Pipilotti Elisabeth Rist is a Swiss visual artist best known for creating experimental video art and installation art. Her work is often described as surreal, intimate, abstract art, having a preoccupation with the female body. Her artwork is often categorized as feminist art.
Celebrated British artist David Kim Whittaker is self-taught, born in Cornwall in 1964 and still through fidelity to his own environment living and working in the area. Whittaker’s work achieved breakthrough status with his interpretation of the human head and its metaphysical mental core. These works often juggle states of inner and outer calm and conflict – offering a glimpse of strength and fragility, the conscious and the subconscious, the masculine and the feminine. Into this realm Whittaker has increasingly brought historical questions of identity, abstraction and juxtaposition. Whittaker has achieved international critical recognition and has exhibited nationally and internationally, a reception that has also been mirrored commercially. Self Portrait Four, a 2011 Oil, acrylic on canvas sold for £81,250 at Phillips in March 2018. Furthermore, “Boys Ascends”, 2013 a work in mixed media sold for £46,761 in December 2018 at Christie’s in Paris.
In an essay for an exhibition at Fondazione Mudima, the curator and writer Joseph Clarke observes that the differing techniques of Whittaker’s practice ‘denote conflict but also manifest a place where fusion and harmony exist.’ Inside this vortex, Whittaker creates a strange harmony, a world forged from his own imagination and memory but recognisable instantly to the viewer, too; unsettling, but comprehensible. The series exhibited here comes from the beginning of this important period in the artist’s development. Executed in 2007-08, these paintings are original works in series of 20 unique variants. Here we see Whittaker’s fine sense of abstract composition with each work of oil and graphite on paper laid on card, evoking powerful and different emotional and receptive states.
Alex Katz (born July 24, 1927), is an American figurative artist known for his paintings, sculptures, and prints.
Katz’s paintings are divided almost equally into the genres of portraiture and landscape. Since the 1960s he has painted views of New York (especially his immediate surroundings in Soho), the landscapes of Maine, where he spends several months every year, as well as portraits of family members, artists, writers and New York society protagonists. His paintings are defined by their flatness of colour and form, their economy of line, and their cool but seductive emotional detachment. A key source of inspiration is the woodcuts produced by Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro.
In the early 1960s, influenced by films, television, and billboard advertising, Katz began painting large-scale paintings, often with dramatically cropped faces. Ada Katz, whom he married in 1958, has been the subject of over 250 portraits throughout his career. To make one of his large works, Katz paints a small oil sketch of a subject on a masonite board; the sitting might take an hour and a half. He then makes a small, detailed drawing in pencil or charcoal, with the subject returning, perhaps, for the artist to make corrections. Katz next blows up the drawing into a “cartoon,” sometimes using an overhead projector, and transfers it to an enormous canvas via “pouncing”—a technique used by Renaissance artists, involving powdered pigment pushed through tiny perforations pricked into the cartoon to recreate the composition on the surface to be painted. Katz pre-mixes all his colors and gets his brushes ready. Then he dives in and paints the canvas—12 feet wide by 7 feet high or even larger—in a session of six or seven hours.
Beginning in the late 1950s, Katz developed a technique of painting on cut panels, first of wood, then aluminum, calling them “cutouts”. These works would occupy space like sculptures, but their physicality is compressed into planes, as with paintings. In later works, the cutouts are attached to wide, U-shaped aluminum stands, with a flickering, cinematic presence enhanced by warm spotlights. Most are close-ups, showing either front-and-back views of the same figure’s head or figures who regard each other from opposite edges of the stand.
After 1964, Katz increasingly portrayed groups of figures. He would continue painting these complex groups into the 1970s, portraying the social world of painters, poets, critics, and other colleagues that surrounded him. He began designing sets and costumes for choreographer Paul Taylor in the early 1960s, and he has painted many images of dancers throughout the years. One Flight Up (1968) consists of more than 30 portraits of some of the leading lights of New York’s intelligentsia during the late 1960s, such as the poet John Ashbery, the art critic Irving Sandler and the curator Henry Geldzahler, who championed Andy Warhol. Each portrait is painted using oils on both sides of a sliver of aluminium that has then been cut into the shape of the subject’s head and shoulders. The silhouettes are arranged predominantly in four long rows on a plain metal table.
