> Collecting and the Ecosystem of Fine Art Photography
> Consuming, Collecting or Networking?
> The Contemporary Custodian: A Commercial Perspective
> Value is Not Solely Monetary
> Collecting as a Journey of Discovery: Premiere League or the Fringe Fairs?
> Culturally we are very Different…
> The Responsible Collector
> Making a Future Impact
Dónall is a Partner in the accountancy practice Byrne Curtin Kelly. He is also President of the Chambers Ireland, one of the country’s largest business organizations, representing businesses throughout Ireland.
Dónall is a member of board of the Abbey Theatre which is Ireland’s national theatre. He was also recently appointed a director of European Movement Ireland. He is a patron and a consumer of the Arts, having worked with several organizations to promote the role of the Arts within Ireland.
A keen collector of photography and along with his wife Anne, they sponsor the The Curtin O’Donoghue Photography Prize and the Curtin O’Donoghue Emerging Photography prize for the RHA annual exhibition in Ireland.
Nathaniel Pitt is both an artist and gallerist, he is the director of Division of Labour and PITT projects. Recent curatorial projects have included Dymaxion Playground; a public art project by Gavin Wade. Est. 1690.; Newspaper/art commission with Robert Barry. ARTIST ROOMS: Joseph Beuys; a performance programme with Mikhail Karikis.
Nathaniel was recently shortlisted and selected as a contributor on the inaugural De Appel Gallerist programme, he has developed an international profile for his gallery, with past presentations in Rotterdam, NY, Hong Kong and Switzerland and future presentations in Hungry, Austria, Dallas, Belgium and Lithuania. Nathaniel is currently working with the new Library of Birmingham as a Curatorsí Bursary recipient researching the relationship between sculpture and photography.
Collecting and the Ecosystem of Fine Art Photography
NFS: It’s great to be with Dónall Curtin, a renowned collector, and Nathaniel Pitt, an emerging gallerist, talking about the ecology of fine art photography.
The plan is to talk about what it means to be a collector, what it means to be a gallerist, and what that perhaps means for artists and photographers today.
NP: Collectors, to an emerging gallerist like myself, are really important. More than just acquiring work, it is actually the dialogue that goes on about works of art that is important. So as obvious as this may be, to the question “why collect photography?” I suppose you could answer, “Why not?” But could you tell the NEWFOTOSCAPES community a little bit about how you started collecting photography?
DC: It is like many things in life, it comes about in many different stages. When I was in school, I did some photography myself. I used to do my own black and white developing, and I was always fascinated by photography, so there was always, from a very young age, a connection.
My wife Anne and I both evolved into collecting art. It is like any journey. It started in the very traditional way, in the comfort zone, originally driven by us not wanting to live with bare walls. It was that simple idea that something can be put up on the wall, and it changes that living space, whether it’s that of your kitchen, bedroom or living room. Then, more and more, we learnt, progressed and experimented, and we sometimes pushed our own boundaries. Photography was a natural extension of that.
I view it in a very simple way. Art is possibly around 40,000-years-old, if you go back to cave paintings. Photography was thought to be invented 1826 or something around then. This means photography has had a relatively short time span in which to experiment to the same extent as other visual art practices.
What we became very much aware of was that the world is a much smaller place now. We all appreciate and engage with both different countries and cultures, and people travel much more. Contemporary art, I would argue, is the one true international language. If you go to China, the contemporary art practice there, whether it is painting on canvas or photography, has its own way. The same applies, if you travel to Brazil or North America, in New York, London or Dublin.
NP: Was that progression toward experimentation an easy one to make? With something that you were concentrating on, like photography, what was the first thing you collected? Have your choices changed over time dramatically?
DC: I suppose the first image we collected was a typical portrait of a very beautiful lady, but I became comfortable with that and it grew from that. Then, particularly if you move into any degree of installation, video or abstract work, you have to challenge yourself in how to engage with it, how to live with a piece, or how you don’t live with a piece. There is also a stepping-stone as you experiment with one particular artist. I would do a lot of reading, a lot of research, and a lot of collating of information. It is about that journey for me. As I like to get to know an artist, understand their influences, or the way they are progressing, that knowledge can then ping-pong into a different area. There is a ‘cause and effect’.
Consuming, Collecting or Networking?
NP: Where do you go to see art or photography. Is there a difference for you between an art fair and a museum exhibition? Do you have a preferred way of engaging with work?
