery, Ed Greenacre of Rokeby Gallery and Anthony Spira of Milton Keynes Gallery.

Panel discussion at Milton Keynes Gallery, Thursday 19th May 2011, with Cathy Lomax, Ed Greenacre and Anthony Spira. Chaired by Market Project’s Annabel Dover with questions from (members of Market Project) David Kefford, Annabelle Shelton, Alistair Gentry, Julie Freeman, Laura Earley, Elaine Tribley, Martha Winter, Helen Judge and the audience. Transcribed by Helen Judge.

Introduction by Annabel Dover:

 Market Project is a collaborative initiative of eight artists and a curator in East of England. We are researching and sharing new methods or opportunities for artistic professional and economic development. As our name suggests we have a specific focus on constructive engagement with economic and revenue making aspects of the art world. Our name also alludes to the rural and small town character of East Anglia where we all live and work and the challenges presented for artists and art venues by its geography, its scattered and disconnected infra-structure and its proximity to London.

A part of our work will be a series of public forum events such as tonight’s where we bring together the UK’s most interesting and relevant artists and art professionals to explore the ways in which artists can make a more sustainable living from their work than most of them currently do.

Thank you all for coming tonight, a great turn out! Apparently Boris Johnson says that even if there’s only one person in the audience, but there really is so well done, thank you very much.

So to introduce the panel very briefly;

Anthony Spira, the director of MK gallery since 2009. Previously he was at Whitechapel has an MA in Museology quoted in The Guardian as saying “for me being a curator is very much about being a facilitator.”

Ed Greenacre, Rokeby Gallery, with his wife Beth Rokeby represents thirteen artists described as being a commercial independent gallery.

Cathy Lomax, an artist, gallerist and publisher who started Transition Gallery in 2002 in a garage near Victoria Park. Transition has now moved to Regent Studios and has recently began to represent artists. Cathy publishes Arty magazine and Garageland and shows her work nationally and internationally.

Cathy Lomax:

Transition is an artist run space, not for profit company, so although we sell work we don’t take any money out of the gallery everything goes back in to put on the shows and produce publications. The first show I curated was during my BA and was with some friends in a flat, this is what got me interested. We got a review in an magazine which was really exciting and the thing that really encouraged me. It made me think that artists could do things themselves and not have to wait for other people to offer them a show or sell their work for them you could actually do it yourself which has been the mainstay of what I do. The first issue of the magazine Arty I did while I was at college was a photo copied fanzine. I produce it with people that I know and we do it all ourselves.

Like putting on the shows really. After I left college I was offered the chance to use a space as a gallery, it was an old garage in Hackney and I took it over with no real long term plan and it became Transition Gallery as it was a very transitionary thing. The first show that we put on there was a show of paintings from students from at my Saint Martin’s MA course. Annabel was one of the people in that show. It carried on at the gallery, people started coming to the private views, it developed its own identity and then other curators came to me, asked if they could do things at the space. One of the first shows was called Temporary Fiction. Artist Hew Locke, Danny Rolph and about four other artists transformed the gallery. I liked the idea of other curators coming along and making of the space what they would. We continue to do that, the gallery is still going now. The shows we have are a mixture of our own curated shows and guest curators.

I would like to show you some images from the show called Girl on Girl which was quite a big show for us because we sold quite a lot of work particularly one of the paintings by Stella Vine was sold to Charles Saatchi and he used it for a big media campaign- it showed how art can be used and manipulated a lot. The publicity was focused on the artist and the fact that she hadn’t trained as an artist and she used to be a stripper which became a really big story. He bought the painting for quite a small amount of money, £600, and then suddenly her art was worth thousands and people were trying to buy paintings by her from me which was a very strange experience because she was making the same work but had suddenly changed in value because of this event. She went on to have a solo show with us which was really good because we sold a lot of her work and we made money to put into other shows. Whenever I put on a show at the gallery I don’t primarily think about the work selling because we are not a commercial space, but it is nice to be able to sell things every now and then to continue with what we do. This is a show that I did at the gallery called The English Museum. I’m very much an artist still and see the gallery as something that I work with. I work with other people, sometimes showing my work there, but not always it’s quite organic.

The other magazine I do is Garageland, it’s more of a traditional art magazine. It’s got glossy colour pages, we have a proper printer and designer. It’s really good because it sells in lots of the art gallery shops around the country like the Tate and the Baltic, it’s a way of getting the kind of art that I show at the gallery seen by people that can’t make it to a little tiny gallery in Hackney. After being in that little garage space we have moved into a new building which is still in Hackney but in a slightly more central location. This is our first private view there, Baroque My World was well attended. It was a group show.

We have also started doing off site projects one of which was on the Kent coast in a little place called Folkestone over a bank holiday weekend, using the expertise I have developed from Transition. I’m taking it to other places and developing other projects. We had Lucy Harrison making this lovely sign on the beach this was the house the show was in, which faces the beach- we had work inside. One of the artists arranged an alternative bathing beauty show, we had a mobility scooter parade and we had some really nice coverage in the local press. It was really interesting to get out of the little gallery space in East London. This is a show by a graduate from Chelsea called Paul Kindersley. We have started to do a collaborative with Chelsea where we choose one of their graduates each year and put on a show. One of our fundamental ideas is to mix the artists we show, so have some very new artist and some well known artists, and to blend them together, so it’s always quite fresh. We have people coming along because they know the established artist, so they kind of share the audience.

This is a show by Rachel Cattle, which is an artist we represent, which is a new venture for us. I’m trying to do it in a non-traditional way which probably means that it doesn’t work particularly well yet, its meant to be more of a cooperative type thing. We’re artists, we represent artists, we all work together. Hopefully we’ll find some opportunities for them and sell their work. Rachel and Steve had a nice write up in Time Out. This kind of publicity is really important to keep the gallery going, to develop its identity. It’s something that we work quite hard to get.

We make artist publications that go with shows called Tranzines. Another show that sold well was Emma Talbot’s solo. Charles Saatchi again came and bought a whole load of work. So we may not sell work for a little while and then this happens, there’s always something comes along and helps us pay the rent. A show we did at the end of last year is called Fade Away, it was a really big painting show. The idea was to focus on painting a bit more than we had been doing. Every year we are going to do a painting show curated by a painter, focusing on a different aspect of painting. This show toured to a gallery in Newcastle, which was a first for the gallery. We are going to accompany it with a publication. When we show work by artists who are represented by other gallerist, it’s a complicated negotiation. We can sell the work, we take a commission, the artist gets some money and their gallery gets a small commission as well. We have a shop area in the gallery. We’ve produced loads of different publications over the years.

Ed Greenacre:

I run an independent commercial gallery, we are independent in the sense we don’t have a backer, we run as a business. My wife and myself started it in 2005. We work with a lot of artists that we were in contact with prior to running the gallery through my wife Beth’s work as a curator and a consultant. Most of the artists are based in London and the UK. We are one of a number of youngish galleries opening in the early 2000s.

