Survey: We Asked Leading Gallerists…

What’s the one thing you look for when taking on a new artist?

Adam Stone
Director, LON Gallery

A non-negotiable for me when looking for an emerging artist is for someone who already has a highly developed level of maturity and commitment to their practice. Sometimes artists find success easily and early, which although wonderful, maybe means they haven’t had the opportunity to develop the endurance and grit to weather the ups and downs of an art career. I’m looking for staying power and whether or not the artist has found success yet or not is less important.

Paul Greenaway

There are many factors when taking on a new artist. Clearly, you must really like and understand their work and hope that you can assist them in the way they expect. I look at their past exhibiting history for any red flags. But if I was to name one thing above these it would be their obsessiveness to work, regardless of sales or exhibitions, reviews or attention.

Kate Nodrum
Gallery Manager, Charles Nodrum Gallery

Dad and I discuss many things when considering a new artist: what sort of history we have with the artist and/or their work; whether the work (and to a degree the artist) will fit with our exhibition style and clientele. But probably most importantly we look for quality in the work, and for confidence that the artist is dedicated to extending their practice while maintaining that craftsmanship.

Sotiris Sotiriou
Director, COMA Gallery

The main thing I look for in an artist is an inspired perspective. Whether dealing with issues of a more serious nature or looking at the intricacies of everyday life, an artist must possess the intelligence to address their chosen subject matter with a uniqueness that implores a viewer to empathise.

Sarah Hibbs
Director, Yavuz Gallery

Right now? I want to hear new stories and unique perspectives from artists. To that end, Yavuz Gallery Sydney prioritises working with underrepresented demographics that have historically experienced barriers breaking into the commercial art sector in Australia.

Jessica Velasquez
Director, James Makin Gallery

I look for something I feel I haven’t seen before. It has to have me intrigued. If I’m still thinking about it a week later, it’s a good sign others will too. If it makes me feel nothing at all it’s not the right fit. Then I ask myself ‘Can I sell this?’ And then, ‘Does it matter if it sells? It’s so good anyway’. I also ask myself if I can work with this artist. Some personalities clash and representing an artist is like asking them to join your family. You need to get along.

Emma Bett
Director, Bett Gallery

I would have to say it is imagination. Of course, it’s needs to be strongly backed by a strong work ethic and skill, but it is a dynamic imagination that first attracts my attention.

Marita Smith
Director, Gallerysmith

There is no single thing which deter- mines whether or not I take someone on, but when I am considering an artist, their current work needs to express where they have come from, where they are now and where they are going.

Sally Dan-Cuthbert
Director, Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert

That’s a hard one as there are a few things I actually look for but if I have to choose one, it’s passion.

Michael Reid
Chairman and Director, Michael Reid Gallery

Professionalism. After all, the originality and quality of an artist’s visual practice has, through a series of discussions, already brought us to the point of considering gallery representation. What is often the tipping point, to the gallery moving forward, is my belief that the artist has within them the professional maturity to work collaboratively and consistently in a timely fashion to meet the high expectations of our clients and my colleagues.

Andy Dinan
Director, MARS Gallery

When we take on a new artist it’s always about one thing: the work. Does it make me ask questions, does it leave me wanting to see more? If I can remember the images, if I thirst to see more – that is what I want to show. The last artist we took on was Jenna Lee. I can clearly see the work she showed me, and it intrigues me, it connects and stirs within me.

Rhianna Walcott
Associate Director, Artereal Gallery

Talent, obviously, and a unique way of viewing the world. This is essential to the creation of good art. But perhaps most importantly, a strong basis for trust. The relationship between gallerist and artist is basically akin to marriage, so trust is essential to get you past all the inevitable hurdles.

Featured image: Kate Wallace, On the Inside, 2021. Oil on board, framed 17 x 12.5cm. Courtesy: the artist and LON Gallery, Melbourne.

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 96, April to June 2021.


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