DC: There are many different ways I have of doing so. I know you refer to me as a collector, which is a title that is often used. However, I regard myself as more of a ‘consumer’ than a collector because it is not that I can ever say, “I want to own every piece of art in the world,” or “I want to have an example of everything.” Yes, I want to be able to enjoy and interact with them, but there are lots of works that I would never be able to afford. I would want to see them and engage with them, but short of trying to go in at nighttime and take them under my arm… (Laughter).
For me, there is also a lifestyle balance. My wife and I both travel quite a bit for our respective jobs, and one of the things I do, as a counterbalance, particularly with the UK if I am going over to London or somewhere like that is, rather than get the redeye flight in the morning, have a meal, get the last flight home, and be knackered for a few days afterwards, I will travel mid-morning, stay overnight, meet up with friends and have a bite to eat. I took out memberships with a lot of the public spaces, so that keeps me in touch with what was going on.
NP: Does it ever work the other way around? Do the exhibitions dictate where you might be doing certain business?
DC: Unfortunately, not. If there is something I want to see strongly enough, I will go over, myself, and see it, even if it is not a business-related thing. To come back to your original question, I do engage with commercial galleries. Commercial galleries, if they are in Dublin, they are on my doorstep. Like any gallerist, they are going to have eight to nine shows in a year. If you respect the gallerist and you respect the ethos where they are coming from, you will go to see their shows. Sometimes, the opening nights are not always the most appropriate because they are more of a social gathering than a chance to really engage. But sometimes they are also a chance to meet and engage with the artist.
Commercial galleries do introduce you to new and different artists.
NP: There is no one-way of attraction, then?
DC: No. For anybody collecting art, whether it is photography or any other visual art form, you are always going to put something on the wall, and your best mate will come in and say, “Jesus, my grandmother could have done that. That is not art,” or whatever else.
It doesn’t really matter a damn, because if you like it, are enjoying it, and are living with it, that is all right. It’s not necessarily that you are viewing it as an investment, where you are keeping it somewhere before it flitters on. It is an emotional journey for us.
NP: That would seem to suggest quite a different relationship from considering yourself as a consumer rather than as a collector?
DC: We were over in New York a couple of years ago. In visual arts, my love is Marlene Dumas. I don’t know if you would know her. They would sell for ridiculous prices, but there was a particular opening of her work. We managed to gatecrash the opening. We blagged our way in. It was extraordinary to see that work, which she did in Palestine. I would never have one of those pieces, but being able to engage as a consumer in that sort of way, those images are etched in my mind.
NFS: Do you have colleagues and friends who also collect, or is it a solitary pursuit for you?
DC: I know lots of collectors. In fact, I probably know more English collectors than I know Irish collectors. That is partly a reflection of the economic times in Ireland, but also, there is a much stronger tradition in the UK, and in France, Germany and the US, than there is in Ireland. It is like anything in life. People sometimes collect for the right reasons and for the wrong reasons. You can see people who have made their billions who want to build a museum to house their collection, and they will then employ curators, one-to-one, and will say, “I want an Andy Warhol,” “I want a Francis Bacon,” or whatever, and they are ticking boxes because they think that is what the collection needs. They don’t reflect their personality, their loves or their engagement.
NFS: There are also interesting networks around photography collectors. Alan Griffiths runs a website called ‘Luminous Lint’, which is about historical and archive contemporary photography. Recently, on Facebook, he posted snapshots of all the other collectors that he spotted at ‘Paris Photo’. It was like: “This is the group of people I mix with.” It seemed to suggest there are conversations taking place about who is collecting what, because they perhaps don’t want to be in competition or asking for advice and guidance on things.
NP: Interestingly, among gallerists, we have talked about how important Instagram has become. People are posting images when they’re going around the fairs and saying this and that. It is actually amazing how many collectors are using Instagram as well, which is something I didn’t expect.
DC: Most collectors will be very open and engaging. There is a UK organisation over here that we are members of and I have a lot of time and respect for, which is the Contemporary Artists Society, based in London. They try to push contemporary art out of London and around the rest of the UK, and they do it in a very refreshing way.
The Contemporary Custodian: A Commercial Perspective
NP: As a gallerist, I believe it is important to consider the actual placing of work and not just the selling of work. That could be thinking about locating works in accessible places where private collectors are open to loaning the work out to public institutions. It makes me wonder, how much are contemporary artists thinking about this side of their work too? And how much consideration do they give to the editioning and versioning of their work?
