In 2009, the then recently graduated artist Andrew Salgado was given free stand space at Affordable Art Fair Battersea. Andrew credits this milestone with being an invaluable stepping stone in his career. Today, Andrew’s works are only available at his sell-out solo shows. One of his loyal collectors, the former chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Art Ivan Massow, has called Andrew a ‘genius’. I spent a morning in Andrew’s warm and vibrant company in his East London studio to find out how his career is evolving. The rich colours in all the paintings which fill Andrew’s studio are joyful and energising. Chatting with Andrew, I realised that in many of the works he showed me, there lies beneath the surface a potent mix of pain, questioning and humour, a reflection of Andrew himself. What’s clear is that Andrew puts his heart and soul into every piece and there’s nothing that brings him more fulfilment. At one point as our conversation was in mid-flow, Andrew suddenly began laughing cheekily as he apologised for looking straight past me and checking out the uncompleted painting behind me, as he found himself plotting how to perfect it once I had left.
RECENT GRADUATES REVISITED; ANDREW SALGADO
What themes drive your work?
Some say paint what you know. My works used to be about my personal identity but they’re now a commentary on the art world itself. In 2008, I was the victim of a hate crime at a music festival in my native Canada. I got into a fight and lost my front teeth. This traumatic experience compelled me to use my art to stand up on behalf of the gay community, often through portraits. Till this day, I find people often like the way I paint eyes.
I like offering up my works with a certain theatricality. At my last big show opening in 2016, at Beers London, the walls were painted green, the floors were covered with AstroTurf and we released 500 specially bred butterflies - a tribute to the 49 people who lost their lives in a homophobic attack on the gay Orlando nightclub Pulse earlier that year. In 2016 in Zagreb, Croatia, we created a blue room, laid down two tonnes of pebbles, had an eight metre squared projection of the ocean and had two metre squared paintings suspended from the ceiling. I loved that.
Do buyers become friends?
Absolutely, I’m still good friends with some buyers from my initial Affordable Art Fair. As a teenager, I used to work at Aldo shoes which had a principle of offering impeccable after-sales service. I’m always grateful to my collectors and I make a point of sending hand-written notes along with a painting. More than once, a buyer who has just parted with £20,000 on one of my paintings appears even more excited by my handwritten note, which I find touching and also quite amusing.
We put on a dinner for 50 collectors at Beers Contemporary in 2016 inviting buyers of my work. One couple there had only ever bought one work at the Affordable Art Fair. They expressed how thrilled they were to be invited and they were almost apologetic they hadn’t bought anything since. I ended up explaining to them how excited I am about every collector who buys my work. Ultimately that couple in particular had helped get me started on my journey.
What are now your biggest challenges?
I am always raising the bar for myself. For me, my proudest moments include seeing my parents, siblings and nieces and nephews travel from Canada to join me at an opening. But I like to keep things challenging – whether it’s the way I repeatedly go over a painting to perfect it, the way I give a face or a facial feature expression on the canvas, or my ambitions of where I want my work to be seen on the international stage - and there’s a lot of pressure associated with that. I come from a family of academics, my mother is a teacher and my father is a doctor. Just as in medicine, I believe that in my art, mediocrity is not an option. My life as an artist involves daily determination, self-direction and grit – even though I know of course that being an artist is inherently a bit self-indulgent.
I’ve recently completed a painting called All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Go. That sentiment sometimes sums up how I feel because I typically paint while balancing numerous hypotheticals, routinely waiting to hear about confirmation of the next big show or opportunity. My current work reflects the frustration I experience while navigating the commerciality and politics of certain aspects of the art world, as well as the numerous often conflicting opinions and voices I hear about my work which I fear could de-rail me, including those in my own head. It can be hard to balance all that with my artistic instinct and a healthy self-belief.
If you hadn’t exhibited at the Affordable Art Fair, do you think things might have turned out differently?
