The Exhibitionists: Meet London’s Indie Gallerists

The Lazarides Gallery

Entrepreneurs, talent spotters and benevolent friends rolled into one, the multi-skilled managers of London’s independent galleries are sating our appetite for contemporary art.

Love them or hate them, no one can doubt the fundamental importance of galleries and the London gallerists. Some might be described as ruthless businessmen but many could be regarded as patrons of the arts without whom many a fine fine artist (who, in the main, are not known for their business acumen) would have given up the brush in favour of a job, regular income and food on the table.

Some might contest that however brilliant Jackson Pollock was, he would not have achieved such global success and overshadowed many supposed lesser, or unknown, abstract expressionists if it wasn’t for Peggy Guggenheim, who supported Pollock with a monthly stipend, nurtured him and actively promoted and sold his paintings. Accordingly, we might deem gallerists as not only talent scouts, but philanthropists and businesspersons – a curious dichotomy that exists only in the arts, whether literary, performing or visual.

Steve LazaridesSteve Lazarides

Founder/Director

Lazarides Rathbone,
11 Rathbone Place,
London W1;
Lazarides Editions,
22 Upper Ground,
London SE1.
lazinc.com

What are your galleries about?
Making it OK for the general public to walk in without them thinking we’re elitist. Promoting kids who don’t get a chance because they didn’t go to the right college. To look after the renegades. I also ask myself, “Do you like it or not?” That’s all you need to know about art.

How did you get into art?
I didn’t study art or work at a gallery. I photographed Banksy for a magazine called Sleazenation and we got on. I pushed his art and it grew from there.

What do you look for when selecting artists?
I’m only interested in people who make art and not those trying to be “artists”.

Are there any discoveries you’re especially proud of?
JR, Vhils and Jonathan Yeo have all had major museum exhibitions recently. Conor Harrington and Antony Micallef are now internationally recognised. They’ve all done very well.

Your advice to a collector?
Buy what you like because it doesn’t matter if it goes up or down in value. But if you’re buying purely for re-sale, then it’s just like the stock market – it’s gambling for rich people. Some people invest in wine, others put money on the dogs. Art buying is like going to the bookies and putting on an £80,000 bet. The stuff I’ve always made the most profit on are the ones I bought because I genuinely loved it.

What’s the one piece of art you’d like to buy for your house?
A nurse painting by Richard Prince. I went round someone’s house and saw one. I had no idea what it was but I wanted it. It cost £4m!

What’s the function of art today?
Same as it’s always been – part escapism, part decoration, part something to lose yourself in, part politics. “Guernica” [by Pablo Picasso], for example, but art doesn’t always have to have a multilayered political or sociological meaning, as it can be decorative. But people do take it all too seriously as, at the end of the day, art is to be enjoyed. In my opinion, if a work of art has to be explained in words written down the side of the gallery wall, that means it has failed because it doesn’t communicate. Surely part of the joy of it is that the viewer takes away what they want from it. Not the artist telling us what it is.

What’s next?
At the moment, we have a show by the Miaz Brothers, which is on until 2 July, and I’m planning a funfair in Greenwich, not like Alton Towers, more like something you’d see between 1900 and 1950 crossed with PT Barnum. I’m calling it The Odditorium.

Are you the kind of gallerist who would look after your artists if they were broke?
No, I’d give them a good kicking for wasting their money!

Daniel Brant

Director

A&D Gallery,
51 Chiltern Street,
London,
W1.
aanddgallery.com

A&D Gallery Chiltern Street

What’s the function of art today?
After 15 years of running the gallery, we firmly believe art has no function other than design. Art is both useless and essential and as such is perhaps a good way to assess the state of society.

How would you describe your gallery?
We try to show work that is stimulating and exciting but believe that the visual arts should work without having to read the artist’s instructions on how to approach their work. It is inevitable that a gallery reflects the taste of the people running it, but we try to involve other people to stop us becoming too predictable and we always try to work with the space, which is more appropriate for small works for a domestic market.

Why did you start?
We were working in graphic design and were disappointed with the lack of galleries who were prepared to view our work let alone exhibit it, so opened this space as a basement design studio and a street-level gallery. We guarantee we will look at the work of any artist who makes an appointment.

A&D Gallery
Pop pickers – A&D Gallery will look at all artists’ work; just make an appointment

What’s the one piece of art or sculpture you’d like to have in your gallery?
Probably the ceiling from the Sistine Chapel but finding the space could be tricky. Maybe one of Jeff Koons’ large, shiny sculptures.

What’s your advice to someone who wants to use art as an investment?
Buy things you love and be surprised if they hold their value.

What’s coming up?
We’re planning a Pop Masters show for summer.

Jack BellJack Bell

Director

Jack Bell Gallery,
13 Masons Yard
St James’s,
London
SW1
jackbellgallery.com

How would you sum up your gallery?
It has a focus on emerging contemporary art from around the world. Gallery artists have been included in important exhibitions at The Guggenheim Bilbao, Pompidou, Hayward Gallery, Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Victoria and Albert Museum, among others.

What do you look for in your artists?
We are looking for talent and solid partnerships, as introducing new artists to collectors is a big investment and a long-term commitment.

How do you find them?
Studio visits are very important as it’s necessary to see the works in production and understand the processes from being on the ground.

What discoveries are you especially proud of?
I’ve exhibited a number of up-and-coming contemporary West and Central African artists. Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou [from Benin] will exhibit in museums across America and Europe in 2015. Aboudia [Ivory Coast], Boris Nzebo [Cameroon] and Armand Boua [Ivory Coast] are currently exhibiting in Pangaea II: New Art From Africa And Latin America, Saatchi Gallery, London, which runs to 10 September.

How and when did you start?
I came from Australia to study a masters in art history at the Courtauld Institute. I worked for three years at Timothy Taylor Gallery in London before opening my own space. In February 2010,I opened the current gallery space on Masons Yard, St James’s.

What’s coming up?
Our next show will be new paintings by Harlem-based contemporary artist Cullen Washington Jr.

Rudi Christian FerreiraRudi Christian Ferreira

Gallery Manager

The Wapping Project Bankside,
Top Floor,
37 Dover Street
London W1.
thewappingprojectbankside.com

What is your gallery about?
The Wapping Project Bankside is a gallery that specialises in photography and film.

The Wapping Project
Public image –
The Wapping Project Bankside exhibits photography and film

How do you see the future of art – where will it go next?
There has definitely been a firm move towards art fairs but I believe there will always be a need for a bricks-and-mortar gallery.

What do all your artists have in common?
All our artists respond to the complexities of life. Their work is not part of some perceived aesthetic trend.

How important is discovering artists for you?
There needs to be a balance between developing your gallery artists, building on that relationship and also finding new artists.

What is the most satisfying aspect of your work?
Whenever I get one of our artists into an important collection or secure them a museum exhibition.

What would your advice be to a budding collector?
Always work with a reputable gallery and build a relationship with them. To us, the relationship with our collectors is as important as our relationship with our artists. We want our collectors to build important collections and work with them to achieve that by focusing on collecting in depth and understanding an artist’s practice rather than collecting too widely.

What would your advice be to an artist looking for a gallery to work with?
Research a gallery and their programme and see if your practice can make an interesting contribution to the existing gallery artists. If you think it could, then approach a gallery.

What’s the function of art today?
To challenge us – to make us question our existence.

ML