Interview with Contemporary Art Society North, Mark Doyle

Mark Doyle heads up the Northern division of the Contemporary Art Society. Over the first weekend in February, Doyle and his team ran a unique event entitled Art in the Home. Including works from two commercial galleries (Arcade, London, and WORKS|PROJECTS, Bristol), the event took place in the homes of six Contemporary Art Society members across Manchester and offered visitors the chance to view art in domestic settings. After the success of the event, we speak to Doyle about the project and his plans for the future.

A: What is the idea behind Art in the Home?
MD: Myself and my colleague Rebecca Morrill run the Contemporary Art Society North, a growing network of individuals with a passion for contemporary art and collecting. Over the past four years we have watched many of our members discover the joys of buying and living with contemporary art in their homes. I was talking to Christian Mooney, the Director of London-based commercial gallery Arcade, about this at last year’s Manchester Contemporary art fair and we agreed that it might be interesting to stage a bespoke “pop-up” exhibition of one of his artist’s work in the home of a Contemporary Art Society member. It started with one home, but quickly snowballed to include five more, another gallery (Bristol-based WORKS|PROJECTS), and work by ten artists.

A: What was thinking behind combining a domestic space with contemporary art?
MD: It offered a way of demonstrating to new and existing members that contemporary art isn’t just something you encounter in a gallery but something which can work just as effectively in a domestic setting and be stimulating and inspiring to live with on a daily basis. Both galleries consciously selected work to reflect upon the domestic context of each home and sought to make very few changes to what they found there. For example, Caroline Achaintre’s ceramic masks, watercolours, and tufted woollen works were hung on walls where picture hooks already existed and her small sculptures were displayed on furniture surrounded by family photographs and other personal effects.

A: Do you think that it is important for the public to be able to purchase contemporary art for their homes?
MD: Absolutely! For the individual, by far the most rewarding way of engaging with art is to have the privilege of living with it every day and to enjoy a developing relationship with it. I’m reminded of a lovely quote from Tim Dickson, a Sheffield-based collector, who said: “The works are integrated into daily life, as everybody is looking for something which transcends their own complicated messy lives. You find something in the work that tells you about yourself.” It was striking how many of the guests who joined us for the event commented on how viewing work in this context positively changed their perception of it. From a broader perspective, collecting is a vitally important component in a healthy visual arts ecology, jointly supporting the artists and the galleries that represent them. It’s also important to stress that collecting contemporary art isn’t just the preserve of the very wealthy: anyone can collect, whatever their budget. For example, for Art in the Home artist Richard Woods was inspired to produce a large edition of affordable wood block prints.

A: Slightly controversial, but do you have a favourite contemporary artist?
MD: There are many artists whose work I admire. However, if I had to pick a couple of artists who I think are producing interesting work just now, I would say Sachin Kaeley and Emily Speed.

A: Part of this project involved filming the event, was that simply for documentary purposes or for artistic appreciation?
MD: It was the first time any of us had tried anything like this, so initially we felt it was important to have a record of the event. However, as spaces were limited and we exceeded capacity, the film and photographs also became a way of sharing the experience with those members that were unable to join us. Hopefully, it might also be a useful means of inspiring others to think about collecting contemporary art.

A: The first Art in the Home was in Manchester, are you wanting to expand elsewhere?
MD: Yes, it was a great success and something we are keen to stage again in another city, perhaps York!

Mark Doyle and Rebecca Morrill run the Contemporary Art Society North, a membership scheme for anyone interested in finding out about contemporary art and collecting. If you would like further details please contact Mark ( 07891 880 498) or Rebecca ( 07815 830 182)

1. Richard Woods’ work on display in the home of CAS Member John Williams (Construction II & IV, 2012 displayed on the walls). Courtesy of the Contemporary Art Society & WORKS|PROJECTS. Photography – Stephen Iles.
2. Caroline Achaintre’s work on display in the home of Allan and Jo Melzack (Frank, 2011 ceramic displayed over the fireplace). Courtesy of the Contemporary Art Society & Arcade Photography – Stephen Iles.
3. Caroline Achaintre’s work on display in the home of CAS Members Allan and Jo Melzack (Triad, 2011 hand tufted wool work displayed on the wall). Courtesy of the Contemporary Art Society & Arcade. Photography – Stephen Iles.