Galleries: Commercial v. Subsidised

Taken from an article on the boom in London’s galleries, from 2006. This shows a rather pragmatic approach to the commercial system but maybe not to the consequences of being part of such a system – recent events have shown how fragile this system can be (and that’s not to say that a publicly-funded system is any less fragile, possibly more so). When Rob Tufnell says that the art market is somehow protected from a crash because “it’s too big”, that seems a little too optimistic. Every market will go through boom and bust periods, it’s in the nature of Capitalism for this to happen, and as such represents a kind of self-regulating system, not that makes it any easier for those who suffer it’s effects.

I know Rob indirectly and hope to be able to meet up with him when I’m in London over Christmas. Ancient and Modern is still going, by the way, it will be interesting to get Rob’s take on how things have gone since they opened and what he sees for the future of independent galleries.

Rob Tufnell and his business partner, Bruce Haines, are taking the ultimate risk. Tomorrow they will open a new gallery near Old Street, called Ancient and Modern. For the present, the world economy is healthy, art sales buoyed up by swaths of new collectors enriched by hedge-fund bonuses. But can a new gallery like this survive?

The gallery’s first show, with work by artists including Simon Periton and Francis Upritchard, is based on the idea of the memento mori. Tufnell says: “We are opening with a sort of funeral; we’re aware it might all go wrong … But I can’t see an art market crash happening. After 9/11, everyone assumed the market was over in New York, but it wasn’t; it’s too big.” He and Haines have scraped together money by saving their salaries and remortgaging; Haines still works part-time as a curator at Camden Arts Centre in north London, whereas Tufnell threw in his job as a curator at Turner Contemporary in Margate. Nor does he have any plans to return to subsidised galleries: the commercial sector offers more freedom, he thinks, to work closely and creatively with artists.

“At the end of three years we’ll either be ready to get a bigger space or I’ll get a job at Costa Coffee,” he says. “In the public sector, in the end you just exclude challenging practice. In my mind, the publicly funded arts are supposed to support what the market cannot, but apparently they cannot support an avant garde. You are competing with shopping centres, which is what [subsidised] art galleries increasingly resemble. None of this is why I went into art.

“I’m probably being very naive with the idea that if you put on interesting exhibitions you will end up self-funding. But for us this is, in the end, about independence, not about making money.”*

* dents for 2008-12-14

  • hmm, should I upgrade the WordPress installation for the Gallery site today? upgrades make me nervous… #
  • upgrade done without a glitch (much as I like glitch, I prefer it in my music and not in my upgrades), wordpress is so good #
  • looking into jquery as an alternative to scriptaculous #
  • hmmm, jquery is much more egalitarian than scriptaculous, s positions itself towards effects, whereas j seems to give itself a broader remit #
  • i am sure this is as much to with their respective presentations, though #
  • to generalise unforgivably: jquery = serious, scriptaculous = fun! #
  • this is all without taking anything other than surface effects into consideration, of course #
  • why isn’t shi back yet? #
  • upgrading the last WordPress installation, on the slowest ftp server – this could take a while #
  • @rejon setting that up is on my ‘to-do’ list, but that’s quite a long list #
  • twhirl, you are starting to get on my nerves, respect the preferences I set, please #

Laoban Mixing Event report

I just posted a short video to youtube of highlights from last night’s Laoban Mixing event at the Gallery. Unfortunately youtube in it’s wisdom has reduced the quality of the video to “very poor” in the process of compressing the file, so the following is the original (still not great, but better):

It was a good night overall, I had a great time (even though I had to keep reminding myself that I was there to look after the space, and not to enjoy myself). Many people came and seemed to respond well to the performers. As you can see from the video above and the photographs there were some very good sounds and visuals. My thanks go to Jon for organising so much at such short notice, with the help of Matt and Lu, and all their friends who pitched in to help out. I think this shows that an exciting idea can get people energised, even on such a cold night.

Looking ahead, I hope there will more variety in the material in future events, last night was very focused on DJs and VJs. Films and short talks were promised, which would have given more of a conceptual structure to the proceedings and will help prevent it becoming just another club night.

I hope, too, that more women will present their work. Last night the performers were without exception all men – it seemed to be the cliché of boys with their toys (I don’t know maybe this is perhaps a feature of the scene rather than a bug, as they say to excuse some oddity in software). I can’t believe there are no women making material and this would make a valuable contribution to the event.

But this was the first version of the event, and was very much about investigating a format for the future, so I want to see how it develops. The original spec for the night I thought was very exciting and something which had the potential for development into something very strong – and this was one of the reasons why I agreed to go with it. I hope that more of what was originally announced becomes incorporated into future events, as they have the possibility to a) bring together some of the creative communities here in Beijing and China in general which hover round each other but which don’t really get to cross-fertilise so often, and b) make links out from the local to the international creative scenes which all have their representatives here in BJ. dents for 2008-12-13

  • just uploaded photos from last night’s Laoban Mixing Event to flickr #
  • @rejon can you fill in the names of people on the comments? just sorting the videos out now #
  • @rejon ta #
  • if i want to, why shouldn’t i be able to 5 things at once? #
  • my computer disagrees #
  • Short video from last night’s Laoban event #
  • not oranges, turned out to be small pomelos #
  • wow: #