execute magazine for artists, kurt beer, magazine for artists

Kurt Beers: Bigger Ideas, Bigger Aspirations

 

1. I read a recent article about you in the Montecristo Magazine, in which we discovered a your beginnings as a gallerist in London. I found your story inspiring. Saying that I would like to know in your opinion what challenges galleries face?

Its funny, I watch television programs or read these books in which the protagonist is head of an art gallery: this big, cold, vast white cube which is just there, in the background, to establish that this person is some beacon of glamour – drinking champagne and attending private views. The reality – what most people fail to understand – is that the day to day life of an art gallery director is quite challenging. There’s a lot that goes into creating this tidy little space and I think people tend to think we just hop from one champagne reception to the next. It’s a difficult industry, one that always seems to exist under a swaying guillotine. In his book How to Run an Art Gallery, NYC gallery Director, Ed Winkleman, (who himself is something of an institution with two or three spaces) recounts that a friend of his, owner of a blue-chip space, lives/lived paycheck to paycheck…still opening exhibitions that don’t sell a thing – how scary! Galleries – I mean good spaces – in London and New York (for an example) close far more frequently that one might imagine. When Nettie Horn closed a few years ago, for me that was a real kick in the gut. Similarly, Wilkinson (an East London establishment) closed this past summer. These big, powerful spaces that seemed to have real cultural sway, and then the next instant they are gone. It can be a bit nerving at times, this is my passion and my livelihood, but it is also somehow both Romanticised and vilified. It can be a very tough and competitive industry but who isn’t up for a challenge! At times there tends to be a level of unhealthy competitiveness between peers instead of support, which I would prefer. But working with artists can also be a challenge – and some tend to hold us as ‘the big institutional bad guy’. I/we work hard for artists and want to support them, but we are only one little space with big dreams and there are so, so, so many artists, many of them deserving, but we just cannot work with everyone. And if we do, we want the best for them, and when it works, it’s a brilliant relationship… but sometimes we get thrown aside too, ‘greener pastures’ that sort of thing, which can be disappointing but it is also a reality of the business. In the end, it is my name above the door, we’re a 3-4 person operation…so these strikes can hit hard. Okay, this is starting to sound overly gloomy and that is not my intention – there are a lot of perks too and in the end the ‘many many’ champagne receptions aren’t all that bad. We like Fridays; we have a superstition that people most prefer buying on a Friday. TGIF.

 

2. The ‘100 Painters of Tomorrow’ publication that you have initiated was a big success and brought together painters and inspired galleries to encourage artists to apply. Now you are beginning a new project of “100 Sculptors of Tomorrow’. Could you tell us what inspired you to do all that work for the art market? What makes this book different from other publications that are available on the market?

The book – what we hope will become a series of books – began when talking with an artist who felt that there was a lack of opportunities for emerging painters and when I seriously looked into this I found it to be true. A number of books were directed at emerging artists working across all disciplines; books on a single subject, however encompassing, overlooked emerging artists. As you know monographs tend to focus on a single artist and typically reserved for those who have already gained significant traction in their careers. With the first book, we worked hard to create a template that could be applied to other disciplines. During the writing of the first book we spoke a lot about whether a second book would cover Photography or Sculpture…so we always knew – or hoped – that there would be the desire for a second book in the series. In some way I like to believe that our book on painting has helped to consolidate ‘emerging painting’ today. It has certainly helped to establish many careers of emerging artists and in some cases have launched them entirely. That’s not hyperbole: and it is a very rewarding feeling to know that the book has had such a profound impact. This is one of the overarching goals of this second book on sculpture. Of course, it is a huge undertaking, but we have an absolutely incredible jury that is being featured more prominently this time round, and also given more omniscience by including certain artists of their choosing. I also learned a lot through making 100 Painters – there were a few hiccups that we’ve ironed out this time round after having gone through this process once before.In some way I like to believe that our book on painting has helped to consolidate ‘emerging… Click To Tweet

 

3. Could you tell us about the ‘100 Sculptors of Tomorrow’ project? Who will be part of the project and what is the timeline for it? 