We are not a traditional commercial gallery- we work very closely with our artists. We sign a contract with our artists, there is a working relationship that we have with our artists in terms of their practice and us as a gallery in terms of business. It’s important to have a physical space such as the gallery in London but the art market is now global and it’s important to get the work out and abroad. We have had a show in Hong Kong. We were in New York for the Armory show this year. We have no specific media in terms of the artists we work with… our contract is only exclusive in the UK.

Anthony Spira:

Thank you, really intrigued to see so many people here for a discussion about money. I certainly prefer to talk about the ideas and the art but obviously money’s an integral part of it as well. I’ll just give you a little bit of background about Milton Keynes gallery. If you have questions please do butt in at any point. Milton Keynes gallery is part of Milton Keynes gallery and theatre company. I’ll just re-cap quickly, some of you know this already.

MK gallery and theatre company was founded in 1999. The gallery is effectively a what you could call a Kunsthalle, it’s a classic Kunsthalle. An exhibition of art hall in the German model. We don’t have a collection, we show temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. Artists generally with an international reputation. So the gallery opened with an exhibition of Gilbert and George for example and it has had many high profile artists from Piranesi to Archigram, Warhol- a really broad range, some really major names. I think the gallery’s remit really is to act as an exchange between an international art world and a local community. That really is what I hope we can do to some extent, so our exhibitions tend to be with quite substantial figures.

Since I arrived in 2009 we specialized in mainly British artists who have got a substantial body of work behind them who have not become kind of blue chip, who have not had major solo shows in the UK yet and also over looked historical figures. So the first category are people like Marcus Coates, Gerard Byrne, Anna Barriball, those kind of figures in their early forties, late thirties. Overlooked figures would include someone like Nasreen Mohamedi, who is a minimalist Indian artist who did a lot of work around Madrid, who has been ridiculously overlooked by historians. Andrew Lord’s a British-based sculptor and ceramicist, again ridiculously overlooked mainly because of the stigma against craft and ceramics.

Just to give a quick overview of the funding of the organisation, since we are here to talk about that, the gallery’s turnover is approximately a million pounds a year. Forty percent of that comes from the Arts Council, delighted to say that we have been included in the new national portfolio of organizations so our funding is secure till 2015 which is really great news for us and the city. Should I say the gallery’s funding is really a kind of model of mixed economy. Actually forty percent from the Arts Council thirty percent comes from a share of the profit from the theatre. The theatre next door is one of the most successful theatres in the UK, outside of London, and really was from day one it really is a success story and the people who set these organisations up really have a fantastic idea on making the gallery dependent on the success of the theatre. They do quite a popular program lot of pantomime and may I say the more popular the programme the more challenging ours can be, but hopefully we complement each other in that way.

So that seventy percent and ten percent of our funding comes from the local authority, constantly in tough negotiations to try and increase that, but again we are in a very fortunate position where that grant is tied into a lease agreement and we have ninety years left on a hundred year lease so that ten percent cannot be touched by any political whim or change of wind. That takes I think to eighty percent. The remaining twenty percent we raise from trusts and foundations.

Internationally a particularly successful example is the recent Andrew Lord exhibition, where we raised something like a hundred thousand dollars from the Andy Warhol Foundation and we raised a substantial amount from a Swiss foundation called the Stanley Thomas Johnson foundation, Henry Moore Foundation are a generous supporters of arts throughout the country, you now the classic trusts and foundations that every public organisation applies to funding for. The rest of our funding is from philanthropic donations, wealthy individuals. We don’t have a membership scheme. I always say you need about four hundred members at about forty pounds a head to make a membership scheme really viable. I don’t think we are in a position right now to do that so I tend to focus on trying to raise money from people who are associated with the artist we exhibit.

So we organise what we call a circle of friends and we invite someone who has been collecting an artist’s work for a long time, who may be interested in supporting the exhibition with a thousand pounds or two thousand pounds. We also work with the artist’s representatives or dealers who will help us raise funds or contribute themselves. We collaborate a lot with organisations internationally and nationally and locally. The Andrew Lord exhibition again, for example, we collaborated on a publication with the museum of modern art in Santa Monica, we have worked with the Kunsthalle in Zurich, we are working with BoijmansMuseum in Rotterdam. A really important part of work is collaborating with other organisations to share costs and maximise the impact of the projects that we work on.

I think that’s most of the strands of our funding… merchandise, artist’s limited editions. For most exhibitions we ask an artist to donate an edition and proceeds from the sale go directly towards funding their project. Publications we do for most exhibitions as well, we try and sell those and make funds in that way. Some work with corporates, we haven’t been very successful with that recently. We will try and focus on it in the coming years but for example you can hire this space out for a talk or an event, reception etc. So that’s generally the various funding streams that we approach.

Maybe very quickly about the program… a lot of people think we just do these exhibitions you can see in the spaces around us, but there’s a very energetic and diverse program around that. Some of you might have seen the project space across the square. The project space has monthly exhibitions of art created collaboratively within the city of Milton Keynes. So the Catch Light collective a group of local photographers did a fantastic exhibition in there recently. The Milton Keynes astronomical society, it was fantastic forty year old membership organisation, their first exhibition in twenty five years. I was delighted to bring them together.

The current show is work made by Deans Hanger primary school, work that’s made of tropical scenarios through different print making techniques. We do a broad range of projects. Interaction MK is a community arts organisation who have done a couple of projects with us. One of them was about domestic violence, so we do a lot of projects on different levels. We also do scratch nights curated by Simon Wright every Thursday night and the idea really is to provide a platform for artists. At least fifty percent are local, really, to test their recent ideas in public. I kind of think of it as an extension of the studio space, so come and show us what you are doing and that can be sound art, performance, poetry, readings, any kind of event. We are really diversifying our events at the moment, so we are doing workshops which can be like a film making workshop, we did one recently that was incredibly popular, we might even be doing book clubs. Life drawing classes on Wednesday evenings, we do Friday night film which are feature films in collaboration with the independent cinema in MK and we will be doing music nights as well, so we will have events four evenings per week really trying to generate content within the city and to build a cultural community and to give opportunities for artist to present their work and perform in public. Just a quick word the current exhibition is by an artist called Gareth Jones, who actually grew up in Milton Keynes. The exhibition was a look at the city in the Seventies and looking at the kind of utopian ideas that went into building this extraordinary place, not only the architectural ideas in the UK but the radical grid also, the extraordinary transition from Brutalist architecture to high tech that was really witnessed here in the early Seventies when all the incredible bright blue red and yellow structures kind of emerged out of ploughed fields. So that’s I think a really interesting take on the history of MK, with a whole series of talks.

