Fairing well: Redux: Pu(bli)shing for Profit
Co-authored: Andrew Super and Paul Laidler
Continuing on the last installment’s theme of folk emerging from the Multiplied Art Fair at Christie’s (read more here), we’ll turn our sights away from the students and not-for-profits, and towards the ‘may-or-may-not-have-gone-to-school-onces’ and ‘yeah-we’d-really-like-to-turn-a-profits’. This means talking to publishers that have been around a little while, but might still be coming into their own, especially in the London scene. To do that we took a brisk walk out of Room 7 and straight into the gates of Rooms 1 and 5. We had the good fortune to speak with Ulrich Kühle and Sarah Dudley from Keystone Editions in Berlin, and James Pidcock from Grey Area Multiples in Paris. They’ve been kind enough to not only share some of their insights, but also some of their imagery – all images are courtesy of the respective artists, Grey Area, Paris, and Keystone Editions, Berlin.
Representing flip sides of the publishing presence coin at Multiplied, Grey Area has been an annual presence while Keystone are the new kids in the hall. Figuring out how to make a living by making work is one thing, but figuring out how to make a living investing in the production of the work of others and moving it in a way that allows you to survive is a whole other kettle of fish. So this instalment is going to focus on the business end of publishing in regards to the fair, and the decisions that have to be made about whose work the publishers are bringing to jolly ol’ London town.
The biggest decision about any party, obviously, is what to wear – in this case what the walls of the stand should be wearing. For both publishers, the answer was a mix of old and new, slightly safer along with a bit of a gamble. Grey Area presented some previously well received work from Matt Calderwood, alongside some insanely meticulous pigment prints from an up and coming Barcelona based artist who goes by O.W.P., just opposite some of Guy Allott’s enigmatic and melancholic aliens and robots.
The printed matter ranged from traditional woodblock prints to laser cut wooden crests cum spaceships, but it thematically meshed together through a synthesis of wonder, scepticism, and ever-so-slight cynicism. In response to the similar yet varied display, James said, “For me I don’t see the difference, if it’s good I’ll show it…with one proviso, I only work with nice people.” While there were some definite stylistic similarities between the works presented, it was quite clear that the ultimate association was on the merit of the artists themselves and their working relationship with Grey Area.
Echoing the visual dissimilarities between the works was James’ display of them. Take a quick walk around Multiplied and you’ll generally see stalls whose display falls into one of three categories: jam packed with everything they could possibly put up without the wall falling down, so exceptionally minimal that the stall’s existence itself begins to feel like performance art piece, or somewhere in the middle where the display is a pure extension of the work and the publisher’s connection to and love for it. The Grey Area stall certainly falls into the latter. Emphasizing the deliberate design of the placement, James pointed out that the conceptual links between most of the works aide in figuring out what to put where, but ultimately he plans the space “quite carefully based upon which new works are on the horizon, some gallery classics, and what is realistic” for the given format.
Presented as a counter in almost every way to Grey Area are first time Multipliers at Keystone Editions. Keystone is different in both form and function as a publisher, but with an end goal that is virtually identical – to produce work that they are fully vested in. Both Sarah and Ulrich are Tamarind trained master lithographers who have pulled prints all over the globe. Focusing exclusively on lithography (they’ve got one bad ass press, but haven’t yet purchased the rollers that will allow it to pull double duty for etching as well) they decided to finally go into business for themselves and started off working on a contract basis for various artists and entities in and around Berlin. They quickly turned to publishing as a means to bring more excitement into their studio, and to push the boundaries of print in Germany. Not exactly the lightest of claims, Sarah explained that, “in Germany, a lot of the printing is more traditional, which is fine because that’s where a lot of it started, and so there was room for us to build a bit of a niche. Especially in Berlin, by focusing on unusual ways of making lithographs, and being open to artists that were open to trying something that hadn’t been done before.” One series of prints that is wholeheartedly indicative of this pursuit are some visually raucous, yet ethereal, one color lithographs by Monika Goetz. Looking at the jagged and explosive quality of the ink on the paper it’s an easy jump to realize what the prints are of – fire, in some form – but not how they came to be – by burning massive birthday sparklers directly onto photo-litho plates.