The online open call is running now at www.100sculptorsoftomorrow.com and is open to anyone working in sculpture internationally until 30 November. We are looking at a broad definition of sculpture that will refer to any artwork predominantly defined – but not limited by – its three-dimensionality made by carving, modelling, casting or constructing; or any artwork including installation, site-specificity, and which may also include some two-dimensional work, temporal/video-based work, sound-based and/or performance work. So, with that said, we are prepared to be surprised. The book will be released in autumn 2018 if all goes according to plan. There is a lot of work to be done before that point – a tight turnaround – but worth every minute of the process.The online open call is running now at www.100sculptorsoftomorrow.com and is open to anyone… Click To Tweet

 

4. Personally, I think that painting has become very popular in last ten to fifteen years and almost surpassed the popularity of sculpture. Do you think that there is a new renaissance coming for sculptors?

As much as I like these terms – and I do – rhetoric like Painting Renaissance or Sculptural Renaissance are nice, they get people talking and reinvesting in art, but in reality, we’re always on an upward curve. Every year there are new artists taking the mantle, doing new things, occupying new spaces – both literally and figuratively – and using the technologies available to them. I think there will be a lot of interactive style art; I think we’ll see a lot of multidisciplinary practices: sound, installation, even social-media based work. Perhaps it will segue into yet another book that redefines Photo as New Media. That’s the goal. That’s what I’m looking for here. Work that breaks out of the traditional moulds… Pun not intended.

 

5. Running a gallery, representing artists, and taking on a new project with ‘The 100 Sculptors of Tomorrow’ is a lot. Why is it important to you to be that involved to so many time-consuming projects?

Are they time consuming? Yes. I don’t think of it that way. We are a small gallery with big ideas and even bigger aspirations. Its my job, its my passion, and we want to be leaders in our field. It’s a long road but we’re excited about what the future holds both for the 100 Artists legacy and also for Beers London gallery.

 

6. As a gallery director, could you tell us what is the biggest challenge for you in running a gallery?

I think I answered this above :).

 

7. What would be your advise to young artists who want to get galleries interested in their work?

Lets start with the negative: never write a BCC style email to a gallery (“dear gallery”); never tell a gallery you are desperate to show with anyone in their city, I actually get these types of emails; learn a little bit about a gallery before you email them. Let’s be realistic, like most people I do not have a lot of extra time and I get emails from artists hourly. I often think – why should I consider your work when you haven’t told me why you think you’re a fit for my gallery? Which artist’s on my roster do you like? Why are you asking me and not my neighbouring gallery or are you just writing this email to everyone? If you can’t take the time to personalize an email, then, it makes it much more difficult for me to want to look at your work – it is as simple as that. Also, never approach a gallerist in their office with work unless you’ve been invited, and never punt your own work at an art fair – under any circumstances.

The positive: get to know a gallery and their program. Start a casual rapport. They want to be able to recognize your name and your work – at the very least your Instagram handle. In one respect it is even easier to make yourself known to a gallery through social media. Comment on their program. Show up at gallery openings. Toss something in the post – old-school style. Be brief. I want to have a good, positive idea of who you are and what your work and practice is about and I am mindful that these things take time. They are relationships that will foster and need time to be nurtured so don’t expect too much too soon. I am human – I’m not the enemy, and truthfully the most exciting part of my job is discovering new creative talent so don’t be shy!

 

8. You are Canadian, but you permanently live in London. Could you tell me if you think the same success you achieved in London would be possible in Toronto or Vancouver? 

Yes, I think that I could have been but it is a smaller market with both pros and cons. It is also a different market in many respects to London and to be totally honest I don’t know the Vancouver and/or Toronto art scene as good as I once did so find it difficult to comment further. London is a tough market but a fascinating one and it’s one of only a hand full of cities that has its finger so firmly on the ‘art pulse’ – New York being the exception. I love London, I owe a lot to my success to being in London and I don’t see myself not doing this while here. That said, I would love to open a second space in NYC, eventually.

 

9. What about your background do you think has made your success possible?

I think that the good old fashion values of hardwork and honesty have served me well over time. As my father always said, ‘A lazy man works double’ and there is a lot of truth to that expression. Certainly, my post-secondary education, professional relationships/employment and the acquired knowledge along the way have each added to the tapestry of my background. Success…how is it measured and how does one quantify their own success? I often refer to our gallery as ‘the little engine that could’ and I suppose that so long our ‘little engine’ keeps on track then I will be happy!

Comments

comments