In fact next week there’s a really great talk with the founding architect of Milton Keynes, Derek Walker a rare opportunity along with Owen Hatherley who is a young architectural critic who writes for the Guardian, a very controversial but important writer about architecture at the moment, and Lilliane Lijn the artist who pioneered kinetic art in the sixties and produced one of the major permanent pieces of art in Milton Keynes in the shopping centre called the Circle of Light, along with Gareth Jones. And our next exhibition, just to finish off with this summer is called New Art MK and it’s presenting the work of eight emerging artists from Milton Keynes, all of whom were finalists for a bursary that we run with the community foundation.

Annabel:

Thank you very much Anthony that’s fantastic. OK, so the first question that we have… (We sort of collated some questions within Market Project, feel free ask some in a bit) …is about representation, so you will have a different stance on that. How important do you think it is for an artist, perhaps artists think that the best thing is to be represented by a gallery. What’s your opinion on that Ed?

Ed:

I think often with artists, as I said, we work with, we don’t often say we represent them and that’s often I think the medieval thing… it’s the holy grail, especially if it’s not entered into with some knowledge, it’s not the be all and end all. It really isn’t the most important thing. It can be ill-conceived. It has to be the right working relationship. As I said we don’t represent artists straight away, we do a solo show and then see how things go and that’s as much about finances as it is about a working relationship, but also if you tie yourself in to a gallery and it’s not going well then if it is contractual then it should be something that’s thought out.

Member of the audience:

I am assuming both Cathy and Anthony use contracts.

Cathy:

We do have a contract that artists sign when they are showing with us that just says that for the period of the show if we sell the work then we take a commission, but it’s kind of very very informal thing. It’s informal as such that I quite often forget to give it to the artist but there is one there.

Member of the audience:

It’s almost an expectation that there would be a contract.

Ed:

I think the art world is the worst, as I understand it, it’s the least regulated, the least organised I think in terms of other organizations.

Member of the audience:

It’s not necessarily a negative

Ed:

It’s very easy to present somebody with a piece of paper. As I said you run the risk of signing a lot away but it’s often case that things aren’t written down and expectations shift because so many people have different experiences, different galleries have different remits.

Anthony:

I think you’ll find that a lot of artists are reluctant to sign them and from my perspective it’s much more about clarifying what the expectations are, very often they are left unsigned. Personally I think establishing trust in a relationship, it’s much more important and at the end of the day they are not worth the paper they are written on because you are not going to go to court with an artist for a small, or even a big issue. I mean there are a few major cases that you hear about…

Annabel:

Have any of you ever been involved in anything where a contract has been necessary?

Anthony:

Well, it’s necessary to set out what you expect.

Annabel:

Have you ever thought, I wish I had a contract because somebody was behaving in a way you felt was unacceptable?

Anthony:

Not with an artist… with other organisations when we do traveling shows, for example, you know you share the costs but in those situations you have to front load the costs so you get fifty percent of the costs on signing the contract, and obviously there are cancelation clauses and all that sort of thing. So obviously that, I would say, is much more important because there hard financial implications.

Cathy:

I think it’s very important for galleries to be very clear about what they are offering. I think sometimes artists are a bit nervous or a bit shy to ask, so maybe having a contract is a good thing because it does lay it down- whether it’s legally binding or whatever- it just kind of explains it all because often when I have shown in other galleries you’re not really quite sure what the arrangement is, and nobody’s really said anything. That’s what can really be quite confusing because there isn’t really set procedure about what happens. It is good to ask for something.

Anthony :

Can I just go back to the thing about artist and representation because I think there is a real danger there, it depends what you want to achieve as an artist. Obviously most artists are not represented and there is a real freedom from not having representation. Some of the best artists I know have not been represented by a gallery, they don’t have those kinds of constraints, they have day jobs which give them incredible freedom to pursue their interests in the way that they want. They’re not dependent or set on finding a buyer and actually you can experiment with ideas much more. Gareth Jones is not represented by any gallery, he worked as a picture editor at The Guardian for many many years, he does a lot of teaching to be able to live. It gives him incredible freedom to explore his own personal agenda.

Julie:

I would argue that more freedom would be found on not having to have a day job to pay bills but to be able to make his work full time, maybe a stipend through representation or some kind of other way. Though its seems like it’s freedom because he’s not connected to a gallery, a big chunk of his head space is taken up.

Cathy:

You do hear terrible stories of artist who have jumped into some kind of representation and then they’re expected to produce a certain sort of work and they’re not given freedom to develop, so I think often not being represented can, maybe there is a certain point when it’s very useful or for some artists it works, but I don’t think its necessarily the answer. I really don’t. I think it can be quite restricting.

Julie

I’m sure it can.

Member of the audience:

I think it’s the expression “representing the artist” that causes the confusion and also it must be very difficult because you might have divided loyalties. It’s quite interesting this, I don’t know too much about the art world, hence why I am here. I am actually from the publishing world, I am an author and that expression is very much of the literary business. You do have agents who represent you and they earn their percentage by representing you in all sorts of ways and all sorts of places and all sorts of things. The gallery being a representative of the artist, is that a new thing, are there agents actually in the artistic field who do the same as in the literary field, in other words in that they take a percentage but they do represent you and try and get you work and facilities?

Ed:

There are, but thankfully there are none of us sitting here. I can completely understand that in terms of the literary field but you can’t sit behind a desk and represent an artist, you have to have a space and show their work, you have to have a relationship with their work. There are people who do that but they’re not held in great esteem because it’s exploitative, that’s secondary dealing.

Annabel:

To clarify to people who maybe don’t know the art world, who are they not held in great esteem by, gallerists? By artists?

Ed:

If you are secondary, you effectively own the work and sell it to other people and the artist never sees the money. I think to represent an artist you have to show work, you have to get out there. That said, when we represent artists we act as their agents… it doesn’t mean just for an exhibition, it’s a sort of long term thing. There are some dodgy people out there

Member of the audience:

You use the term working relationship a lot, I wonder if you can define it.

Ed:

It’s discussing work in the studio, to curating shows, to discussing other external exhibitions elsewhere. There’s a great deal of administration but it’s more about having a dialogue with the artist, as far as I’m concerned. It’s about having a knowledge and an interest. It’s not about thinking about the work in a gallery setting necessarily, it’s thinking about the artists practice. If we are going to represent the work we are going to have to be able to talk about it, not necessarily understand it, if we are going to be the face of the work say at fairs or in the gallery the artist should be happy with what we are talking about the work.

Annabel:

Is that in terms of fulfilment for the artist? What about… has it ever been the case how you would like their work to progress and not the finished work? Has it ever been a conflict?

Cathy:

There must be a time when you stop working with artists.

Annabel:

And what happens? Have you ever dispatched an artist?

