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Smith & Partner is an organisation dedicated to both Old Masters and emerging artists, driven by the idea that collecting art should be accessible to anyone. Now, the organisation is set to embark on the launch of a gallery in September. We speak to Gallery Manager, Jessica Louro, about preparing for a new gallery in lockdown, and the company’s conviction that the art market should be a place of inspiration and invigoration for everyone to experience.
A: Smith & Partner Gallery is set to open doors in September. How are you finding the final stages of preparation? What measures have you taken as the gallery as a public place?
JL: “Adapt” is certainly the right word there. We’ve been adapting since March, and whilst preparing in the middle of a pandemic has been a learning curve, it has been a positive one. We’re adjusting to every wave and being mindful. We’re lucky to have such a large space over two floors, to the point where we can hold an exclusive launch where people can navigate at a distance, with some freedom.
A: Before becoming Gallery Manager for Smith & Partner Gallery, you spent seven years studying Art Markets. What is it about the industry that keeps you dedicated? How does this apply to your current role?
JL: It’s the side of the art world that I find the most exhilarating. I began in Lisbon, then went to study in Paris to focus on the art market from a gallery perspective, and then to New York, where I focused on the artist and their reaction to the art market and gallery representation. It was in New York where I did the research for my thesis. My role at Smith & Partner has allowed me to harness my energy for the art market and I find the excitement of auctions and the buzz around breaking price records, the most thrilling part of it all.
A: “We believe art should be available and accessible for everyone to appreciate, regardless of prior knowledge” is a statement from Smith & Partner. What steps do you take to ensure this?
JL: We offer art consultancy services and are always delighted to work with anyone. It’s all about helping people understand the business and the journey too. Opening people’s imagination is really important to us; we live in a rat-race, and art can help us forget about that, stop for a second and become submerged in another dimension. Anyone should have access to that. It’s about being interested rather than having prior knowledge or experience.
A: You worked in numerous art capitals, how do they differ in terms of accessibility?
JL: Well, Paris was an eye-opener. Like many, I had a romanticised idea of Paris as the capital of the European art market. I’d say that London is the capital of the European art market, and Berlin is starting to strengthen and rise. When it comes to accessibility, in terms of knowledge, I was surprised when I came to London as it is so accessible. You don’t have to be an art expert or renowned collector to be treated equally when you walk into a commercial gallery and look at artworks. In my experience, places such as Lisbon, New York and Paris aren’t as accessible – you need to provide that you’re a serious collector. The staff won’t sell to just anyone who walks in the door. In London, the gallerists will give anybody the time to browse, learn and select an artwork that resonates with them.
A: Smith & Partner represents both renowned and emerging artists; how do you navigate this balance? What common thread do you look for?
JL: We select our artists with our audience in mind, which are diverse in age and taste. We strive to work with our clientele’s tastes. For instance, if somebody likes the gentle soft pastels of Claude Monet, then we will take the time as a company to present them to an artist like Rachel Deacon and discuss someone who encapsulates a similar essence. We like to make it a journey for people and expand their horizons. Another important factor to us in recognising the artist’s skill and passion. The vast majority of the artworks we represent are figurative and emotional. Tamara Lempicka’s Self Portrait in the Green Bugatti (1929) is a fantastic example of this – the cold green, grey and turquoise blues really transport you into a realm of femininity and female empowerment.
A: What are your thoughts about keeping collected artwork in storage, over that of using it as a way by which to transform space?
JL:In some instances, art is intangible. For me, as a Gallery Manager, it is tangible. I think that on the level of the collector, it should be accessible. Though even when you talk about art as an investment, you’re only elevating the status of that art-piece. While the art market isn’t always an open industry, it’s such an essential part of the artworld for artists to survive and keep on producing. Of course, we’re told in college that art and money shouldn’t come together, but once you step out of the college gates, the reality is that money is integral. I think it’s important not to look as art collecting as putting your artworks in some kind of dark storage space in Switzerland – thorough care, like controlled temperature, is needed; having an art piece requires a lot of work! Whether it’s in storage, or in the home.
A: What artists exhibiting at the gallery are you most excited about?
JL: Well, there are quite a few, for different reasons. Deborah Azzopardi is a wonderful, humble soul and demonstrates raw talent and elegance in her attention to detail and line. She presents the everyday and the mischievous nature of people through iconic, vibrant hues of blue and red. Then there’s Miss Aniela, an emerging artist who was recently named as one of Saatchi’s Ones to Watch. Her work is a fusion of contemporary fashion and classical art – I’ve never viewed one of her pieces without my jaw dropping – they’re intimidating and so full of power. Miss Aniela’s work really has to be viewed in person to be appreciated Lastly, there’s Steven Dews, whose seascapes evoke such stoic calmness and beauty. You can really feel the weather in his images; as though the storm is brewing over you. These pieces are also huge and just have to be witnessed.
Words: Robyn Cusworth
1. ENTER THE GOLDEN DRAGON (2018) Photography & production: Miss Aniela / Designer: Guo Pei. Hair: Ming Yue. MUA: Zihui Yong. Producers: Sylwia Wu and Miss Aniela.Available through Smith & Partner.
2. GILT (2016).Photography & production: Miss Aniela / Model: Kim / Dress: Posh Fairytale Couture / Stylist: Minna Attala / Hair & makeup: Grace Gray. Available through Smith & Partner.
3. GOLD LEAF (2015) Photography & production: Miss Aniela / Model: Kim Davis / Styling: Minna Attala / HMUA: Grace Gray. Available through Smith & Partner.