DC: I think it is incredibly important for artists to approach it like that because a big problem is artists are extraordinarily creative in what they create, but rarely do they have skill-sets on the business or commercial sides of things. Like everyone else, they have to pay the bills and they have to live. Also, particularly with photography, fabrication costs can be massive. To any emerging artist, that can be the single biggest barrier. There are two problems that can arise in particular.
I did a talk in the National Gallery of Photography in Dublin about a year ago. It was mainly artists who were there. I said one thing, and I could immediately see by the reaction in the room that I had really hit on a sore point. So many photographic artists might not even sell their first edition, so their bed gets pushed up because they are stacking all the pieces underneath the bed. As this starts happening, first of all, they start getting damaged at corners, so then they become unusable which ultimately becomes very demotivating for an artist.
The second problem is that some institutions can be very abusive of their position in terms of giving to an artist. They won’t pay artist fees, or they will say, “We want you to do the show here. You go off and cover the fabrication costs. It is on your CV and it is good promotion, but there are no artist fees paid.” The good ones will always pay because they respect the role and the relationship, but that is, beneath the surface, one of the big political problems that is out there.
NFS: Do you think about the legacy of the works you acquire? I don’t know whether you’ve ever thought about foundations or things like that?
DC: It is a relevant question. I just haven’t come up with the answer. It is a thing that Anne and I have discussed a lot. We are the contemporary custodians of a piece. The one thing I would be very fussy about, for want of a better word, is the ‘conservation’ of work in terms of how I store it, how I hang it, or anything else like that. Particularly for photographic pieces, it can be very easy for work to be damaged. The conservation of work is something that is always foremost in my mind. Where it is going to go in 40 or 50 years’ time when we are dust? I don’t know, but we do want something to happen with it so that it doesn’t just get put in a skip or something like that. Our collection has become too much a part of our lives that way.
NFS: Nat, how do you choose which artists you represent? Are your judgements based on the people whose work you like? Given you run a commercial proposition, do you select artists whose work you know you can place and sell? How do you make a dividing line between the two, or do you seek an overlap?
NP: In terms of Division of Labour, which is my gallery, and the artists that I work with, I am very interested in those issues. That is why Division of Labour exists, because I am interested in how these artists are seen within a legacy of their work. For one reason or another, I am not happy with their position currently, so I want to improve it. The artists I am working with are, I think, really important artists, and I like their work. It may not necessarily represent my taste, as I collect as well, on a very small scale, but a lot of the work I buy is very different from the work I represent. But “no” is the simple answer, I choose the artists I believe in, that are important to art history.
Those are quite grand ambitions actually for quite a small gallery, but I am aware of that.
NFS: In terms of conservation, do you think it is better to loan work through private and public collaboration?
DC: There is always a risk factor when loaning work. We are very open on that, as long as there is due diligence from hand-over to being returned to us. I suppose the driving force for myself and Anne is that we also want to help the artist. It is not about, “We own that.” This is part of their work, so if there is a particular exhibition on and a particular curator wants to draw on that particular work, because they regard it as definitive or whatever the case is, once there is a process, we would want to encourage and support that.
NFS: Do you feel that you have more of an affinity with the commercial or public gallery scene?
DC: Sometimes, there are barriers and perceived barriers. The commercial gallery can be intimidating, where people say, “I need to have a Masters in Art Theory to engage with the work.” That is why with public spaces, because they are able to say, “This is a public space,” they are much more comfortable in engaging with it.
One of the great attractions with photography I would argue is that, as an art form, it is much more democratic than sculpture or canvas, say, because we all have our iPhones or camera phones, and we all take our holiday snaps and family snaps. When it comes to looking at a photograph or anything, people are much more comfortable at engaging with it. They are not feeling so intimidated: “Do I have the knowledge base or not?” They can look and say, “Yes, I connect with it. I like it,” or “No, I don’t like it,” but perhaps can understand it.
Value is Not Solely Monetary
NFS: I think there have been and perhaps will continue to be various moments within photography’s lineage which can be deemed to offer accessibility and connection. Given this context, what is intriguing is how, as a collector and gallerist, you both understand and define the value of a photograph?
DC: I think at first there has to be a visceral response, this could be positive or negative. The work, for whatever reason has to stick or resonate. In some cases this can be all it takes.
