Founded with the aim of continuing the work of now renowned Peckham squat, 78 Lyndhurst Way, Hannah Barry Gallery represents a group of young artists that stems from that time, and has grown to include a mix whose practices “are so varied it is difficult to say [what the relationship between their work is], outside of the fact that they all admire and support each other—intellectually, critically, and logistically!”
Alongside her commercial gallery, Barry is also instrumental to the running of Bold Tendencies, the non-profit organisation whose annual exhibition has topped Peckham’s multi-storey carpark since 2007. Here, we talk about balancing the commercial and non-profit, growth and trusting your gut.
What’s programmed for this year’s Bold Tendencies?
Our 2017 Summer Season of visual art, architecture and classical music with Frank’s Cafe and The Multi-Storey Orchestra on the top floors of the car park in Peckham will run 19 May - 30 September.
We are commissioning new works for the roof by Ewa Axelrad and Isaac Olvera, who both have strong relationships with London. Axelrad studied at the Royal College of Art and works between here and Gliwice, Poland; and Olvera studied at Goldsmiths University and was a resident artist at Gasworks in Vauxhall. He now lives and works in Mexico City and is returning to London to work on site for two months.
We are completing two new commissions to young British architects Oliver Cooke and Francis Fawcett (Cooke Fawcett Architects), who have imagined new architecture for the site. For our lower floors their concertina Concert Wall, and for the rooftop a Top Deck and Kiosk, allowing visitors spectacular new views out over London, and a bird’s-eye view down onto and across the rooftop space.
The award-winning Multi-Storey Orchestra return to the site with a summer-long residency of orchestral and chamber music, including a performance for the BBC Proms in celebration of John Adams’ 70th birthday. The inaugural performance of The Multi-Storey Orchestra was Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, in 2011. We are delighted to return to this iconic work, presenting it for four hands on one piano, and as a Living Programme Note followed by the full orchestral score to end the season!
The demands of each are very different, yet both share the guiding principle of working with artists and creative people to try to create ambitious works of art, projects and opportunities.
How has your approach to curating Bold Tendencies developed over the years?
We now know that our time at the car park is limited, so we’re planning a cumulative commissioning programme that’ll celebrate the site’s evolving function as a civic opportunity-allowing visitors to fully experience and appreciate the works installed, and to freely enjoy public space in the city.
We are proud to have a number of works on site that we have commissioned over the past few years, including Derek Jarman’s Garden, 2013; Richard Wentworth’s Agora, 2015; Simon Whybray’s hi boo i love you, 2016; Adel Abdessemed’s Bristow, 2016; and Sam Riviere and Sophie Collins’ Flourished, co-commissioned with Clinic, 2016.
Gut instinct allows you to take risks at the beginning but as the responsibility grows, so does the requirement to be more considered.
How does Bold Tendencies compare to the work you show at Hannah Barry Gallery?
We’ve had the good fortune to pursue two distinct projects over the years. Bold Tendencies is a not-for-profit creative enterprise and the gallery is commercial. The demands of each are very different, yet both share the guiding principal of working with artists and creative people to try to create ambitious works of art, projects and opportunities. One learns from both and these lessons are invaluable in application to each project.
What’s the relationship between the work of the artists you represent?
Their practices are so varied it’s difficult to say, but I know that they all admire and support each other—intellectually, critically, and logistically!
You’ve said before that the gallery focus is on in-depth solo exhibitions, and that you collaborate with each artist on the development of their work for each show. Could you elaborate on the value of solo shows, and the relationship between the work and exhibition design?
I’ve always felt our gallery could best serve the artists by making exhibitions that aimed to show an artist’s work in-depth, whether this manifested itself as one single ambitious installation-such as Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq’s BLACK SUN, a single polished graphite drawing direct to the wall in February of this year-or a large body of work-some 70 plaster works by Marie Jacotey made up Dolly, her first solo exhibition here in November 2014.
I was also interested, with the gallery programme, in prioritising illuminating the arc of progress through a series of solo exhibitions by the same artist across time. Ashfaq’s show earlier this year was the third such show we have made together, and Jacotey will make her third solo exhibition here this autumn. For us both, these concerns are enormously important in ensuring that audiences learn something about the artist’s practice in the widest possible sense when they visit the gallery.
The gallery seems to have grown quite organically, has it’s growth, in terms of scale and recognition, been a case of trusting your gut instinct?
Growing anything is challenging regardless of how organic that growth is. Gut instinct allows you to take risks at the beginning but as the responsibility grows, so does the requirement to be more considered. If anything I broke all the trust I had with my instinct, so I replaced it with intuition! A good dose of reason isn’t unhelpful either… Growing UP is perhaps the most difficult!
Peckham happens to be the place that has permitted the space for this adventure, and I do feel a responsibility to having started here.
You have been working in and around Peckham for a long time now, and it seems to play an important role in your curatorial practice—at the gallery, Bold Tendencies and in your proposal to turn the car park into artists studios—could you elaborate on the relationship between location, community and your work?
Peckham happens to be the place that has permitted the space for this adventure, and I do feel a responsibility to having started here. Bold Tendencies continues to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the responsibility of which we do not take lightly-in terms of commissioning, programming, and thereafter, how we mobilise all that material for the benefit for our many audiences in the immediate local and wider communities.
It’s exciting to see just how much is really possible as the organisation grows its ambitions and robustness. We are currently working to expand the footprint of the project outside our annual summer season, and over the last five years have delivered many innovative education projects and community initiatives. It’s now gathered under a new charity, Bold Everywhere, and we continue to be heavily invested in the exciting spaces that lie between learning and play, education and enjoyment.
What was it like translating/transporting Peckham to the Venice Biennale? How did Peckham Pavilion and Palazzo Peckham differ in terms of programme?
Working in Venice was a great thrill on both occasions. The ambition that linked both projects was to create a space where people could gather together surrounded by works of art. The Pavilion was a compact group exhibition, the Palazzo was a series of room-scale installations.
What would you say is the role of the gallery and gallerist now, and has it shifted since you started curating?
I really admire the work of galleries who are constantly pushing the boundaries of what a gallery can do, in order to continue to promote the work of their artists in the global 21st Century. It’s exciting to be in a world that is so creative.
It’s exciting to be in a world that is so creative.
How/would you like the gallery to expand, in terms of space or programme?
Our goal is to work on special projects with the artists we represent outside the gallery, to bring their work to new audiences in the UK, and around the world. For example, Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq will exhibit in Saudi Arabia, Shaun McDowell in Northern Ireland, and James Capper in Broken Hill, Australia. This is of course alongside maintaining the programme at the gallery in Peckham, and the work we do to support exhibitions of our artists work in other galleries and museums.
To answer this one I gotta call on Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."