[Laughter]

Ed:

We’d sort of want the gallery to develop with the artist and vice versa. That’s not necessarily meaning that there’s a race, but no, I think there’s times when we can’t do our job as we’d liked to be able to do and perhaps the artist has not been able to spend as much time in the studio or that there’s anxieties about how the work has developed perhaps it developed in a way-

Annabel:

That you hate?

Ed:

No, actually I think that’s rare. It’s more about timing and it’s about the benefit. The other flip side about having a good working relationship, if you don’t have that relationship it can go…

Cathy:

You only have a certain amount of resources and you need artists that are going to work for you in a way.

Ed:

Yes, there is that, and that’s why we have kept our number of artists small.

Anthony:

I think some dealers really just want to sell the work and others are like confidantes to the artist: the first point of call, the first editor, the first advisor to the artist. Some are incredibly close and some just have business relationships. I think there’s a whole spectrum there really, but I certainly do know of incidents where gallerists have asked artists and certainly encouraged artists to put colour in their work or to make larger work, you know. They’re being realistic about particular situations, but that’s a constant evolving dialogue in the same way as a curator, I think, when you are doing an exhibition you always discuss which works to choose, how many, how to install it. It’s all a process and some curators are very business-like and others are much more involved, so it’s a question of personality rather than job title I suspect.

Annabel:

I mean someone like Sadie Coles I know from working with someone who is represented by her, and she does all this person’s accounts, has paid for most of their house… Without her they feel like a helpless baby and that seems like a really odd precarious relationship. Presumably that person’s OK with it, but what’s your opinion on that?

Cathy:

I think that is probably an interesting example because I don’t think there are any rules at all. It isn’t set down anywhere what a gallery should do or shouldn’t do or anything in the art world.

Annabel:

So a contract, how did you go about writing up a contract? Did you think I should do this to have integrity, because surely you could say anything?

Cathy:

It’s just about selling work for the time of the show, its nothing more, that’s all it says. I don’t really know about other contracts. I think other gallerists don’t have contracts necessarily.

Anthony:

I’d say that every case is different. Reading questions on your blog, it’s up to you to negotiate wherever you can, how can you get representation, how can you get more exposure, it’s up to you to find a way through that. There are no rules.

Annabel:

We were talking and Alistair mentioned the Scottish artists’ union.

Alistair:

Yep, there’s a union for artists in Scotland but not in England. I just thought that’s quite interesting, I think just the very idea of artist being unionised is weirdly quite alien to the art world…

Cathy:

They’re the sorts of things a-n magazine do, but I can’t understand those things when they have the artists’ pay scale. I look at them every now and then, and they seem really complicated.

Alistair:

The Arts Council used to publish exactly those kinds of things but they are actually forbidden by the government now because they were laying down rates of pay as a union would and were uncompetitive. The Scottish artists’ union does still do that and does publish rates of pay.

Cathy:

I know that artists get upset because they think they are being exploited, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that because I think art has more to do with music… and I know there’s a musicians’ union and I know as a musician when you’re doing a gig you’re supposed to get a certain amount of money but often with artist they might set up things by themselves and it’s not a question of being played, it’s more of an opportunity for work to be seen so it’s hard to imagine how it would work having this set structure.

Annabel:

Because it seems quite a nebulous abstract thing…

Cathy:

I think it would stop things happening rather than encourage more opportunities. It would mean less people have the opportunity be artist.

Annabel:

Sorry, this lady at the back has been waiting for hours.

Member of the audience:

If you look across the other arts, the publishing industry and the music industry…. If you’re dealing with agents and you’re happy with dealing with agents in the context of advertising graphic design, illustration… but when it comes to fine art it’s not the same thing, but the internet provides an opportunity for sales and marketing and collaboration in really new way so it’s not quite clear cut…

Another member of the audience:

But we all have to eat!

Annabel:

That comes back to what Julie was saying, like when Anthony was saying it’s great if you have a job, it gives you the freedom but that takes the professionalism out it.

Cathy:

I think the thing with graphic design and illustration is you’re commissioned to do it, so it’s a job, where with fine art you want to be making the kind of work you want to make so it’s harder to pin it down.

Member of audience:

The world we currently live in is so commercially and visually driven, it’s such a visual age and we are competing within that.

Cathy:

If you are making the work that people like, you have presence on the internet and you’re putting on your own shows then there will be a market for it. If you are making work that people don’t want to buy or see then you won’t have a market for it, it’s as simple as that.

Member of Audience:

When you are putting on shows as an artist collective, do you pay a curator for the job of curation for you or do you all contribute? How do you fund the show?

Cathy:

Through sales of work from previous shows, so we have a small kitty. We also get funding for shows, we will apply for Arts Council funding.

Member of audience:

Do you have to match it?

Cathy:

Sometimes. It all depends on the project. Usually you do have to match it in some way, being a London gallery arts council funding is quite hard to get unlike East Anglia. You have all these amazing things. I’m jealous of you.

Member of audience:

When you first started out were you funding it yourselves?

Cathy:

I was given the space and I just asked people to come and show their work, the thing that we put forward as a gallery, we try to get as much publicity as we can for the artist showing there. It’s all about getting your work seen.

Member of audience:

How do you pay for the publicity?

Cathy:

It’s mostly about just spending time calling people up and sending emails and that sort of thing.

Member of audience:

So you don’t advertise it as such?

Cathy:

No, hardly any advertising. It’s too expensive.

Alistair:

I’d just like to pick up on your idea of publicity because we were talking about this earlier and its one of the questions that hopefully we will get to pick up on this later… it’s that artists have this idea that they should just get their work out, but it doesn’t really matter where they show. But if a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there to hear it… So if you are showing in a gallery and you don’t have that publicity or public awareness of your work, how much good does it do you if your work is being technically shown but there’s no one there to see it? I think publicity… some artists look down on it a little bit, but it’s really essential.

Annabelle:

Cathy, has anybody tried to snap you up in a gallery and you have refused because you are the artists running the gallery?

Cathy

No, simple answer… no.

Annabelle:

If that opportunity arose would you go for it?

Cathy :

I don’t know. It would depend what the situation was, what the gallery was, what they were offering. I am quite happy with things the way they are to be honest, so I don’t really know… Interesting. I’ll have to think on that one.

Annabel:

If you had to sleep with Charles Saatchi and Nigella…

David

Something you were mentioning, Cathy, about visibility… I’m thinking about context and online networking and social web sites and having an artist website. As a gallerist do you find artist though those means?

Cathy:

I think it’s getting more and more important to have a web site. I don’t actually have one and I keep thinking I must get it together. Even if you’re represented by a gallery, it’s your space to engage with people and put across new ideas. Lots of well-established artists have web sites but it’s got to look right. People often use those very cheap templates and things. When I look at the website and they look so horrible it puts you off completely. Artists need to think about the way they present themselves.

