What Does It Take to Build a Successful Gallery in London? Two Generations of Emerging Dealers Hash It Out

The London gallery scene is not an easy landscape to navigate. High rents and stiff competition combine to make not only the prospect of opening but of staying open feel like a herculean challenge. Yet it is these very constraints that have led some to take alternative and more creative approaches to what a gallery could and should be. 

Freddie Powell opened pocket-sized Ginny on Frederick last year in a former sandwich shop that shuttered during lockdown. His program is informed by the kind of temporary and ephemeral exhibitions more commonly seen in artist-run project spaces, and many of the artists who he has exhibited have never shown before in London. It has become known as something of an incubator for new talent, and a place for collectors to get in at the ground level.  

The experimental approach of Ginny on Frederick is directly influenced by a generation of ambitious galleries who sprung up a decade ago, including Carlos/Ishikawa. Opened by Vanessa Carlos in 2012 in an industrial yard in Whitechapel, East London, the gallery took on artists who were straight out of art school. In 2016 she launched the gallery-share program Condo, which brought together galleries across London as hosts for colleagues from around the world, a form of exchange and collaboration that has continued to have ripple effects within the scene. 

In that same spirit of knowledge-sharing, Carlos and Powell sat down together on a cold afternoon in early spring to reflect upon the challenges of opening their galleries, and what it really means to put the artist first. 

"Korakrit Arunanondchai: No history in a room filled with people with funny names 5," Carlos/Ishikawa, London, 23 November – 22 December 2018 © Korakrit Arunanondchai 2023, Courtesy of the artist; Bangkok CityCity Gallery; Carlos/Ishikawa, London; C L E A R I N G, New York / Brussels; and Kukje Gallery, Seoul. Photo: Stephen James.

“Korakrit Arunanondchai: No history in a room filled with people with funny names 5,” Carlos/Ishikawa, London, 23 November – 22 December 2018 © Korakrit Arunanondchai 2023, Courtesy of the artist; Bangkok CityCity Gallery; Carlos/Ishikawa, London; C L E A R I N G, New York / Brussels; and Kukje Gallery, Seoul. Photo: Stephen James.

Vanessa Carlos: I came over from Brazil to go to art school, and I quickly realized that I couldn’t be an artist. I think artists have an extraordinary level of commitment that’s like: “I don’t care what anyone thinks, I’m going to keep making it, even at the expense of my own stability.” I was full of doubts and I found it paralysing.  

During my university holidays as a student, I waitressed to be able to take on unpaid internships at Gagosian and Parasol Unit, and when I graduated I started working the next day at Stuart Shave Modern Art on a maternity cover because I already knew I wasn’t an artist. 

Freddie Powell: I studied art in Providence, Rhode Island, and I was also pretty terrible at it. When I came back to London I interned at Union Pacific and a smaller gallery, before running the bookshop at White Cube. That led to an interest in how artists think and how artists see the world. I figured having a gallery would help me to spend more time with them, but also allow other people to spend time with their ideas too. 

I found the space on a walk during the pandemic. Seeing the sandwich shop with the white tiles reminded me of the spaces I used to visit in the Lower East Side in New York. I always knew I wanted a tiny space because it was originally only going to be open on the weekends while I kept my job at White Cube. Thankfully I had that job because it allowed me to program in a way that was very artist-led, which was always my ambition. 

I am still without heating or toilet, but it is flexible because it’s really affordable, so it’s allowed me to experiment and figure out what I want the gallery to do or be. 

VC: The only criteria I had when I was looking for a space was something that would limit the ambitions of the artists as little as possible, within what little I could afford. I had been working at The Approach for six years, and I’d also co-founded a not-for-profit project space called Wallis Gallery with Ed Fornieles, who I went to art school with and now represent, which was very performance focused. I was curating performance events freelance for the Barbican and the Royal Academy on the side. 

