2020 was an especially challenging year for the art business – galleries and art fairs were equally put under pressure by the worldwide Corona-Crisis. Yet, a few daring “first-timers” decided to turn the crisis into an opportunity and chose the year of the pandemic for expanding internationally and participating in viennacontemporary for the first time.
The Dutch gallery Dürst Britt & Mayhew participated with a presentation originally intended for Liste Basel, coincidentally ending up showcasing Austrian artist David Roth in his hometown. We talked to gallerist Alexander Mayhew about the gallery’s connections to the Viennese art scene, their experiences with the fair, and a rather inventive business model in times of Corona.
“Our first time participating at viennacontemporary was a very nice experience. Art fairs are always fun because you meet a lot of new people – collectors, curators, artists – so the platform for your artists becomes much larger, and you get to discover a lot of new art yourself. The location of viennacontemporary is just so beautiful and airy. And we loved the catering – a lot of art fairs can learn from what Christine Friedreich and her team were serving in the Marxhalle. Of course, you had the Corona measures in place –the time slots, the distance, the masks – but it was a concentrated fair. The visitors desperately wanted to see art, really wanted to talk – and we sold quite well, to be frank. After all those months without art fairs, it felt really good to be amongst interested people again and get even more acquainted with the Viennese art scene.”
“Vienna has a very interesting art scene, historically speaking. We do love Vienna very much.
The old cafés like Prückel, all the nice pies, Sacher Torte and all the other Torten. But also a more experimental restaurant like Kommod, recommended to us by Sophie Tappeiner. Everything is slower and has a bit of a 19th century feel to it. There are the established galleries, but also very young ones that operate on an extremely high level. We visited most galleries and had really interesting talks and meetings. At the fair, I happened to see works by Korean artist Jongsuk Yoon at Galerie Rosemarie Schwarzwälder’s booth and we started a dialogue with Rosemarie. Now, we have works consigned from her to show in an upcoming exhibition in Holland. We also have a very good click with EXILE and Zeller van Almsick.”
“It was nice to show David Roth’s work in his hometown. We received a lot of attention, sales, and coverage on his work. He is a really interesting artist with a main focus on painting, from many different angles, and has a very historical mind. I love the tactility, the spirituality and the performativity of his work. David continually plays with concepts of construction and deconstruction as well as with the performative and sculptural potential painting can possess. This leads one one hand to lovely small colorful paintings that are characterized by a thick impasto, but also to large scale installations and video-registrations of performative interventions with his paintings.”
“We are a relatively young gallery that was established in 2015. Our goal is to offer artists an international platform in Holland. Most of them are in their thirties or early forties, but we also represent the reemerged Jacqueline de Jong (who in the 1960s was a key-member of the Situationist Internationale and partner of Asger Jorn) as well as the estate of Willem Hussem, who is considered in our country to be one of the most important abstract artists after WW2. Working with these two makes it possible to place our roster within a transhistorical context. Both me and my gallery partner, Jaring Dürst Britt, have a background in art history. We are both storytellers. We often visited art fairs, wondering why the gallerist just sits in the booth, not reacting to the visitors, instead of telling the story behind the work. So, we thought we can do better.“ (laughs)
“For us, as a gallery, it is important that the artists we represent have a technical ability in the media they use – may it be painting, drawing, video, sculpture, or a very conceptual practice. We like that the artists we represent know where they are coming from, know a bit of their (art) history. Being an artist is hard– you have to have stamina. As gallerists, we want to start with artists and stick with them for years, even in difficult times. We still have the same artists that we started with six years ago. Not everyone produces the same amount every year, but that’s not necessary, as long as they are still in that mindset of wanting to create.”
“In current times, people are hungry for art, they want to see it and they want to buy. Corona of course makes our business more difficult. We sometimes sell something via Instagram, but mostly in situations where the buyers already know the artist. In times like these, you need to be inventive: We have a little red van and we offer our customers to come to their house with a selection of art and show it on their walls. It’s Covid-safe, it’s fun, and people like it a lot!”