After his Whitney exhibition in 1974, Katz focused on landscapes stating “I wanted to make an environmental landscape, where you were IN it.” In the late 1980s, Katz took on a new subject in his work: fashion models in designer clothing, including Kate Moss and Christy Turlington. “I’ve always been interested in fashion because it’s ephemeral,” he said.
Katherine Bernhardt first garnered the art world’s attention with her portraits of fashion models, exploring hyperreal fashion photography and mainstream notions of beauty. More recently, she has focused her energies on a series of “Pattern Paintings”—large-scale works in tropical, sherbert hues depicting banal consumer goods, arranged in the style of jazz patterns. Fluid and hurried, Bernhardt’s canvases are seemingly provisional, radiating energy so as to express the pleasure of art-making. First exploring patterns in the context of imported rugs, Bernhardt’s more recent works stem from an interest in Dutch wax printing and the all-over patterning of African textiles. Her subjects are selected and grouped according to underlying emotional associations—whether hamburgers, french fries, and basketballs; or coffee, cigarettes, and pizza—and broken down into elemental details, pure forms, and swaths of color to build simpler, yet expressive, arrangements.
Using his subconscious as material, Matt Mullican often creates his artworks before an audience while under hypnosis, resulting in a unique hybrid of performance art and drawing. Part schematic, part cosmological chart, Mullican’s ordered, symmetrical works belie an enormously ambitious artistic aim, to contain and make sense of the universe. Characterized by rough geometric patterns and the artist’s elongated, looping script, Mullican’s spontaneous diagrams and writings on walls and canvas offer free access to the artist’s psyche.
Colorado-raised and NYC-based, Peter Sutherland employs techniques of traditional documentary photography to capture the hidden beauty of ordinary objects and everyday situations. His work can be found in the pages of Vice, The New Order, Dazed & Confused, ANP Quarterly, and Monster Children, and for clients like Supreme, Converse, Nike, Adidas, Nordstrom, Manhattan Portage, The North Face, Vans, Stussy, Filson, Thule, Lacoste, Palladium, P.A.M., and No.6. Sutherland’s favorite director is Werner Herzog, and his own film work has been influenced by both Herzog and Albert & David Maysles’ Gimme Shelter. In addition to Tierney Gearon: The Mother Project (Zeitgeist Films), Peter directed Pedal (powerHouse Books DVD). He’s published several monographs to critical acclaim and exhibited works at Art Basel Miami and in galleries such as White Cube (London), V1 (Copenhagen), Someday Gallery (Melbourne), ATM and Mountain Fold Galleries (New York), and Gallery Target (Tokyo). When Sutherland is not taking pictures or making films he enjoys playing soccer and shredding pow.
Grear Patterson works with arrangements of custom made image carriers, works in which he establishes connections with art history as well as with his own specific living environment. He became known for his ‘Duck Test’-series, canvasses organized to resemble smileys, their trendy lightness connoting a carefree attitude to life, while simultaneously referring to the icons of digital communication. His first sunsets were inspired by Hollywood movies, the sun’s immersion in the horizon mostly taking place within a 16:9 or 4:3 format. These works pick up on the form of the setting sun through the shape of the composition. The combination of the different colors on the raw canvas evokes spatial depth and conjures up sporadic associations with rainbows or figments of imagination.
Happily, what we do at the Gallery is beginning to be recognised and Singulart which is Europe’s largest online gallery is hosting its first ever exhibition of an external gallery with Blond Contemporary. They very kindly did an interview with me which you can read below where I talk about the philosophy of collecting and how to buy art.
And of course if you want to buy art for Christmas there is our sale with Singulart and all the prices cover both tax and shipping so do check it out.