The latest work to come from Keystone was also on display, and was a perfect example of what Ulrich and Sarah set out to do – make prints they were proud of, and allow artists to work in a way they probably weren’t accustomed to. Their collaboration with Haleh Redjaian was presented as a series of prints deceptive in their simplicity (they are comprised almost entirely of patterns of rectangles and lines in straightforward arrangements), but intriguing in their depth. Printed specifically to be some of the main work presented at Multiplied, these prints were Haleh’s first lithographs.
Having never made prints in a professional context would seem like an incredible handicap, but it’s a model that is promoted by Keystone. Ulrich clarified this by pointing out that they (he and Sarah) “do all the technical stuff… [and we] try to keep the artist…out of the production of it.” That may sound harsh, but let’s face it, the term is ‘master printer’ for a reason and less things go haywire when artists are free to be creative without having to worry about technical things.
Taking a detour back to the impetus for our Multiplied conversations, we spoke with both publishers at length about how they chose which emerging artists to bring to the fair, and their responses were remarkably similar. There were the obvious prints that made both fiscal and visual sense, with Calderwood’s work at Grey Area and some William Kentridge prints produced during Sarah and Ulrich’s time in South Africa for Keystone. But facts are facts, and full disclosure means that publishers go to fairs to primarily do a certain thing (spoiler alert – that thing is making money selling work). So why would they take the giant financial risk of bringing along something by someone who isn’t a somebody, or work that hasn’t proved profitable yet? It turns out there’s a couple of reasons. First, it works wonders for the artists themselves. Speaking to this point, James said that it’s “a pleasure to be able to pay a young artist at the end of it all, as just a small sale can be a real boost for an emerging artist. But even if it is not a question of sales, presenting new work to a large number of people over a weekend is clearly key.” Keystone not only agrees on this point, but drives it home by taking it a step further. When asked about Haleh’s response to having her work exhibited at the fair, Sarah recalled that “she was delighted…she was thrilled that we got these done in time so that we could take them to the fair…which was the plan from the beginning. When we invited her, we told her that we would love to launch these at the fair.”
Haleh’s excitement is both expected and warranted, because when it comes down to it there’s something particularly cool about saying that your work has been shown at Christie’s. Christie’s is a big name brand, and being directly associated with big name brands is almost always a good thing. Even if it’s just a morale booster, being able to walk through a space and see your work hanging on the wall a short distance from the likes of Robert Blake, Damien Hirst, Marc Quinn…well, that’s a pick me up to say the least. For their part, Christie’s seems to enjoy helping propagate this feeling by encouraging publishers to bring work from their fresh faces and allow the fair to emulate the democratic nature of the multiple itself. The moral of the story – be good, make good, do good, show good. And then, hopefully, earn good.
We’ve allowed for a bit of time to elapse, and it looks like that’s exactly how things have shaped up since the conclusion of the fair. James at Grey Area has been working in earnest prepping to exhibit new Guy Allot woodcuts and paintings at the London Art Fair in just a few weeks. And as for O.W.P. and the first time exposure of Multiplied? Well, it turns out that being fresh faced can be a good thing – that translates into two new commissions from people who had never seen the artist’s work previously. The results of the fair were equally as impressive, albeit distinct, for Sarah and Ulrich at Keystone Editions. Ulrich pointed out that they went to Christie’s not only to sell work, but also to advertise the services of the workshop. Judging by the amount of new projects that are showing up on the Keystone site, the advertisement definitely worked. Here’s hoping that all continues to fare well into 2015!
Andrew and Paul would like to thank James, Ulrich, and Sarah for taking the time to assist in the creation of this article. They’re awesome people doing great work – thank you!