Spike Island

Reviewed: What to Expect from a Gallery

Spike Associates, a membership network of artists, curators, writers and other creative practitioners, have initiated a series of events on professional practice. They explore both critical and practical aspects of working within the arts with panelists from across the sector.

Join us for future events in this series: What to Expect from a Curator on Tuesday 13 March, and What to Expect from an Arts Writer on Tuesday 29 May.

If you missed the first session on Tuesday 25 October, which focused on working with commercial galleries, Lucy Drane, Associates coordinator, shares the highlights of the discussion:

The evening offered a candid account from three gallerists working in the commercial sector: Susanna Beaumont of Frith Street Gallery (and formerly of Doggerfisher), Simon Morrissey of Works|Projects and Rob Tufnell, who runs an eponymous gallery in London.

Chaired by Spike Island director Helen Legg, the discussion began with a series of questions posed by Spike Associates. One asked the panel members what they feel their responsibility is to the artists with whom they work. Simon Morrissey outlined the importance of developing relationships with both the public and private sectors in terms of developing artists’ careers. Although there is always a responsibility to support the artist financially, it is also vital to build links with reputable institutions and galleries, as well as with collectors and major international collections; major public exhibitions and commissions are an essential way of building artists’ profiles.

There was a consensus amongst the panel regarding the etiquette of approaching a gallery: continue with what you are doing – making work, exhibiting work and engaging in critical dialogue. It’s the job of the gallery to seek out the artists that they would like to work with, and sending CDs and portfolios of work directly rarely, if ever, pays off.

The speakers also gave an honest impression of the reality of setting up and running gallery as a business, how much work it requires to develop and the relationships that can help such a venture, including private backers and sympathetic landlords. Ultimately they all concluded that running a gallery is truly a labour of love; all of the speakers have put their own money into their ventures. A belief in the importance of developing an artist’s career, rather than the desire for profit, drives them forward. All of the speakers see themselves as curators, rather than as ‘dealers’, and by running their own gallery or working for a gallery that represents artists, they can directly support individual practitioners which can be harder to achieve in other kinds of art careers.

What to Expect... events are supported by Alias.

Image: Edwina Ashton, installation view Edwina Ashton and David Mackintosh (2011). Image courtesy Works|Projects.