Growing up in London, did you have any specific art experiences that stand out?
I remember the first time I really connected with contemporary art. It was a Richard Serra exhibition at Gagosian Britannia Street. I remember going to see the show, and feeling almost possessive over the space, because it’s so much about the viewer in relation to the sculpture, and it’s all about perspective, and you become almost part of the artwork. And suddenly, something just clicked in my head. I was like, “This is what it’s about. It’s about your relationship with the art. It’s not about looking at it from a kind of resting place, it’s about how you engage with it.” And every time someone walked into the gallery, I felt quite protective. I wanted to be alone with it, I wanted to interact with it on my own.
And all this has led to Pipeline, which you opened last week. How did this project come into being?
I had done pop ups over the years with younger artists, and eventually came back around to it: people were asking a lot about younger artists all of a sudden, which was a novel conversation to be having and I started to think about how they were receiving that information. There was a lot of confusion about who to look at, about what art was being made today. To be able to follow what an artist is doing early on is tough, and I could feel that people were struggling with getting that information.
And then the artists who I speaking to, at the same time, were referencing the same problem by talking about how things were moving so quickly, and they weren’t able to get the time to contextualize their work in the way that they would like to… especially with clickbait culture, people just scrolling through their work and forgetting about it two seconds later. The idea for Pipeline came from thinking about beginnings, about artists who were new who weren’t provided with the right environment to introduce their work in an authentic way.
What is the guiding principle behind Pipeline?
It’s all about giving context and narrative to artists’ work, and about celebrating the enormous potential that’s always part of an evolving, expanding practice. The way that I’ve started to do that with this series of six back to back shows is to use a split space. So there’s a main exhibition area and then there’s a smaller enclosed area at the back, where I’m showing this single artwork of the artist coming next in the program. And that artwork is carefully selected by the artist themselves, so that they direct where the conversation goes around their upcoming show. It’s an opportunity for artists to pull out whatever they would like more focus on, and more engagement with, in a wider practice. It’s very versatile, and artists have used it in very different ways. Some have used it to show how their practice has shifted, to show a pivotal moment in their work. For collectors, it’s also a way to show how these artists, who are still quite early in their careers, have a constant evolution in their work, and how there can be so many shifting parameters within one practice.
How do you see this model complimenting the existing London gallery scene?
What’s crucial to this idea is that you have that luxury of time. It was really important that the artist was introduced in advance of their show, with a single artwork so that people had the lead time to be able to warm up to that artist. The artist gets a double exposure with it, and the audience feels like they can move along on a journey with them, and understand the process.
Are you sensing, on the part of collectors, a different kind of interest relating to young artists?
People are very keen to make discoveries, and to have ownership over those discoveries. People feel excited about collecting emerging artists in a way that maybe they didn’t before, and they want to be part of that very foundational moment within an artist’s early career. They want to be part of that story.
And are you sensing a corresponding shift in tastes?
I’m really excited to see a lot of abstract female painters of the moment. Wet-paint figurative painting recently had its moment, and that’s still still the case. But it’s moving into a more abstract phase now, which is nice, because that hasn’t been around for a while. I always tell collectors that they have to buy when they’re the poorest. You have to be counting your pennies in order to know that what you’re buying is what you really love.
Do you see Pipeline helping to foster these particular relationships between collectors and artists?
Yes, it’s about reinvigorating that conversation. Making sure that the people investing in an artist know what that artist is about, and the artist having a relationship with collectors where they feel heard.
Who is your first show?
He’s called Tommy Harrison. He was mostly self taught up until recently, and he received a scholarship to Manchester School of Arts to do an MA. It’s remarkable what he’s learned-slash-taught himself, what he’s taken in during the few years that he’s been an artist. I’ve never seen a painter like him… the way that he treats paint is just incredible. This will be his first solo show. So we’re both doing this first bit together, and it’s quite nice to grow together in this.
And who will be the next up?
Emmanuel Awuni, who just graduated from the RA and works across many different mediums. Emmanuel has chosen to introduce his exhibition with what he feels is a pivotal piece, from a recent moment when his painting and sculpture practice merged. He’ll be simultaneously showing with Pipeline and our next-door neighbour, PM/AM. He really wants it to be one conversation across the two spaces.
You mention that your neighbour is PM/AM. This neighbourhood has become a real hotspot for galleries, what’s it like to be moving in?
It’s friendly, it’s great, people support each other. It’s great for young voices, both those of artists and gallerists. I’m really keen to collaborate with neighbors going forward, I think it’s a really powerful thing to do. Here’s a lot of potential here, so many exciting things are happening.
You worked for a while in New York. What do you think sets London apart at this moment? What about London is unique, especially in terms of emerging artists and galleries?
Everybody knows that New York is a very fast-paced city. People’s attention spans are shorter, and maybe something like Pipeline wouldn’t land as well in New York, because everything is quite momentary. But London is slow. I mean, it’s not too slow — we’re not horizontal! It’s a weird medium, where it’s fast enough that you have your existential crisis on the tube on the way to work each morning and (that’s the slow bit), and then you get caught up in your day, and then you have time for the same existential crisis on the way home. I think it’s good because people are, you know, active and engaged, but also they’re open to spending a bit more time on things.
What are you reading at the moment?
I didn’t think I should reference this, but I’m going to do it anyway, because it has actually inspired me… I’m a very honest interview! Shoe Dog, by the founder of Nike. He was a guy who started his business from scratch, and there are things in there that I pulled out and thought about. He says belief is everything. If you believe in something, other people will believe it too. And I think that is very true. You have to pour all your belief into the artists that you’re working with, what you’re putting on, the ideas that you have. And all good things come from there.