This week, we interviewed Phillip Blond, British Art Dealer and Gallery Director of Blond Contemporary. In this article, we explore Phillip’s career in the art world, his insights into collecting and curation, as well as the role of the online art market today. Singulart is delighted about the upcoming event partnership with Blond Contemporary in December 2020!
Can you tell us about your background in the arts, and how you became a gallery director?
It all started many years ago, my family ran an Art Gallery in London called Blond Fine Art. It was very innovative for its time, showing among other things the first British exhibition of Paula Rego’s work. I grew up with real art on the walls, mainly British Modernism, so I’ve retained a huge affection for British art of the 1960s.
Then about 10 years or so ago, my friends came round to the house and saw all the contemporary art on the walls, and then started getting interested and then started buying art off me or asking to source similar works. And then you sort of live this hybrid structure between being a collector and a dealer – I’ve got several hundred pieces now and I enjoy it so much and am enthralled by both the work and the process of finding it, that it has become a wholly professional activity.
When we launch our gallery in central London at some point when this dreadful virus leaves us, we’ll present emerging and mid-career artists as well as continuing to be secondary market specialists.
How would you describe the adventure of building your own gallery?
I’ve been buying and collecting for over 20 years and after several years of building up stock, we decided to go public at the beginning of the year. We had our first-ever launch event at the London Art Fair which was terrific! Then the virus hit, and all our plans to exhibit worldwide at various fairs were all cancelled, so what we’ve essentially been doing is concentrating on the online side and building up our website and our presence on other platforms. And I’ve basically decided to accelerate and open up a space in Central London next year
What would you say is the main challenge of opening an Art Gallery in London?
In Britain, I think it’s only a small handful of people who buy art at scale. And I think that’s a great shame! Provincial private-sector art galleries don’t seem to generate sales from their localities – so the task of the British contemporary scene is to broaden that collecting base, and it’s about how to shift the wider culture. And oddly there’s very little public or regional support for emerging British artistic talent and it concentrates of necessity in London in the private galleries around the handful of people who buy art. So it’s clear you need an international dimension if you’re going to survive, luckily London is an international art destination so that helps.
How would you describe the artistic line of your gallery?
I think the art market is very interesting because it overreacts reacts positively and negatively to everything. It’s a bit like the stock market, but I would argue much more speculative.
So for example I really like the process-based painters, both European and American, and they fall in (and now somewhat out) of fashion.
“Focus on the excellent but don’t always focus on the already fashionable”Phillip Blond
But I think that if you want to both make money (or at least secure your investment) and also curate a meaningful collection, you can’t just be led by fashion. If you are, you will always just buy at the top of the market and, arguably, there is no faster way to lose money in the art world.
What you like, is crucially important, recognising that and then forming a concept around it is key to the quality of a collection and then once that is established you must try to buy what’s most excellent in the field you like.
And then if you buy widely, you’re more likely to hit two or three artists who really, really make it and who are well received. For example, I really like the process-based painters, both European and American who are now out of fashion but their work is so meaningful and has been subject to such silly critiques that recognition of their importance is overdue and will certainly happen.
How do you decide what to collect?/ Advice for collectors?
“You want to buy artists who are clearly on the rise”Phillip Blond
I always say to my clients that the way to think of this is deciding on a price that your comfortable paying for an artwork that you think is valuable and wonderful just on the aesthetic level. And that you would enjoy having in your home for 60 years, and then don’t worry if it doesn’t recoup its purchase price as your having that visual joy for all that time. That work will be there visually transforming whatever room you place it in for years to come.
And that’s what you’re buying, you’re buying something that changes your personal environment. Then when things get beyond that level where the amount of money your paying is in effect your investment capital, it’s entirely fair enough to ask additional questions of the piece, will it hold its value, might it gain in price etc.
When buying art, adopting that sort of aesthetic/investment dual approach, where you have confidence in your own judgment, is really what produces the greatest collections.
How would you describe the affiliation between the two tiers of young emerging artists and great masters?