Having an influx of attention helped catapult my initial sales. I remember selling works at the Affordable Art Fair to buyers from London and Germany for £3500, which was so thrilling at the time. It’s intimidating how fast after university an artist needs to become a real-world business person. Any push in the right direction is momentous and I have to say my university education didn’t prepare me to become an artist. If it wasn’t for that initial Affordable Art Fair, it is conceivable I would have left London, which would have been a huge shame as I just love it here.
What is the definition of an artist?
Anyone can be an artist but to be a good one you need to be respected by your peers and have a positive commercial and critical reception. I always knew in my heart I would be a career artist. My studio is my sacred space and it’s mostly just me here with my headphones, often listening to my favourite singer Tori Amos. Ultimately, there is nothing else I could ever imagine doing career-wise other than coming into my studio to paint. Beyond all the doubts that sometimes plague an artist, you have to believe you have something worth sharing.
In fact, when Harvey Nichols called me up in 2014 to ask me to create art for all their windows, I actually didn’t believe them at first. I thought it was a scam. I called my gallery Beers Contemporary and said ‘this all sounds a bit sketchy’. I could hardly believe my art would be positioned throughout the store windows. It turned out to be a fantastic opportunity.
Is Instagram good or bad news for artists?
Instagram is making people get razor-sharp about the competition. There is a danger of us all spending too much time on there and ending up feeling inadequate. Before Instagram was as hot as it is now for artists, I built up an audience on Facebook of 350,000 followers completely organically without paying for any of them, and I’d get thousands of likes on each post. Like with so many industries, the internet is fantastic for letting artists build and interact with their audiences directly.
What kind of people buy your work?
It’s often couples buying art for their homes. One time a guy wanted to buy a nude for his mum. I said to him: ‘Really? Are you sure?’
Huge thanks to Andrew and Claire for carrying out this interview as a part of our 20th anniversary celebrations. This interview is just one of many pieces within our 20th anniversary magazine. Click here to or follow the link below to read the collection of exclusive interviews and exciting articles all created in aid of saying a huge THANK YOU to YOU for your support over two decades of democratising the art market.
Recent Graduates Revisited, Celebrating 20 Years of Supporting Emerging Artists
For two decades, we’ve been selecting some of the brightest and best graduates of the year to exhibit at the fair. This year at Affordable Art Fair Battersea Autumn 2019, we're excited to welcome back a selection of the exhibited artists from the past twenty years, alongside a fresh crop of graduate talent. Curated by Cassie Beadle of Cob Gallery, The Recent Graduates’ exhibition is a great way to explore emerging talent and bag yourself a future star so be sure to visit the exhibition at our 20th anniversary fair.
ABOUT THE JOURNALIST
Claire Adler has written over 500 articles for publications including the Financial Times during over a decade as a regular contributor, The Times, Vanity Fair, Wallpaper*, The Washington Post, Hong Kong Tatler, The Spectator and many more. Claire specialises primarily in jewellery, luxury and art. Her writing has also appeared in business books published by The Financial Times and Open University. In 2016, Claire was named a Top 20 Luxury Tastemaker by IN London magazine. Later that year, Claire founded Claire Adler | The Luxury Public Relations And Writing Consultancy, which employs a journalistic approach to the way companies communicate with journalists. Clients include or have included Jaeger-Le Coultre, Sotheby’s, Adama Partners, The New West End Company, Objet d’Emotion by Valery Demure and Investec.
Painter Andrew Salgado, talks to journalist Claire Adler in his studio.
Featured art from first to last:
Claire Adler, Luxury Journalist.
A sneak peek inside Andrew Salgado's London Fields studio.
Andrew Salgado and Claire Adler.
Painter, Andrew Salgado.
Andrew Salgado recounts his professional break at Affordable Art Fair Battersea Autumn.
A close up on one of Andrew Salgado's highly sought after works.
Andrew Salgado in his London Fields studio.