With about 20 years’ experience working in London’s energetic and ever-changing art scene, independent curator and gallerist Kristian Day shares with us his journey creating his own path towards doing what he truly loves. A believer in the importance of a strong connection between gallery and artist, Day’s own close relationships and involvement with the artists he works with can be seen in his work as a curator through his compelling exhibitions. Day discusses the ups and downs of being an independent curator, as finding permanent space for exhibitions in a city where costly rents continue to rise is often a struggle.
Originally hailing from the Yorkshire city of Hull, where the curator formerly taught Art History, Day has put together an impressive number of unique exhibitions, with the most recent being “The Diamond Sea” at Saatchi Gallery, with artwork including paintings with an assortment of different styles as well as cyanotype work on paper. Desiring to create a platform to sell more affordable artwork to a wider variety of audiences, Kristian Day has also launched Paper Cuts, which sells high quality works on paper by a wide range of artists.
We are delighted to collaborate with Kris as our guest curator for ArtMaze’s Winter print Edition of 2018. Check out our new call for art and submit your work for a chance to be published (deadline: November 30th, 2017).
Join us as we hear about the ins and outs of making your own way in the art world, the joy and satisfaction that comes from seeing your vision come to life, and the unforgettable stories you gain along the way.
site de rencontre pour londres AMM: Hi Kristian, it’s great to be able to talk about your experiences and share some of your knowledge with ArtMaze community. You’ve spent almost 20 years working for London’s leading commercial galleries. Could you tell us more about these experiences and your observations in regards to how different galleries and artists work together and how they develop their relationships?
KD: Hi Maria, good question! I actually began my career in academia, lecturing in Art History back in my hometown of Hull. Most of my students were on the fine art courses so I was very much used to being around studios by the time I moved down to London to start working for galleries. I mention this as I always found it strange how separated the galleries felt from the studio practice of the artists they represented. To a certain extent the studios were treated like a warehouse, supplying inventory to be sold, and that never sat comfortably with me. I’m not saying all galleries are like this, I was always jealous of those that had closer relationships with artists and I’m fully aware that commercial pressures can force some dealers into this situation but feel it’s worth the extra effort to strike that balance. There’s a reason I got into this business in the first place, and that is to work closely with artists, if it was just to make money I’d have quit a long time ago!
go to site AMM: In 2016 you took the step of working independently and promoting emerging and mid-career artists in the UK. Did you always want to be an independent curator or was there something that gradually led you through your career to this kind of work?
KD: There was a point a few years ago where I was considering leaving all this behind and starting a whole new career. I’d grown despondent with it all and felt like I was stuck in a loop, a Cork Street groundhog day! However, I’d started to notice the odd artist here and there that I admired, and frankly wished I could be working with. I’m not sure what happened but before I knew it I was going to private views every night after work. I’d make lists of pretend exhibitions that I’d have liked to put on but had no idea how to go about it, or really what I was doing it for! It reached a point that I realised that I couldn’t work full time for someone else, I had to just get out there and get involved. So I quit my job, after 13 years and basically spent the summer of 2016 gallery hopping and doing studio visits with no clear idea of what it was all for, other than a personal need to get back into the kind of art I’d always loved. Eventually, my pal Chris Mooney from the brilliant Arcade, took pity on me and told me to put on a show in his space in Old Street and that’s where it all started…thanks Chris, it’s all your fault! From there I was invited to work with various galleries and spaces over London, putting on 10 shows in the first year.
So, to answer the question, I didn’t necessarily want to be a curator but I did feel a NEED to put together shows with the artists I admired.
http://arbhojpuri.com/?b=where-do-i-buy-cialis-over-the-counter&f6b=2a AMM: In your new role as an independent curator, what are the toughest and most rewarding parts of your job? What does your working day look like?