NP: Absolutely, Dónall and I have talked previously about value and we believe great art and photography exists with and without its commodification and that any value it may have is not solely monetary. So the value and the validation of an artists work comes through various established pathways and structures: representation, publications, publicity, reviews, exhibitions, artfairs and the biennales ? these are the standard processes of validation. However, photography and, to be more concise, technology, does and will continue to upset this status quo.
So, to answer the question, I understand and define the value of art , in a similar way as Dónall, but in most cases I refine the value judgement by following those established validation routes. Firstly, we would research an artist, looking at their experience and exhibition history. I think all art has a monetary value. I recently saw a Robert Storr lecture about the crisis in the markets, and he said all good art will be sold for some monetary value in time, it is just a matter of whether the artist is dead or alive. Going back to these pathways to validation, photography does have a lineage in accessibility, and it’s development can be traced with the advancement in the technology which might, as I said, upset the status quo – in that we are now able to see great photos on our smart phone, iPad and laptop. So who knows how the future will effect the consumption of art? But I suspect photography will be at the coalface of this debate. Will collectors stop collecting? I don’t know? Music consumption has changed, but people still buy CD’s and vinyl and go to gigs.
NFS: Indeed, the wider effect both socially and culturally of digital technology and production is fast evolving and fascinating. In this space do you worry at all about the longevity of any of the work that you own?
DC: One of my favourite pieces, which is in the living room and I look at nearly every night, even if I am watching TV, is a Nan Goldin. It is not digital, but a lot of other work would be, so it can cross over that way. I have a respect for vintage photography, but I don’t have a particular interest in going down that road in terms of collecting. Photography is very fragile, and it is the hardest to take care of, particularly if it is mounted on aluminium. The corners are so fragile, and even with scratches. It is like anything fragile. It is just caution and care in where you hang it, and that you are not putting it into direct sunlight. Even without direct sunlight, there is an oxidation that takes place. That is part and parcel, and we have noticed deteriorations.
Collecting as a Journey of Discovery: Premiere League or the Fringe Fairs?
NP: Geographically speaking, in terms of buying photography where do you go? Do you visit all your local Dublin galleries, and which art fairs do you seek to attend?
DC: In terms of buying and engaging in the buying side of things, it comes down to five areas. The main areas are the art fairs, the auction markets, the commercial galleries, directly from the artist, and then there are graduate shows. To add to that on the engagement side of it, rather than buying, there are the public spaces, shows and exhibitions. The fairs can be a bit like cattle markets because the focus is on the sleazier side of commerciality. At this year’s ‘Paris Photo’ it took us two days fully to engage properly. If you try to do it too quickly, there is a visual overload that comes in and you are missing the subtleties of work.
I used to scribble things in my notebook and then half the time, I couldn’t read my own writing. Now, my iPhone is that notebook. If I’ve seen something, I might not recognise the artist. I will photograph the image, the nametag and the gallery name. It allows me then to go off and at a later stage, sit down in the in-between times, do research, collect more information, and then if I want to get publications on that particular artist, to add to the research or whatever, I can. There is a journey and a process in that way, an etching in my mind of particular artists who are on the radar.
We have gone to quite a range of art fairs. It is not every year that we go to every one of them. It is like everything else: it is what happening. We like ‘ARCOmadrid’, the ‘Brussels Art Fair’, and ‘Frieze’ in London. I haven’t been to ‘Frieze’ in New York, but I have been to ‘Armory’ in New York, and I’ve been to Basel. I suppose in terms of the huge commerciality, you are talking about ‘Frieze’, ‘Armory’ and ‘Basel’. They’re the Premier League in terms of that commerciality side of things. If I take ‘Armory’ in New York as an example, there are fringe fairs. There might be ‘SCOPE’…
DC: ‘VOLTA’, or ones like that. It is often at those fringe fairs, that there is much more engaging work because there is a lot of pressure on the commercial focus. There is some very exciting work that comes through on that side of things. I should also add that apart from art fairs, you also have the likes of ‘dOCUMENTA’ and ‘Venice Biennale’. The great appeal of these is that they are not just for collectors, particularly ‘dOCUMENTA’. They refresh and bring a re-engagement with them. Sometimes, the general public is not aware of that sort of thing, but by going there, what you bring back can be very powerful.
NFS: Is there a concern over the proliferation of art fairs and their dominance on the art market? Can this lead to a disconnection with the artist?
NP: It is really difficult for gallerists too in this age of over-proliferation. There are 200 art fairs and these could be considered as international art fairs now. Then, there are all the satellite fairs. It is becoming more and more difficult to know which fairs to show at and which collectors go to which fairs. There is an awful lot of research that has to take place, time and energy which really we would like to be spending on looking after the artists we are working with.
