Interview with Sadie Coles HQ’s Sadie Coles (Founder)

The London art scene is massive and overwhelming. Out of hundreds of galleries and thousand of people who work in them, how do you know where to go and who to listen to?

We asked a few hundred art professionals, curators, and artists to name their favourite galleries and we came up with a list of 70. Luckily for us, many museums and galleries were available for interviews.

This interview was conducted in 2015, it took a year to publish because it turns out it’s a lot harder to liaison with 70 galleries and their PR agencies than we originally expected. All the anachronisms were kept to illustrate just how fast paced the London gallery scene is, some people we interviewed no longer work at the same galleries, and some galleries no longer exist in the same form they did last year.

We wanted to share the knowledge with as many art professionals as we could so we are sharing 20 condensed interviews with Fad’s readers. The full lengths interviews are available in the book ‘Who to Know in London?’

This is the 19th interview out of the series of 20.

Sadie Coles. Photo credit- Juergen Teller.

How did you pick the name of your gallery?

The HQ of the gallery’s name refers to the fact that the activity of the gallery has always extended beyond exhibitions on-site. As well has staging projects in pop-up locations, the gallery has been itinerant – opening on Heddon Street in 1997, expanding to Mayfair a decade later, and then to spaces in the West End – New Burlington Place followed by the current space on Kingly Street. The gallery continues to operate from twin sites in the West End and Mayfair. HQ = Head Quarters!

 

Tell us about your background and how you started the gallery?

After university, I worked in a few diverse public-funded organisations: the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre and the Arnolfini Museum in Bristol. I moved to Anthony d’Offay Gallery and after five years there in exhibitions and artist liaison, I started a project space in their new gallery. We made maybe eight shows with younger artists. Sarah Lucas was the second one because we were friends and I thought she was a standout artist from that generation. I subsequently left and worked for Jeff Koons in New York.  Sarah kept ringing up and saying, “Look, are you coming back because otherwise, I’m going to have to sign with another gallery”. The other person who said that was John Currin. So from the beginning, there was a trans-Atlantic feeling to the programme.

 

How relevant are art fairs to your business?

They are very relevant because they are the principal channel for new business and we are always keen to introduce the artists of the gallery to new collectors, curators and critics.

 

Where do you mostly meet your clients?

London is a very dynamic hub so we are lucky to see many people come through. But travelling is an essential part of being an active art dealer these days, so we all spend a lot of time in an ever expanding list of exciting places around the world.

 

How do you select artists/works for exhibitions/to represent?

My starting position is one of admiration. It is fascinating to be in conversation with an artist, to find out what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and the unique way they see the world. I don’t see it as a generational thing – it is about the quality of the work and the relationship with the artist (both of which can be right at any age). I am a fan.

 

Where do you find your artists?

What I look for when I’m choosing an artist is someone who is really pushing the boundaries, making us think and showing us something new. It is often the recommendation of another artist, or a curator or fellow art dealer I admire, that points me towards someone.

 

What are the biggest challenges your gallery faces right now?

Time, sleep, travel.

About Art Map London

Art Map London (www.artmaplondon.co.uk) is an art event listing website whose aim is to promote the London art scene and to demystify it.