David:

Can you as an artist reveal too much?

Cathy:

I think you should never put your prices online, to a certain extent. It’s really tacky don’t you think?

Annabel:

I hadn’t thought about it, but isn’t there another way to go? A gallery at the London art fair did it as a kind of kitsch shop and I thought it was quite interesting because an art fair is so obviously about selling, a huge investment for galleries, and they did as if it was a Happy Shopper with big price tags and made things very accessible, whereas other people were being very edgy and I saw they were selling things a lot.

Cathy:

Well, I think that was fine as a concept.

Annabel:

Yeah I suppose if you make it obvious it’s a concept.

Ed:

I wouldn’t be too touchy feely but the relationship needs to change about buying a piece of work. For the person buying it from the artist, it shouldn’t be grubby; the exchange is more than just money.

Annabel:

That’s true. I was with a person and it was her gallery space and she said “I always hate the money subject”, or she said “oh God if you would just go over there…”, sort of getting us to do stunt things, and whisper “genius genius” into peoples ears to push them into buying.

Ed:

But that genius thing’s apparently more of a Victoria Miro.

Annabel:

Ha ha, so we got that wrong… but after discussions about work the money side is the tedious bit, but actually can be done very quickly. It comes across almost like prostitution, doesn’t it?

Ed

It depends what you want to get into. If you do want to get into a certain market you have to be prepared to edit your web site very carefully. People are going to look, you know, if you’ve got things online too long, etc. But the show on here is a very good example that you don’t have to follow a plan, a route…

Annabel:

That’s true, but the Milton Keynes gallery gets money in a different way.

Ed:

But this artist has benefited hugely from this show.

Anthony:

It’s a long path that brought him here, certainly, but he isn’t represented here.

Julie:

So is the website your first or second port of call? So if you see an artist you like, do you then get online and check out what’s available online? What do you look for there, would it be stuff that’s sold there before?

Anthony:

Ideas, interest, what are they thinking, what are they reading, what are they looking at, where are they travelling, that sort of thing. I’m not interested in a web site that just has pictures. Connection to a discourse is something that I look for.

Cathy:

They should be user friendly and informative.

Anthony:

Yep and they should also have connections to each other. You know there is so much content on the web, it’s just about creating links between different like-minded artists or organisations, just a bit more content, ideas…

Annabelle:

Anthony, do you collaborate with private galleries?

Anthony

Yep, very often, absolutely.

Annabelle:

Do you do that in a sense when it’s more beneficial for the private gallery?

Anthony

Like everything there are individual cases. Everything’s negotiable. I used to work at the Whitechapel. I remember Gary Hume’s first solo show in a public space, I think it was 1999 or something. The paintings came in at twenty five thousand pounds and walked out fifty thousand pounds. Somewhere like the Whitechapel doubles the value of an artist, so the dealer is going very pleased to help you put that on. That’s part of the deal.

Annabelle:

With this relationship with the private gallery, do you find the private gallery comes to you and says “I really want to push this artist” and you say “I think show might work”? I know you go independently to artists who are not represented, but how often do you work with a private gallery on a yearly show basis?

Anthony:

Probably about half and half actually. I am careful not to show someone who has been too exposed but I also want to show people who have a certain amount of momentum who have a bit of a body of work behind them, bit of a career, a bit of a following, who could do with a lift to get to the next stage somehow. I certainly don’t want someone who has had millions of shows who’s already a household name although some of my board members probably would like me to.

Member of the audience:

Surely the artist should have some sort of responsibility in where to put their work. There’s no point in just going to random galleries who are not going to show your work. It’s a two way process, surely?

Anthony:

Sorry? The relationship between an artist and a gallerist?

Member of the audience:

Yes, you’ve got to go to people you know may be interested.

Annabel:

Do you mean there is sort of a hierarchy of artists?

Member of the audience:

No, I think it’s purely a subjective decision.

Cathy

We often find out that artist will send us an email and say they want to show their work and they will send me hundreds of big huge mega bite images that are very annoying and they haven’t even been to the gallery and it wouldn’t be suitable and I think that is inexcusable really.

Anthony:

Like anything else, it’s a game of seduction, a long term one as well. You’ve got to cultivate relationships. You’ve got to be realistic about it.

Annabel:

So how would you get a gallery to fancy you?

Anthony

I think it happens over a long period of time and it’s about building networks with like-minded people, sharing a discourse, sharing ideas, sharing similar kind of interests, similar kind of approach and building upon that because I do think there are many art worlds. There are areas of research that artists do pretty much in groups, whether its figurative painting, community orientated projects… There are networks of artists who are sharing on ideas and building on them and progressing in their thoughts and I think that’s how you build a career and a reputation and I hope fully catch the eye of gallerists who are like minded, who also move in that kind of network.

Annabel:

Briefly, you were mentioning that Gareth Jones was from Milton Keynes (Anthony: He grew up here) You mentioned quite a few people who grew up here and you were also mentioning what was it… and getting out of London, you were mentioning international things. I mean obviously Market Project and maybe some of the artists here are in East Anglia and that is something as a part of our manifesto we mentioned. Although there are things like Arts Council funding maybe we do have freedom but also there’s something about that, we are not seen quite so seriously. In that I go to private views and people say where are you from and I say “ ah, ah… Ipswich.” Apart from being associated with prostitutes and the fattest man in the UK, I feel kind of how are they going to take me seriously as an artist. In the past there have been rural groups, Peter Blake and so on in different eras…

Cathy:

I think there is lots of artist who don’t live in London

Annabel:

Well, Sarah Lucas and quite a few other people live in Suffolk but it’s more like they have gone to retire after they have become rich and secure, when you’re not rich and secure you can feel like you’re being left behind.

Cathy:

Maybe you’re right, maybe you need to make a point of it.

Ed:

If you are at the right private view, then it doesn’t matter.

Annabel:

Well that’s something interesting… how important private views are.

Ed:

It reflects knowledge and an understanding of the art world you’re most interested in. It’s really important to look at work.

Annabel:

But then a private view might not be the time to look at work. Are you there to look at work or are you there to publicly be advertising that you’re interested?

Ed:

If you know about the work you are going to see, there is that.

Cathy:

It’s part of that very complex networking thing. We have to be connecting with the people who have similar interests, ideas to you. Then the private view might be the place…

Anthony:

If that’s the world you want to enter you have to be interested, curious, want to be a part of it. It’s not for everyone and I think a lot of artists aspire to something they really don’t want to be part of.

Annabel:

What about introverted artists, what can they do? I‘d like to be an artist, but I am introverted.

David:

That makes you think how much is the quality of work overriding the social aspects in terms of pushing your career? So it’s going somewhere, being present, being visible. Is it possible to survive in a tower? How much is it about the personality of an artist and how much is about the quality of work?