DC: I don’t know how to reverse it because there is also a laziness that comes with art fairs from the museum side of things and even certain collectors, where they say, “I don’t need to go to the galleries. I will just go to the art fairs and see what is fashionable or great at that time.” I do believe it is about developing the right policy and strategy as an organisation and saying, “Okay, we are going to support contemporary art practice. Every year, we are going to spend a certain amount of money and we are going to buy that in from, for argument’s sake, emerging artists.” Then, suddenly, over a 10-year period, there could be an extraordinary collection built up. If they wait 10 years and then say, “Well, okay, these are the ones we want,” they are not only paying a premium, but they are paying much more than can be afforded in terms of public money.
There is a responsibility for public organisations to engage with local politicians and get them to see the cultural values of long-term planning, rather than just short-term political thinking in terms of fitting to a budget.
Culturally we are very Different…
NFS: How do you see the distinction between the term you have adopted, as ‘gallerist’, and someone you might call a ‘dealer’?
NP: I travelled extensively last year, and I realised there is a difference. In Europe, we are very proud of this thing where we are gallerists and there is an integrity behind it, but if you go to Asia or New York, it is very different. You are a dealer and that is what you do. Culturally, we are very different, obviously, but that is not to say that because you are a dealer, you don’t care about art. I suppose I work within the European tradition that a gallery is a really important place. ‘Art’ doesn’t become art until it goes into a gallery. In a studio, I would debate whether art is art. Galleries are important because they are different, run by individuals, not employed, each with their own rationale and way of looking at art – this difference can only be a good thing and why in the hierarchy of galleries often the younger ones have more experimental and diverse programmes.
DC: When you refer to China, to put it into context, China has only really emerged and changed since Mao. There has only been 30-odd years of change, and most of that change is in the past 10 years. China now has a bigger middle-class population than the US. The US is the biggest market economy in the world, and yet China, in terms of purchasing power… As a consequence, when you take the art auction houses in China, the total volume of the sales of those exceeds Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips de Pury for the rest of the world put together, such are the volumes there.
Although, there is currently a focus on the traditional, there is a maturing of the nation’s dealings with contemporary art which is just part of the commercial journey.
NFS: Would you say there are other differences between the established and emerging international markets?
NP: Yes, however globally there is a lot of hearsay and speculation. You hear all sorts: Africa is the next best thing, and South American collectors are more sophisticated than European collectors ? all sorts of stupid generalisations. And I’m ashamed to say, there is an enjoyment in the idea of discovering a new land of opportunity. I try not to get involved with these conversations with other gallerists over post-art fair drinks, but it does happen. In truth, it’s all too early in the scheme of things, the market changes so rapidly and is so new.
The Responsible Collector
NP: Dónall can I ask you, is owning art for you ever a strategic decision?
DC: No. A lot of collectors are over-advised by so-called ‘professionals’ who say, “You must collect within a certain theme, a certain gender or a certain niche.” I have no problem with that. There is a one collector of ours who is a very good friend based in London who will only collect text-based work. That motivates him and he has a passion about it, and that is great. It comes in so many different ways. I do have a problem if a professional comes out and says, “You must only collect text-based work because this is what you want to define…” It has to come from within. If someone wants to be more eclectic, so be it. It is a bit like art school with the students saying, “Well, this is the way you must do it.” It would stifle creativity.
NP: Do you take any curatorial advice for your collection?
DC: Yes, but believe me, I debate back and argue back. It is a two-way process. I don’t accept, just because I am being given curatorial advice, that I should take it on automatically. But as it is teased out, with certain parts, I will say, “Yes, that makes great sense. Let’s follow that particular track,” or “No, I am not buying that.”
As a collector, do you see that the work you collect and the decisions that you make need to have responsibility in their own right as well? In other words, do you regard the legacy you are putting together in the same way that a public collection would be required to have a mission statement, as a collector who is regarded and seen in a certain light, do you have to maybe consider that too?
DC: I suppose there are two responsibilities. There is one short-term and one long-term. The long-term responsibility: we haven’t identified for ourselves what is going to happen at all at some stage in the future. Yes, we want something to happen. It is too precious to simply wish to sell it or anything like that.
