The Simon Oldfield Gallery works closely with artists and independent curators to realise diverse projects with a strong curatorial vision. We caught up with the director to find out more about the idea behind the gallery in the midst of their current exhibition 'Portrait of a Life Half Known' ...
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you first developed an interest in the art world?
I opened the gallery after several years of balancing two lives - practicing as a corporate lawyer for a large City law firm and working with an excellent gallery specialising in Warhol, Haring, Lichtenstein and Basquiat. By 2009 I had developed solid relationships with a loyal group of private and corporate clients and I was in a position to open the gallery.
I also collect extensively with my partner and have done so for over 15 years. Our collection is quite broad, focused mainly on Modern British, major US artists from the New York scene in the 70s and 80s, and British and international emerging artists.
Your gallery has been representing the work of exciting UK and international artists since 2009, what gave you the incentive to start the space?
I believe in all of the artists and share their confidence. There has been consistent and significant support for the artists and the gallery amongst collectors and curators. Opening the space was the logical next step. It made sense and we have never looked back. We keep moving forward and the move to Mayfair in 2012 has been wonderful. It has allowed us to push the programme and show the artists' in new contexts.
Before opening the gallery, we founded the studio programme, which supports young artists and allows us to build the excellent relationships we enjoy with the gallery artists.
The Simon Oldfield gallery is known for taking curatorial risks to challenge traditional perspectives. What kind of critical response has this received and how do you think this helps to separate your programme from other commercial galleries in London?
We have been told that we take curatorial risks and perhaps we do. From our perspective, we simply work very closely with the artists and curate shows that have integrity to their practice.
However, we don’t have any curatorial rules and because we work with brilliant artists who hold a fearless clarity and look ahead with conviction, it often delivers striking shows to critical acclaim.
Can you tell us a little about the artists that you currently represent, how did you find them and what criteria do you look for?
We love them. And we love their work. These things are the most important. Beyond that it’s essential to establish trust, a good relationship and a shared vision.
The artists are very happy working with us, and are just amazing people to know. Our approach is collaborative and so this stuff matters to produce the most exciting work.
How do you see the gallery developing over the coming years?
It’s hugely exciting to be working with the artists and building the gallery. We will continue to work with new artists from the UK and abroad, expand our off-site projects and continue to grow our publishing company.
We also want to continue having fun. Our opening nights are crazy, and we have up to 500 people attend. The future is about maintaining that element and developing our artists’ careers in a way that is fulfilling for all.
What was the first piece of fine art you bought?
A fantastic work by Warhol.
How does the London art market compare to that of other cities around the world, and what would you change about it?
London is incredible. I travel all around the world and it’s always brilliant to come home to London. There are many other great cities, but London is special. We have an enormous creativity here and that should always be encouraged.
Alongside the gallery you also work as a global art advisor for corporate collections. Who do you work with and how do you tailor your advice to the needs of a particular investor?
We have built excellent relationships advising corporate collections, however we don’t discuss specific clients. Our corporate clients have their own goals, motivations and art specialisms. We do a lot of work before we start working with a corporate client, to get to know them and their culture. Having built a solid, trusting relationship, we can begin to build and guide the collection. Corporate collections provide artists with excellent opportunities to show their work in some unusual and often dramatic environments, particularly larger work. We also advise many private collections.
What advice would you give to a young collector looking to make their first investment in the art world today?
It’s important to look at a lot of art and get to know what you like. And speak to people. Ask for advice. Many galleries are very approachable, as we are. Then build a relationship with the galleries you like and simply start collecting.
How do you like to relax outside of work?
I am always thinking about art, artists and the gallery, and I am very lucky to be able to travel to see a lot of things. I look at everything and it helps to inform my decisions. I also read, swim and practice yoga.
How important a role do you think conservation framing plays in maintaining the financial value and long-term saleability of fine art?
I have always worked with John Jones. Their conservation framing is world class and I encourage all my clients to use their frames. If somebody has invested in an artist and purchased their work, I always recommend using a framing service with unrivalled experience.