I never thought of opening my own space; I guess I didn’t have the confidence for it. Then one of my childhood friends needed to put some money into a new business for visa reasons. I was really scared of leaving my job and after a lot of very anguished deliberation, I thought, okay, I’ll do it. And then, within six months, she didn’t want to do it anymore. It was so stressful; I remember calculating how many days I would have to be waitressing on the side to keep the gallery afloat. But then things got going and Oscar Murillo started taking off. Weirdly, the timing worked out perfectly.  

That was 11 years ago now, and we still don’t have heating in the gallery space. David Zwirner remembers that when he came to see Oscar’s show, he could see his own breath in the cold.  He said, “My underfloor heating is also broken!” The yard that we’re in is like a microcosm of London: you have an accountant, a Nigerian church, a mosque, a tattoo studio, a ghost kitchen, and the drug dealers. 

Issy Wood has her studio right next-door in the yard.  We’ve all been neighbours pretty much this whole time and it really functions like a community. We’ve got three units now and probably with the combined rent we could just get something in Mayfair, but I don’t want to. The floor always looks terrible but it communicates to the artists: do whatever the hell you want. That’s why I love it still.

Courtesy Ginny on Frederick.

Courtesy Ginny on Frederick.

FP: How did you shape your program in the beginning?

VC: When I opened here in 2011, the artist scene was still very white and male.  Because of my own background, I was always interested in colonial histories and also in different perspectives of class, race, gender. In the West, especially in post-Trump USA, you see a lot of galleries who had zero interest suddenly going, “Oops, I’ve got to fix my program up.” I felt frustrated that the majority of artists being shown were offering the same perspective. 

FP: I was very influenced by the generation of galleries who were about five to ten years older than me, which includes Vanessa at Carlos Ishikawa, Leopold and Angelina at Emalin, and Grace and Nigel at Union Pacific, which were the London galleries that I looked up to when I came out of art school. I feel like there was a gap for a new experimental gallery scene to emerge, which I think has happened with Rose Easton off Herald Street and Isaac with South Parade in Deptford, among others. 

VC: In London the three queens for me are Cornelia Grassi, Maureen Paley and Sadie Coles. They run such different galleries and they’re almost incomparable, but I think that they’re each authentic and thoughtful in the way they do things. I make decisions within the business in a way that ensures experimentation is as uncompromised as possible.  A colleague who has a gallery in New York used to say to me, “I look at your website and I think, how the hell do you stay open?”

Some colleagues who have galleries will say to me, “I really need to take on two painters this year.” I’ve always hated that approach. It is a business, of course, but within that you can work with people genuinely and authentically, you can remain curious and excited, and you can have integrity. 

Some of the painters I show have been very successful in their generation, but it’s worked out from a very un-cynical place, and we started collaborating before they had any real interest from the art market. I’ve never been someone that’s like, “Let’s test out a show to see if it sells first.” I’ve always been more like, “Let’s get married in Vegas.”  

FP: Ginny is still mainly open only by appointment, which means I can pitch the gallery to every single person who walks in, whether they are a student or a huge collector. I still think the tiled walls and the small space of Ginny enable it to cosplay as a project space, so the collectors I have seem to be more on the braver side. 

And, in the same vein as Vanessa, most of the artists who I work with are also friendships of mine because I’m really interested in who they are and what they do. When we have such a close relationship, it can be an encouraging arena for them to make fantastic things, and that ultimately leads to a better experience for everyone. 

"Issy Wood: Trilemma," Carlos/Ishikawa , London, 7 October – 20 November 2021 © Issy Wood 2023, courtesy the artist; Carlos/Ishikawa, London; and Michael Werner, New York. Photo: Stephen James

“Issy Wood: Trilemma,” Carlos/Ishikawa , London, 7 October – 20 November 2021 © Issy Wood 2023, courtesy the artist; Carlos/Ishikawa, London; and Michael Werner, New York. Photo: Stephen James.

VC: I have a very close relationship with many of my artists, and some are like family at this point. For some galleries, their client is the collector. My client is my artist. For me, art is an emotional language before being a visual one. 