Anthony:

I’m quite realistic about it. I think it’s the same for everything. I think the most successful people are not necessarily the most talented. The most successful footballer isn’t the most talented, he’s the one who can deal with fame, who can deal with pressure, who can deal with media attention. I think it’s the same with everything. I’m sorry to say it’s just the reality of the situation.

David:

It’s kind of quite sad that that might be the case.

Ed:

You can use it to your advantage.

Annabel:

You can be a Marlene Dietrich kind of artist.

Ed:

You can play the game a little, you can be savvy, and then you can take it far too far.

Annabel:

You can be really annoying as well. If we are talking about the fancying analogy, you can be the real, you know, won’t stop ringing…

Anthony:

Yep, it’s all a question of individuals. That’s why that pressure of feeling that you have to be represented is a bit of a problem, you know. Raoul de Keyser is one of the greatest artists I know, painter, and he was Sunday painter. He just worked on weekends, you know, that’s when I am talking about freedom he just did painting because he wanted to, you know small modest objects that he did. He only started exhibiting, he got discovered in his sixties. Luc Tuyman, who is much pushier, much more media savvy, became a huge phenomenon and he dragged Raoul de Keyser out of his garret.

Cathy:

I think there is something about longevity in a career I think if you are somebody like him, I can never say his name, or an artist that we have shown recently, Rose Wylie, who is in her seventies and she’s been making art, you know, always been making art. Recently she has been picking up a bit of momentum. She’s been doing the same thing and steadily working along and there is something about that that can pay off. Art is a long term career.

David:

That brings to mind someone like Phylida Barlow.

Anthony:

Yes exactly, she’s been very active reaching and been very influential. You have to be driven by your own personal ideas. That’s got to be the motivation as an artist.

Member of the audience:

So there is a combination of things that make you successful, but there’s the usual constraints that blight any career. If you’re not living where the work is you have to be able to afford to travel, if you’re a working mum all those constraints are just the same as any other career plus you’re dealing with contemporary aesthetics…

Member of the audience:

We were actually wondering if anyone here has got Charles Saatchi’s telephone number.

Annabel:

Well I don’t know, Cathy? Ed?

Anthony:

Quite extraordinarily the exhibition in our project space by a local primary school is going to a Saatchi gallery in a couple of months, which is fantastic.

Member of the audience:

It’s all very subjective- well, success in art for one person is not for another. You can’t really have an umbrella thing that pulls everything in. Yes, we are jealous in a way that Charles Saatchi saw whoever’s painting that are worth £600 one moment and are worth £6000 the next. Is that success? It could probably ruin that person’s life.

Annabel:

Ah, I don’t think she is very happy.

Cathy:

No, she’s not.

Member of the audience:

We still want his telephone number, incidentally. The other thing to say is the big thing that has changed everything is the internet, because if you are painting and you want other people to see your paintings then you can do it for very little money. To get into a gallery, it’s such a performance, getting it selected, contracts and how much is it worth? With the internet you can decide. I believe you have much more control over that, you don’t have to live in London to have an internet connection you don’t have to live in East Anglia or Ipswich even. I believe some people in Ipswich have got phone lines.

Julie:

It can also do a huge misrepresentation. A huge disservice, because if you’re representing an image at the wrong resolution a painting that needs to be seen in the flesh… They are so different and if someone’s browsing through the internet and says “I’ve seen this bit of work on your web site that doesn’t appeal to me” but then they see it in the gallery or in the site specific place its supposed to be they say “shit this is brilliant!” It doesn’t always do it justice and that’s really important.

Member of the audience :

But I think the internet is good for networking or finding people with other areas of interest.

Alistair:

To tie all these things together and maybe into another question- In light of what has been said, how important now are what you might call the traditional gate keepers? You know, the traditional public gallery as a contrast to what this gentleman said, the idea of putting your own work up? You are these gate keepers in different ways. How generally important do you think those traditional gate keepers are? Will they go? Will they exist in fifty years’ time?

Ed

Within the art world we’re in, they’re very important otherwise Banksy would have been up for the Turner Prize and thank God for those gate keepers! [Annabel does a great laugh] It was very close apparently. The gate keepers, if there are such things, whoever they are, it’s not protecting themselves or institutions, it’s an understanding that the most popular artist is not the best and is why those people need to be paid to do a job.

Alistair:

That’s why I used the phrase “gate keeper.” It’s about as neutral as I can think of.

Ed:

I think that’s it, within certain realms, those people, they have a job to do. But having said that, Banksy is a very good example. Most people will become irrelevant because there are other things happening outside of that and his success, and I am from Bristol, it’s fantastic and I am happy for him and I saw his show in Bristol and I thought it was great. It was only good because I thought it was interesting in its space, but it lacks so much compared to what else is going on, but in its box it’s great that’s happened, because of someone getting a very good manager and didn’t need a gallery. Didn’t even need the internet.

Cathy:

Some of the most financially successful artist are kind of outside our world anyway, like Banksy and Jack Vettriano. They have the people who buy their work and they’re admired in their world. There are many different worlds.

Anthony:

Even Damien Hirst who went straight to Sotheby’s for that famous sale, one in a million, very very rare cases that could do that. I don’t know… people still look for some kind of quality control. That’s the importance of the brand, you know something that comes with the Tate on it. You know, Tate is one of the most successful brands in the world, you kind of trust what comes out of the Tate. That’s why building reputation from whatever- gallery, website, building followers takes a long period of time and I think people will follow you.

Alistair:

I suppose that connects back to the earlier thing. If you are showing in places that evidently have no quality control, it doesn’t probably in my view do you a great service as an artist, you know, if the place you are in evidently will take anybody.

Member of the Audience:

Just want to get back to how an artist can financially support and maintain a practice. You were talking about having to have jobs and how some artist may use that successfully, but of cause that might exasperate being able to show less, making less and progressing less in their career. A lot of artists are using lecturing now as their second job, but to maintain excellence at two jobs is very difficult and they reach a crisis at some point. A lot of artist are going to swept away and not maintain their practice. I was wondering if there is room for a slightly more sophisticated model of a commercially representative gallery where you are dealing with all the aspects of what an artist can give and make money from, to help an artist financially support themselves long term.

Cathy:

I think that is an interesting point, especially there being less jobs basically and the Arts Council cuts.

Annabel:

If the Arts Council hadn’t funded your portfolio did you have a contingency plan?

Anthony:

I was just thinking about what he was saying. I don’t know, no one ever said its easy being an artist.

Member of the audience:

Especially trying to hold down two jobs at one time.

Anthony:

Absolutely, and I am in complete admiration of artists. They have got to be incredibly focused and dedicated and quite frankly slightly loopy to do it. The only thing people can do is vote and demonstrate, rally other like-minded people and make some sort of political advances. That’s the only thing you can do if you want to reverse the changes that are happening in education.