I think it’s a question of excellence. Try to use some of the best work from some of the global masters (Ai Wei Wei, Andy Warhol, and to my mind Bernard Cohen), and also work that you think is underappreciated. Its this dialogue between the cannon and new contributions to it that makes collecting an intellectual as well as a visual enterprise.
Essentially, if your judgment is good and you experience a level of joy seeing a work then you should have the confidence to buy. I think in art, you have hopefully a double return, the aesthetic/ visual element and over time some financial appreciation.
Have you noticed an evolution in the quotation/asking price for pieces acquired from emerging artists?
Money is involved so people have to protect themselves, but also it should be suddenly enjoyable, and enhancing beyond money.
Some obvious remarks here don’t buy at the top of the market and don’t buy artists when they’ve peaked. Buy people when they’re rising and obviously, it takes experience to discern the difference between the two. But (and this Is crucial) also buy good artists when they’re falling and be confident about that!
In some ways this isn’t as quite as difficult as one might think, if you blend critical reception and the exquisite qualities of the work itself, you do see what you should buy eg artists who are also clearly on the rise but will hold value, like Nicholas Party.
You also have to enjoy supporting emerging artists who need your patronage, if they’re going to carry on, you know, doing what they do.
I love talking about art! What I like to do is build relationships with my collectors, around the art and the paintings that in the end we both adore.
Do you remember the first artists you were representing?
I was really moved, I think by my first experience with the actual works of abstract expressionism and gestural abstraction. I really like the Alan Davie works from the 50s and 60s, the Cohen Brothers etc
...”And then you start to buy them, collect them live with them. And that’s what flowers in your soul really.”Phillip Blond
And now I am just rather enthralled by the process-based work. So this is what you must do, you must curate both privately and publicly.
What is your process for acquiring art?
I buy artworks from artists, dealers, auctions, all over the world, and I try to curate what I think some of the best stuff is, both widely recognized or underappreciated. And that’s what I really want the gallery to focus on, is excellence. Both appreciated and unappreciated.
And you know, and then you start to develop a network of collectors around that artist and people who are interested in it, that’s part of the joy of it.
There’s a lot going on in the world that art doesn’t speak to, that I would like to try to speak to, the role of art in our social and political life, outside of the ordinary stuff. My background is in philosophy, politics and theology so I would like to bring that aspect to bear on this venture.
How has COVID-19 affected the art market and how has it changed in the last few months?
If you look at the history of recessions, what happens is the blue chips accelerate further away, and the middle and the bottom of the market contract.
If you’ve got really nice Andy Warhol, it becomes the safe haven for investment. Then the middle market might suffer a little. But I think now is a buying opportunity really, to enable you to get those middle-rank artists who you rate, at prices that you wouldn’t have been able to earlier. And I don’t think it’s a time to be buying at the top of the market, because I think that they’re inflated through speculation.
In the future, how do you see the role of the digital in the art market?
One has to be able to operate in an online space, and now lots of people just buy art now from JPEGs (images). I know I do.
But I think that it is quite difficult to do something fully transformative online. I think there’s something around employing all of your senses around an art object that is better than just seeing it on a one-dimensional screen. Physical gallery spaces will need to remain open, although that’s the part of the market that’s been hit the hardest.
At Singulart we want to offer our collectors a gallery experience – how do you see this partnership with Singulart?
“I’m just very grateful! I am happy to be working with an innovative team”.Phillip Blond
I’m really I’m looking forward to the curation, meeting new collectors, finding out what they like, and hopefully getting them wonderful artists at a great price.
I’ve sought these works out, literally from all over the world, and I’m trying to present them as worthy of further consideration and I hope people will enjoy and be moved by them. That’s kind of what happened to me.
What are your future projects?
I like to curate new artists who I’ve got my eye on, who I rate, and do exhibitions with them. But I’d like to do more political exhibitions. Nobody’s done anything in the art world on Brexit, for example. Or on the rise of the populism. I also want to look at class in a new way, which in much of the world remains by far the greatest penalty.