I think of my role as gallerist at times as quite pastoral or maternal, but in a loose definition of maternal, meaning providing a safe and nurturing base. I enjoy accompanying the growth of the artists as people, not just the development in their work and careers. I find this particularly fulfilling because I’ve chosen not to be a mother in the traditional sense and I don’t really come from a family. 

This is maybe an overshare but I was diagnosed with cancer when the gallery was only two years old, and the gallery was absolutely vital in getting me through the experience. The gallery is a vehicle for connecting to people and ideas and a set of relationships. For me, it’s like, once you have enough to pay the bills and buy food and feel safe, life is literally too short to be prioritizing anything but intellectual and emotional fulfilment in this strange job we do.

FP: Condo also offered a way for galleries to form new relationships with each other. I think it provided a blueprint for a less competitive scene, which I’m experiencing now. Sadie Coles recently hosted Ginny on Frederick in their shop space for free, and it’s been one of the most generous experiences I’ve had. 

VC: When I started Condo, I was frustrated with the art world as a reflection of the neoliberal world at large, where corporations thrive and independents get killed off.  It was about asking what a different culture for galleries could be, with collaboration and support, rather than competition. 

For me, the idea of galleries being competitive with each other is really absurd as we’re all doing such different things. If we all thrive, we make the whole industry stronger. There’s room and a necessity for all of us within this weird ecosystem. Plus if corporate structured galleries kill off smaller “competitors,” they won’t even have anywhere to cherry pick artists from later.  

It was also based on different ways of exchange and in enabling experimentation with fewer financial constraints, because the danger in that existing overly commercial system is that the art itself can become really bad. I think everyone has to take responsibility for what we are co-creating, including artists, not just fairs and auction houses and galleries.

Courtesy Ginny on Frederick.

Courtesy Ginny on Frederick.

FP: Before we finish, I wanted to ask one more question. If you could have done anything differently, what would that be? 

VC: I think to have better boundaries earlier on, it’s taken me some time to learn. One piece of advice that I think is useful for younger galleries is to remember that what you’re offering to artists is not just a space to show in or just a sale. When I started, my production budget per show was, like, £500. You have to learn to get beyond that insecurity that if you say no to something you can’t afford, that the artist will go elsewhere, and I still have those moments all the time. 

What we are doing is not just providing a showroom with some walls and making some transactions.  A gallery could just do that, I guess some do, but then why didn’t we go and choose some other profession that was much less risky? There is value in what you have to give the artist, and that goes beyond the money. 

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Dealer Francois Ghebaly Is Opening a Second Space in L.A., Joining a Growing Throng of Galleries in Hollywood

Veteran Los Angeles dealer Francois Ghebaly is expanding into a new space in Hollywood.

Next week—not coincidentally just ahead of the latest edition of Frieze Los Angeles—he will open a his second gallery in a raw, un-renovated space, left “as we found it.”

“I was looking for spaces and I came across one that was perfect for us,” Ghebaly told Midnight Publishing Group News. The dealer previously operated galleries in L.A.’s Chinatown and then Culver City in the early aughts. For the past decade, Ghebaly has run a space in downtown L.A. “We’ve been downtown about 10 years. We have a wonderful space and community there and it’s been very successful. We love what we’ve done there.”

The facade of Francois Ghebaly's new space in Hollywood. Image courtesy Francois Ghebaly.

The facade of Francois Ghebaly’s new space in Hollywood. Image courtesy Francois Ghebaly.

“We’re not moving away, we’re expanding,” he said of the new Hollywood locale, which is situated off of Santa Monica Boulevard, on Poinsettia Drive.

“We are going to have a wonderful gallery that kind of keeps the spirit of our downtown gallery.” Both spaces are housed in 1940s-era buildings with brick facades.

Ghebaly said the new site is “basically the very beginning of West Hollywood, so my immediate neighbors are Karma and Nino Meier, and right down the street from Jeffrey Deitch and Matthew Brown.”

Sharif Farrag, Bodach, (2019). Image courtesy the artist and Francois Ghebaly.