Member of the audience:

Perhaps you can make some shifts within the art world… not saying it will make it but it will accommodate a different kind of scene.

Anthony:

There’s likely to be more artist run spaces, you would have thought. During the last recession there were as well. It goes back on artists to find their own spaces, to find the means to set up their own exhibitions, to publicize and to persuade people to go and visit them.

Ed:

I think the idea of commercial success is challenged because a career as an artist, to be commercially successful in a gallery world, means it’s got to be good enough, it’s got to be desired and if it’s not and it’s not for a period then you’ve got to have something to fall back on.

Member of Audience:

I’m not saying it’s a meal ticket.

Ed:

Oh, I know you’re not, but it’s a difficult one. To have one career as an artist but have lots of skills is possible but to have one career and to have one job is difficult. You’ve got to be able to do your own web site, so you’ve got to have lots of other things that go with it that aren’t even just the practice.

Alistair:

We have done a lot of talking about object based practices- painting, sculpture. Where does installation art, where does that sort of thing fit into the commercial gallery? Public galleries support it quite a bit in many cases. Is that where it has to stay? How does that fit into the arts system- it’s all been about selling work. How do you sell an installation?

Annabel:

I was going to ask you something Ed; about Bettina Buck… her work seems quite fragile.

Ed:

I think that’s the only time when galleries can become really important because the market for that is much smaller, we are talking about things that a difficult to photograph, all the stuff we’ve talked about goes out the window and I think then it became increasingly important that you are showing the work effectively to patrons. Those people are very few and far between and hard to get to.

Anthony:

Does that mean that economic difficulty make the art world more conservative?

Ed:

Not necessary that it does, but it can do.

Annabel:

Were you thinking of a specific practice?

Alistair

I was thinking you don’t often see it in commercial galleries. Quite a few installation artists almost have to make an object to sell.

Annabel:

Yes, a product.

Anthony:

A lot of artists adapt their work to various situations. I am always amazed when really great artists will actually make specific things for the art fairs but, you know, they wouldn’t necessarily show in a museum, but they do. As an artist you’ve got to be adaptable. You’ve got to be good at marketing yourself and good at thinking about different audiences, that’s just the reality of it.

Annabelle:

I wanted to know if an artist came to you and you loved the artist and you wanted to show their work, what you do for that artist by representation?

Ed:

Um. How broad do you want?

Annabelle:

I just wanted to fix in my head what it is, what’s representation? I have been represented by a gallery exclusively and have been given a page on a web site, that’s what I got.

Ed:

I’m sorry.

Annabelle:

I did sell a few works, but not many.

Ed:

A show?

Annabelle:

No.

Ed:

We guarantee a solo show every two years, eighteen months to two years, and if the artist is too busy we don’t have artists on our web site that we don’t show, because what’s the point of that? We’re fishing. If we get an enquiry about an artist’s work we no longer represent we pass the enquiry on to them. I don’t negotiate a deal for some percentage. It’s too common to hear galleries that want to see what happens in the next five years. Um, a solo show’s not in the contract but representation abroad and working continually in terms of the dialogue. Having work in the gallery to show people.

Annabelle:

What about things like promotion at art events?

Ed:

Yep exactly, it’s that sort of thing exactly, we act as an agent. It doesn’t matter whether the show’s just gone or coming up in a years’ time.

Annabel:

It sounds like it is beneficial for you that you do those sort of things for your artists unless-

Annabelle:

You see as an artist I would look for a gallery now that would have about twelve artists because I joined a gallery of eighty five.

Ed:

There’s only two of us but even with ten of us you wouldn’t be able to deal with that.

Annabelle:

It was a question I posed to them, do you have a lot of artists on your book and how would you make it work for me, being exclusive?

Ed:

I think the chances are that gallery was looking for you to bring people to them.

David:

As an artist that is not represented by a gallery, the advantage that I would see by representation would be the exposure of my work to an art market that currently as an individual I don’t feel I can have in terms of art fairs, and supporting the artist by placing their work in those kind of platforms. As an individual artist it’s very difficult to do.

Ed:

I think there are other things, in terms of funding. There are residencies if you’re willing to commit in terms of moving for a period of time. You can access those markets in other ways. You may get curators there and see work showing internationally. I hear of a lot of artists who change their career paths by being in the right place but you have to be willing to give a great deal.

Annabel:

I don’t know whether it’s an urban myth about Dexter Dalwood going to psychotherapy about being more out going to become an artist when we were talking about going to private views and so on.

Annabelle:

I want to change tack a little bit and ask- probably not you, Anthony- but Ed and Cathy. How do you price a piece of work, especially when you started? What did you compare to? Similar galleries?

Cathy:

I just start off with asking the artist what they want to sell it for and then if they say something ridiculous I say, well you know. (Annabel : You’re not going to sell it.) well it should be based on how much they sell their work for before that. You can’t suddenly price your work really highly and drop it down the next day you have got to have a continuity-

Ed:

Year to year.

Cathy:

So it’s best not to start off selling it too high because you can’t go backwards without it looking really bad. Especially if somebody’s bought your work for two thousand pounds and then they see it for fifty quid.

Annabel:

So you have never tried the Rolls Royce syndrome of pricing it really high?

Ed:

No, it doesn’t work.

David:

How do you set the benchmark of pricing? Do you sort of look at the profile of the artist, their track record, the amount of work they have made, the exhibitions they’ve had recently?

Ed:

Its pretty difficult, as Cathy just said it’s based on the previous prices and production costs, if there are any, but other than that demand is the only thing that might change, or considered change, but we’ve never played that game- well, thankfully we didn’t because a lot of people got burnt just before the recession, doubling their prices and can’t go backwards.

David:

Do you support artists financially through the production process? Have you put money up front?

Ed:

It depends, yeah, if we can and it doesn’t have to be realistic. The current show we’ve got, there’s nothing that we would necessarily call saleable. Sometimes it’s about getting it done and working within budgets. That negotiation is good in terms of what you were saying, things wouldn’t get done unless there was a demand for it. We are not a gallery that has those conditions but there are times when they say “museum glass” and you say “I am sorry that’s five times more expensive.” The line has to get drawn, but I don’t look at the production of an unsaleable site-specific installation and an edition of photographs and think that one’s more commercially successful. It’s difficult. Each artist works very differently. If you have a fixed budget for a show some artists are going to use it, some aren’t.

Annabel:

It sounds like Cathy sometimes when you have a big sale like Stella Vine’s works then you use that to help artist you maybe know are not going to sell as much or maybe you want to support?

Cathy:

Possibly. I think about what the work will look like in the space and if I like the work I don’t really have any criteria that I go on. If I am interested in what they are doing and I want to see a show by them then I will put it on.