KD: It’s always a challenge doing what I do, finding the venues, finding the artists…hoping that someone will turn up! There are so many stressful aspects to the role, I don’t think I’ve ever put on a show without some minor catastrophe happening along the way but I won’t bore your readers with them! Plus, it all becomes worthwhile when the exhibition opens and everything has come together. There’s a wonderful moment after every private view when you know it’s all gone well and all the hard work has paid off…usually just before I collapse in exhaustion.
My working day usually starts with me worrying that I don’t have anything to do, and ends with me worrying about having time to finish everything… me worrying about having time to finish everything I need to do! There is no average day but more often than not I’ll be arranging a studio visit, which is the part of the job I enjoy most.
rencontre ado AMM: Are you getting closer to a permanent gallery? How difficult is it to find a space/gallery/studio for a show in London?
KD: I’m still working towards a permanent space. It’s funny as I get asked a lot about my nomadic projects as people are starting to look at this kind of thing as a viable alternative to the struggling gallery system whereas I’ve always aimed to have my own space and only started this kind of programme out of necessity rather than design. I’ve been very lucky so far in finding galleries to work with, that said I am always on the look out for interesting new spaces and love to hear from people interested in a collaboration. When the gallery does eventually open I’ll still want to carry on doing collaborative external events here, there and everywhere, it’s fascinating how different spaces have such different atmospheres. I’ve changed entire shows previously as I like to build them around the space in question. The Love, Peace & Happiness exhibition I curated at the Menier Gallery changed completely from its original concept for example. It was originally going to have a cartoonish, humorous feel yet the venue, with its bare brick, steel girders and wooden floors commanded something less frivolous and more sincere.
KD: I wouldn’t really want to tell anyone how to curate their own shows other than I feel it’s important to try and find your own way of doing things. Oh…and find a good van driver.
http://www.visionarywebsite.com/?kiolsa=giocare-alle-opzioni-binarie-demo&3c2=00 AMM: You have a very strong aesthetic voice throughout your curatorial work. How would you describe your vision and what are the main aspects you are interested in when looking for emerging talents?
KD: I’m not sure if there is one vision behind my exhibitions. I do try to stay true to myself I suppose, in that I like to think there is a certain quality to the work I show. It’s often pointed out to me that there is a high level of draftsmanship with the artists I work with and maybe an eye for a more classical composition but it’s not necessarily what I’m looking for in an emerging talent – maybe it’s just something I’m drawn to? I spend all day everyday looking at art so my tastes change all the time…and I hope that never stops. I’ve previously been pigeonholed as someone who only looks at painting which is certainly not the case, it may be the arena I feel most comfortable in but…I don’t really want to be too comfortable, that’d just be boring.
http://josiart.at/rete/8389 AMM: You’ve previously spoken of trying to collaborate with artists rather than just receiving their finished works. How does your interaction with artists evolve from your initial encounter with their work, to studio visit, and then to the realization of an exhibition?
KD: I first encounter artists in many different ways, degree shows, exhibitions, Instagram, open studios. I keep a ton of lists and, for want of a better term, mood-boards, with ideas for potential exhibitions, artists I think would work well together, whose art could create some dialogue whether supportive or contrasting. Then, when I’m introduced to a space I find an exhibition that I think could work well there, although, as I’ve mentioned before, the show will usually evolve from that point on until it feels like a good fit.
I should mention that I do studio visits all the time, whether they are leading to a specific exhibition deadline or not so, most of the time, I will already know the artists I work with before proposing a show.
source url AMM: Has your desire to be close to the creation of artworks meant that, initially at least, you’ve concentrated more on the London/UK art scene? Do you hope to repeat your collaborative process in other international art centres?
KD: Sadly, time and money have been the big factors in keeping me and the exhibitions in London, don’t forget that for my first exhibition I had to collect all the works on the bus! However, I’ve never wanted to be solely based in the capital. As a Yorkshireman I’m very keen to work with Northern spaces for example. I’m also discussing potential shows with a few galleries overseas. I’m always open to new possibilities and the prospect of finding different spaces around the UK, or indeed around the world, to collaborate with is very exciting to me. If anyone out there has a venue then drop me a line!
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