Sharif Farrag, Bodach, (2019). Image courtesy the artist and Francois Ghebaly.

The gallery will open with a show of work by Patrick Jackson, and then will shut down for a while. Ghebaly is in conversation with several architects about the space, but hasn’t decided what route he will take.

When the gallery reopens, it will be with a solo show from Sharif Farrag, a young L.A.-based artist. Farrag’s fantastical ceramic sculptures feature a mashup of imagery including body parts, cigarettes, pop-culture cartoon references and imagery from graffiti and skater culture as well as his Syrian-Egyptian heritage. “He’s been building on an incredible body of work,” said Ghebaly.

Patrick Jackson, Heads, Hands and Feet, (2011). Installation view, "Made in L.A. 2020: A Version," The Huntington, Los Angeles, CA.

Patrick Jackson, Heads, Hands and Feet, (2011). Installation view, “Made in L.A. 2020: A Version,” The Huntington, Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is “such an ever-changing city and there is a very exciting group of galleries and a great community that is developing in Hollywood,” Ghebaly said. “L.A. is such a large, wide city that there are many cities within L.A. itself. In Hollywood, something very exciting is happening right now, and I felt like it would be interesting to be a part of it.”

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Arne Glimcher, Artist? The Pace Patriarch Sold a Photograph He Took of His Dog, Max, at the Gallery’s Summer Staff Show

Ah, the summer staff show. It’s a beloved tradition. Every year, as all the VICs (very important collectors) scuttle away to the Hamptons, dealers across New York turn to their employees and say, “Hey, you guys are artists, right? Maybe we should do a group show?”

Some version of that conversation is what brought us “Atmospheres” (through August 20), Pace New York’s humble nod to its staffers’ many creative talents.

The exhibition presents works by nearly 90 Pace employees and contractors from around the world, including examples by Robert John Hodge (an archivist in London), Paul Paillet (an art handler in Geneva), and Natalja Kent (a freelance photographer in Los Angeles). Most of the artists, however, live and work in New York—including one who’s not quite an employee.

I’m speaking, you already know, of Arne Glimcher, the gallery’s founder who established the business way back in 1960 in Boston before relocating it to New York three years later.

Arne Glimcher's photograph of his dog sold for a cool $250 (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation)

Arne Glimcher’s photograph of his dog sold for a cool $250 (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation)

Arne’s contribution to the show is a sight to behold: a lovely little photographic portrait of his dog, Max, a gray schnauzer, covered in a gray blanket that makes him look like a canine Joseph Beuys.

By now, you likely know that Arne’s a filmmaker (he directed Mambo Kings in 1992 and Just Cause three years later), so it probably comes as no surprise that he’s comfortable behind the camera.

But did you also know that his current work revolves around gardening and writing, according to his bio on the website for “Atmospheres”? That was news to me.

All the works in the staff show are for sale, and range from just a few hundred dollars ($225 for Nancy Rattenbury’s black-and-white picture of a lampshade, which comes matted and framed) to five figures (Corey Escoto is selling a bronze sculpture of two hands for $12,000).

Arne’s print, which already found a buyer according to the gallery, is a steal: just $250. And if you’re wondering, the money doesn’t go straight into his wallet. According to the gallery, it went to a charity of the collector’s choice. All they had to do was provide receipt of their donation, and the print was theirs.

Glimcher could not be reached immediately for comment.

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Pace Gallery Jumps Headfirst Into the Crypto-Art Market With a Dedicated NFT Platform

Marc Glimcher, president and CEO of Pace Gallery, and among the most vocal proponents of the crypto-art market—at least among the mega-dealer set—has announced the gallery’s first dedicated platform for selling artists’ NFTs.

Due to open in September, the as-yet-unnamed platform will debut with a series of new NFTs by Lucas Samaras based on his archive of digital prints, making them the 84-year-old artist’s first foray into the medium.