In the short term, there are a couple of different responsibilities. One of them is supporting the artist, which includes the lending of the work and supporting the artist in terms of exposure and that side of things. The other side of support in terms of the artist: I am not sure of the UK figures, but with visual artists, whether photographic or canvas, in Ireland, you are talking about 80% of practising artists that would earn less than, say, £15,000 a year from that as their chosen trade. They would supplement it with other income, whether it was teaching, working in an institution, waiting, or whatever the case was. To be a practising artist is very difficult by the very nature of it.
If we see something that we personally engage with, like or connect to, there is a responsibility as to how you nurture that relationship. Often, with certain artists, I would have a friendship where I would keep in touch. I would mentor, or talk to them in a more informal way than mentoring.
It is very easy to loose hope, their needs to be more support mechanisms. Certain parts of the art world connect socially, but not in a formal structure. I have argued there needs to be much more development around giving skill-sets to artists and photographers to understand the commercial world, but also how they form cooperatives, support themselves, promote themselves, collectively feed off each other, and have the critical interaction at a professional level, which is very important.
Therefore I see that our responsibility can take many shapes and forms. It is not always just about the ownership of a particular art piece.
Making a Future Impact
NFS: Is there too much pressure on the young photographer to simply seek acceptance and success within the commercial gallery?
DC: There are many different conflicts out there, but there are also many different income streams available, whether it is a bursary from the Arts Council or from a public institution. There is a responsibility of art colleges, artists’ communities and other support mechanisms to understand all these things.
If photographers become lazy and don’t continue to explore and push their own intellectual boundaries, and how they express that artistically, they are going to die. It might not be this year, but it is going to happen at some stage.
All I am saying is, let’s educate and let’s have that discussion or debate. It is not that they must just go straight from an art school into a commercial gallery, get up on the walls, and have me, as a collector buying their work. I want them to understand the artistic world.
NP: I think you are right. The thirst for such acceptance from younger artists has been exacerbated by the proliferation of art fairs as well, and because of the amount of strain on galleries to put on artists’ work, they are seeking younger and younger artists to show at too early a stage.
DC: Particularly in London, I see the way the graduate shows are exploited and the access that is given to commercial galleries before anyone else can get in. Then, if you are a small fish in a big gallery, you can be dumped very quickly, and there is a lot of manipulation that goes with it. The time to educate is before they are accessing into that.
NFS: It brings us back to the importance of making the work and then considering the market afterwards. This in turn seems to reinforce what you were saying about building up relationships, whether that is with the gallery because you respect what they are doing, or the photographers for the work they are producing.
With the emerging photographer, do you see it as a leap of faith that they are going to continue with that pursuit? Are you hoping to buy into their story and trusting their future trajectory?
DC: Yes and no. If they crash and burn and give up art or photography, they must make their own choices. I am still going to get the emotional attachment to that particular piece that we bought. I am not looking at it ostensibly from a value point of view. As someone who is used to the business world and strategic planning, I see sometimes the lack of it in the art world, so I have a certain feeling towards that, particularly with emerging artists.
There are people who will not buy emerging artists’ work because they will go, “If this person disappears after a year or two, I am left holding the baby.”
It is still a baby. (Laughter).
NFS: Do you try and draw other connections between your role in business and collecting, and does this go as far as seeking to influence or affect policy in the arts?
DC: I hang artwork in my offices. Some of the staff members would love some pieces. Others would be horrified, but that is part of it, and I like that engagement that it draws out of them.
Also, I have certain skill-sets from the business world. I have a passion for the art world, so I will try to make those skill-sets available to the art world. For example, I sit on the Board of Directors of the Visual Arts of Ireland, which is effectively the representative body that deals with all the visual arts in Ireland.
I wouldn’t want to see any art institution, for argument’s sake, run by a board of directors of all accountants, lawyers or engineers. Like good governance in all structures, you draw on different skill-sets, so that there is an accountant, a lawyer, an artist, a curator, and a psychologist. Particularly when finances are very tight, in the art world, there isn’t the same focus on money as there is in the commercial world, which means that bills can be run up and then suddenly that body or structure is out of business. If there is someone there who is questioning them on that side of things, it keeps things on course.
It doesn’t mean we should always do things simply because there is going to be a revenue stream. It is a balancing of responsibilities.
NP: It can also work the other way with artists on the boards of public companies. In the 1970s John Latham and Barbara Steveni pioneered the Artist Placement Group, which was incredible but unfortunately very short-lived.
DC: I think you are dead right on this. Artists have extraordinary creativity. The way they think and look at different things can be very powerful.