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Affordable Art Fair
Interviews - 31 March 2016

It’s a gallery affair

At each edition of the Affordable Art Fair we welcome between 50 - 150 carefully selected galleries from across the globe to showcase the best of what their artists have to offer. Between them, these galleries represent thousands of artists, and are dedicated to nurturing and showcasing their work to the widest possible art loving audiences.

As an organisation that champions galleries, we’re frequently asked why are galleries so important to the art industry? To get the lowdown, we’ve caught up with two Affordable Art Fair galleries and their artists to get the insider info on the crucial, fascinating relationship between artist and gallerist.

 

Caiger Contemporary Art

Amy Caiger heads up Caiger Contemporary Art, a nomadic gallery which represents a small, carefully selected, group of contemporary artists. Amongst them are Blandine Bardeau, who uses a variety of unusual media to create her semi-abstract works, and Rod McIntosh, whose material-driven works focus on the process of mark making.

Blandine Bardeau's "Your Smile is Beautiful and it Makes Me Happy" courtesy of Caiger Contemporary Art. What’s the selection procedure for the gallery?

We spend a lot of time researching and going to see new artists’ work. We look for something that catches our eye, and then consider how it would fit with other works in our gallery. Sometimes artists also contact us directly if they think they’d be a good fit for our gallery. Either way, the work needs to speak to us, we have to love it. Then, once we’ve spoken with the artist, and are sure we’d have a great working relationship, we’ll ask them on board.

As an artist, how and why do you look for gallery representation?

My meeting with Caiger Contemporary Art was through Twitter initially, in a typical 21st century fashion! After a few interactions online I looked them up and liked what I saw, so invited them to one of my shows – we chatted there and they asked me to come on board. For me, it was as much about the artists they represent as it was about the feeling I got from interacting with them; it’s important that something clicks, and that you’re on the same page I think.

I did lots of research initially and drew up a shortlist of galleries where I felt my work could fit. From there I started to build up relationships with the gallerists and it then became more of a mutual selection process between me, them and my work.

Rod McIntosh's "Never the Same" courtesy of Caiger Contemporary Art.Other than representing artists work to clients how else do you work with your artists? 

We ask our artists what they are hoping to achieve each year – this may be a creative goal, or something more unusual – and we see how we can support them with this. We’re also always on hand to advise our artists whenever they need it, perhaps on a new body of work, trying out new sizes, framing or prices. We also like to plan projects that would be good for our artists to help them in other areas such as their CV or growing their reputation.

We also get a lot of feedback from the gallery which I really take in to consideration. I like to hear how customers react to my work, as well as hearing Amy and her colleagues’ opinions on my new works. They understand my work very well and it’s great to talk through my plans for future pieces, as well as sizes and prices. I like that they are really approachable, that Caiger Contemporary Art is a family business – I was there close to their beginnings and there’s a real sense that we’re growing together.

Likewise, I meet with the gallery regularly to review and plan. It allows me to present new ideas, get feedback and throw ambitious, wild-card ideas at them and see how we could work together to achieve them.

Why do you think galleries are important?

I think they’re important for both the client and the artist. For the client, we’re knowledgeable about our artists and a trustworthy source they can go to. In effect we’re giving our artists a stamp of approval – as a gallery we endorse the high standard and value of their work. We’re also there to help and advise clients on artworks, especially if they’re new to collecting or aren’t sure what would best suit their space.

Galleries are important for artists as it means they can get on with what they do best, making art! We take the strain off them by marketing their work and showing it to clients. We’re also able to talk about their work with enthusiasm and without feeling self-conscious, as a lot of artists can when discussing their own work. And, of course, we’re here to help and support them in their work and career.

 

Gala Fine Art

Kate Bignold launched online gallery Gala Fine Art in 2015 and currently represents an exciting group of 11 British and Irish artists. Amongst them are Annette Pugh, who explores the relationship between photography and painting, and Clare Bonnet, who paints candid portraits of semi-abstract female figures.

Annette Pugh's "Riviera Bay" courtesy of Gala Fine Art.

What’s the selection procedure for the gallery?

Kate: There’s no set procedure; I spend a lot of time talent spotting at open studio events, degree shows and open submission exhibitions. I might stumble across a new artist when researching an existing gallery artist or when visiting their studio. The artists I represent typically juxtapose traditional painting or photography with modern or unconventional processes; I’m always on the lookout for work that boasts a very individual creative style.

As an artist, how and why do you look for gallery representation?

Annette: Kate saw my work at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol and got in contact. I then set up a meeting to learn more about Kate’s intentions for Gala Fine Art, and her stable of artists. Like Kate, I’m interested in the interaction between painting and photography, so I felt we had a strong common ground for a working relationship.

Clare: Kate also approached me initially, having seen my work at Jamaica Street Studios in Bristol. From the word go I could see Kate had a vision for the gallery that really suited my work. It also helps that we get on well, so can be completely honest with each other.

Clare Bonnet's "Wallowing in the Wait" courtesy of Gala Fine Art.Other than representing artists work to clients how else do you work with your artists? 

Kate: Essentially my mission is to support artists at all stages of their careers both on a practical level, by providing them with a platform to sell their work, but also on a personal and creative level, by offering encouragement and advice, and feedback about their work and its reception.

Clare: We talk … a lot! Kate holds a genuine interest in how work is made and developed, but she also respects the creative decision-making process, so will never impose an idea. Her diplomacy skills are impeccable!

Why do you think galleries are important? 

Kate: Galleries, whether online – as we are – or bricks-and-mortar, play a vital role. Their support lends artists third-party credibility. Particularly in a social media age of self-publicity, gallery representation provides art collectors with a seal of approval. Galleries show their artists work to well-targeted interested audiences, and, of course, galleries shoulder the costs and administration involved in putting on exhibitions giving artists the chance to focus fully on the actual creation of the work.

Clare: Kate works so hard on our behalf! My paintings are relatively large, so I always admire the fact she transports them all around the country to show for me. I also trust Kate implicitly, which is important for this kind of working relationship. Being part of a gallery that represents such talent is also an honour.

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