The goal is not to compete with established crypto-art marketplaces such as Nifty Gateway or Rarible, Glimcher told Midnight Publishing Group News, and collaborations will be considered “on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Instead, the platform, which will live on the gallery’s website and be overseen by Christiana Ine-Kimba Boyle, Pace’s online sales director, is intended as an outlet for Pace artists to produce and sell digital artworks while the gallery controls the price point. 

“By offering artists’ work on our own platform, we can better support them in setting appropriate prices and by managing the sales process more seamlessly than through third parties,” Glimcher said.

The impetus, he said, came in part from the gallery’s artists.

“We work with a number of artists who want to make NFTs, so building a dedicated platform where they can show their work is an obvious solution,” he said.

In April, Pace partnered with Urs Fischer on the sale of his first NFT through the auction app Fair Warning, which reportedly caused a rift between the artist and his longtime dealer, Gagosian. The artwork, a digital animation of a lighter merging with an egg, sold for $97,700.

Pace will join forces with Fischer again this month when it hosts an online exhibition of the artist’s NFTs. The show is set to go on view July 21. Later this summer, Pace will showcase an NFT project from one of its newest roster artists, Glenn Kaino.

Pace is also now accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment for all artworks, physical or digital.

“I’m a crypto person,” Glimcher told Bloomberg, which first reported the news of the NFT platform. “It’s really painless to accept crypto. It’s just: Why would you not?”

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Lévy Gorvy Is Dedicating All Four of Its Global Galleries to Mickalene Thomas, a Growing Art-Market Force, This Fall

Mickalene Thomas is going to be all over the world this fall. The artist’s gallery, Lévy Gorvy, is devoting all of its spaces—in New York, London, Paris, and Hong Kong—to a four-part exhibition by the artist that will open on a rolling basis in September and October.

Thomas, who previously showed with Lehmman Maupin, specifically teamed up with Lévy Gorvy for the project.

“I’ve known Mickalene her entire career,” gallery co-founder Dominique Lévy told Midnight Publishing Group News. “I felt that if she had the time, the space, and the creative energy it would be extraordinary to have an exhibition that unfolded in four parts. Wherever you are in our four galleries you can see physical works, and you can still experience the full exhibition online. To me this is really the world of tomorrow.”

The show, titled “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” will include paintings, installations, and videos that continue Thomas’s distinctive exploration of the Black female body “as a realm of power, eroticism, agency, and inspiration,” according to a statement from the gallery.

Thomas’s latest large-scale “Jet” paintings—in which she reclaims images from vintage Jet magazine pin-up calendars—will be shown in New York. Her “Jet Blue” series—which re-situates historical source material to offer a contemporary vision of beauty and identity, will be on view in London. The Paris gallery will feature “Tête de Femme,” Thomas’s reckoning with art-historical predecessors including Picasso, Leger, and Warhol, while Hong Kong will highlight large-scale “Resist” paintings, which focus on Black American civil-rights activism.

Prices for the primary market works range from about $350,000 to $550,000, according to Lévy.

Mickalene Thomas, Resist #2 (2021). © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Mickalene Thomas, Resist #2 (2021). © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Last month, Thomas’s painting Racquel Reclining Wearing Purple Jumpsuit (2016), soared to $1.8 million at a Christie’s evening sale, roughly triple its high $600,000 estimate, and setting a new record for the artist. Several months earlier, in December 2020, another painting, I’ve Been Good to Me (2013), sold at a Phillips New York evening sale for $901,200, also a price that was triple its high $300,000 estimate.

“Auctions will do what auctions do,” Lévy said. “We want to keep the market attractive for collectors, for patrons, for museums, and we want to expand the market,” which means being careful about where and who the gallery sells to.

In addition to strong demand in the U.S., Thomas also has a growing base of fans in Europe, particularly in Paris. In Asia, there is interest, but not yet a following, Lévy said. “We’re hoping to create the same kind of response to her work in Asia.”

The fall show also coincides with the global release of the first monograph devoted to Thomas’s work. It will be published by Phaidon in November.

“Beyond the Pleasure Principle” opens September 9 in New York, September 30 in London, October 7 in Paris, and October 14 in Hong Kong.

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