Martha:

Just wanted know what interaction there was with you doing art fairs, does that bring new audiences to the gallery?

Ed:

Yes, very much and increasingly there aren’t many collectors in terms of patrons. In the States it’s a different thing, they have their patrons, they do buy younger artists’ work. This is the worst place to be, that’s why at the art fairs we are going out to meet people.

Annabel:

How do you decide what art fairs to do? What’s your criteria, because they are expensive…

David:

Do you have a choice of deciding?

Cathy:

It’s like being an artist and applying for a competition.

Ed:

They’re expensive enough that you really have to think about it. I think the right ones are preferably curatorial or collector based. They are going to be commercial and they are a necessary evil. A lot of galleries are sustained by art fairs, especially in London.

Annabel:

So it pays off for you to put in the huge investment of going to one?

Ed:

Bettina’s one in Switzerland we did a very uncommercial project and it did exactly what we expected it to do, but it was at a very important fair. It was worth you spending the money if you can, because more people saw that work than probably had been into the gallery in five years.

Annabel:

What about an art fair for non-commercial galleries, how would that work?

Cathy:

We’re are doing an art fair in Limerick next week which is being set up by an artist run organisation there and they have got some funding and they are inviting other artist run organisations from around Europe to travel there and put on a show, so there are things like that happen that are artist led.

Annabel:

That’s different places isn’t it, that are going there, the Hague and Brussels?

Ed:

It’s not necessarily about the commercial. It’s a great opportunity to see a lot of work and to see a lot of people- artists, curators, there is another reason…

Annabel:

What about the horrendousness of Frieze? Is it worth the pain?

Cathy:

To go to?

Annabel:

Yeah, do you go?

Cathy:

Yeah, but I am always a bit disappointed.

David:

When you set you stands up at art fairs do you curate them? Do you consider them as being shop windows?

Cathy:

I have hardly done any so I am not the right person to ask.

Ed:

I don’t think we do them exactly the same as in the gallery. We hang and curate as if it was a gallery show. We want to represent the gallery and the artist. If we had an artist where we could hang three rows of small saleable paintings then we would be great but it would be an injustice to the artist. You can look at one booth and be overwhelmed and not be able to see anything.

Alistair:

Can I ask Anthony to what extent does it turn your head when you somebody’s been at Frieze, they’ve have done a project at Frieze or their gallery is at Frieze? Do you pay attention to those kind of things as a public gallery?

Anthony:

I wouldn’t particularly, appearing in an art fair. Certainly when you make decisions on who to show there is a whole range of political factors and social factors that go into that decision. They’re not taken arbitrarily.

Martha:

Do you look at artists who have done open shows? Does that give any credibility?

Anthony:

Like the summer show at the Royal Academy?

Martha:

No, more like East.

Anthony:

It depends I think because East has had very influential selectors over the years- Laurence Weiner, Gustav Metska, really important art world figures. Their taste probably has quite a big impact. In the same ways as [Bloomberg] Young Contemporaries, there are always trendsetters within the art world and it makes a difference. And it makes a difference who is associated with who, I am not going to pretend otherwise. That certainly has some bearing but also I might avoid someone who’s been too prominent at Frieze because that’s not the right sort of register I am looking for. It’s a whole combination of factors. We work with people whose work I’ve had the chance to watch over the last ten years in different places, so it is a variety of many different things

Alistair:

Another question for you, Anthony. In terms of a public gallery- I think you have kind of alluded to it- your board, for instance, might be happier if you had a bit more of a brand name kind of artist. To what extent do you have that pressure coming from other places? I suppose I am asking how free are you really to show the kind of artist you want to show? Do you make compromises to make space for an artist? Do you know what I mean?

Anthony:

Yes, totally. As I said, there are political factors that come into play for every decision. I try and avoid them. I try and present as varied a program as possible, some more high profile artists with lesser known ones, more popular subjects with more obscure. I generally try and find a mix. However nebulous the Arts Council is with their requirements- maybe they talk about the excellence of art to some extent and including us in their national portfolio organisation they are saying they want us to show what a lot of people would call cutting edge or challenging or avant garde art. I think they are keen for us to be innovative and experimental. At the same time it’s important that we do a lot of work with various organisations and groups locally. It’s trying to find a balance between all of these different factors, really. The pressure from the board hasn’t got to me yet. If we hadn’t got the money from the Arts Council then we may well have had to reconsider our strategy altogether. For example, introduce charging- and in order to make that successful you would have to do Banksy and I probably wouldn’t be here talking to you right now.

Annabel:

We’ve got about two minutes. Is there any more questions? Go on, Julie.

Julie:

Is there anything in an artist’s career that is a very bad move, aside from every now and then making bad work?

Cathy:

I don’t know… everyone has got something that they have. There are certain galleries that I don’t like very much. When I see someone’s shown there, they go down.

Annabel:

What about the Mall Galleries, if you show there?

Cathy:

That’s fine Annabel. Annabel’s showing there.

Annabel:

My partner’s going. Why are you doing that?

Cathy:

There’s nothing really that I think is terrible, but I do look at people and follow their careers and I do think “why are you doing that?” if you are thinking about showing their work. Everybody’s being watched now.

Ed:

I think down the line you do need to say no to certain shows. You do need to edit work, but you don’t need to worry because if you look back over ten years of someone’s life and tell me there isn’t one thing wrong I would be very impressed.

Annabel:

How about you Anthony?

Anthony:

I can’t think of anything, no. There has been an über collector stockpiling an artist’s work and then dumping it on the market. That kind of thing can destroy an artist’s career, but it’s not something that the artist does. I guess if you’ve got a good dealer they can manage that sort of situation. I can’t think of anything. Can anyone here think of anything an absolute taboo for an artist?

Helen:

Being collected by an arms dealer?

Ed:

All money is dirty.

Anthony:

Art is the best vehicle for laundering money and always has been.

Annabel:

Being in the Hunting Arts Prize or something… are they associated with arms dealers? I think that was something that was very uncool.

Ed:

I think living in the UK is bad enough.

Anthony:

We are all tarnished!

Annabel:

Jeffrey Archer is a big collector, isn’t he?

Member of the audience:

Doing work associated with charity? It’s sort as seen as unprofessional, amateur.

Annabel:

So, say an artist had their work in a charity auction?

Anthony:

I’d say that is all good. When there might be a question arising there is with artist educators. There has been a kind of separation between an artist and an artist educator who does work, often with charities or disadvantaged groups, but now I think some of the most interesting work is done in that area.

Annabel:

Any other questions? I think we will finish. Thank you very much Anthony and Ed and Cathy, that was very interesting, I hope it was for everyone. Our next event, just briefly to say, will be at Aid and Abet which is a fantastic project space. Is that right, is that wrong?

David:

It’s wrong! No, it’s right; it is a fantastic project space.

 

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