Nettie Horn Gallery is an eclectic East London gem that showcases emerging artists from the UK and around the world. With a strong emphasis on experimental, investigative art, the work they display ranges from the the conceptual to the electrifying, and in the case of performance artist Antti Laitinen, gloriously, wholeheartedly mad. Check out their interview –
Tell me about the story behind the Nettie Horn Gallery- How did it all begin?
It happened very organically and was mainly a question of opportunities that came about at the right time… I was organizing one-off exhibitions for a little while and met some great artists on the way so when a space materialized we decided that it would be a good time to build something more solid.
Is there a particular vision or philosophy behind the gallery? Has it evolved, or changed over time?
Yes it inevitably has changed slightly over the years, very gradually, but you realize that your choice of artists isn’t coincidental and that there are common strands that exist between the artists with some interesting cross-overs. The gallery’s programme is very much orientated towards artists who explore the notion of territory either through human or physical experiences, so artists who work with in-situ installations, performance or others who have a more subjective approach to their personal history.
You have represented a wide variety of artists and creators over the years. Are there particular styles or mediums that fascinate you, or does it depend on each individual artist? Is there an underlying theme that unifies the art you choose to show?
We don’t really look at medium-specific artists when we are looking at a practice. If an
artist’s practice is coherent both conceptually and visually then the medium will often follow suit. We work with a number of artists who have a multi-disciplinary practice and depending on the project, they will choose the medium that will most suitably translate their vision.
Tell me about your artists. How do you find them? What do you look for? Is there a particular aesthetic that you seek?
We work with 10 artists based internationally (France, Germany, Finland, Estonia, Canada, Indonesia and Britain). We happen to go to many exhibitions and fairs around the world so we have the opportunity to discover new artists all the time. Sometimes collectors or curators will recommend we take a look at a particular artist they think we might be interested in – as they are familiar with the identity of the gallery and our ethos, they are quite apt at pointing us towards artists that are in line with our programme. The internet is also a great tool for research.
What is your definition of art? What about good art? Is there such a thing?
I would say that art is like learning to read a new language in a broad sense… but “good” art is probably down to very personal sensibilities.
And how would you describe an art gallery? What delineates it from the online presence of an artist, an art fair, or other exhibition?
A gallery is there to defend the work of an artist on the long-term and is a supportive platform that works on many levels, not merely the presentation of a body of work by an artist in a solo show every few years. We actively work on promoting the work of our artists throughout the year, liaising with museums and institutions and developing a collector base for each artist. Developing an artist’s career is an active and ongoing process so the work of a gallery is an in-depth structure that looks after the business side of an artist’s practice… This is what happens behind the scenes but it’s of course and above all a space to create an artistic dialogue through the presentation of works that we feel are pertinent and engaging.
How would you characterize the relationship between you and your artists? What do you see as the purpose of this relationship – dialogue, business, furtherance of art, or perhaps something else altogether?
A bit of all of these elements of course, it’s a collaboration and so our relationship with the artists that we work with is built on a very innate level. A solid understanding and communication are essential elements for a good working relationship and we wouldn’t work with an artist with whom we didn’t share a unique connection with.
Do you find art is naturally suited to business? How do you balance displaying work you absolutely love and making a profit for the gallery? Have you found that popular taste is generally in line with your own?
At our level, presenting artists that we love does not necessarily go in line with making a profitable business! I guess this is the nature of working in the art world and developing a programme with integrity and passion. Several of our artists have very uncommercial practices and we tend to present video and installation-based works on a regular basis.
These exhibitions are important for us as they characterize the gallery’s identity and are usually exhibitions that will “stand out”, but from a purely business/financial point of view – and if we were working in pretty much any other field – these choices would not be considered to be rational or sensible…
I’m not sure there is such a thing as “popular taste” in art – our visitors and collectors have been following us for a while and so we inevitably share a connection and common interest in the artists that we present.
Do you see any trends currently evolving within the art world? Has the introduction of the internet affected this in any way?
No, I wouldn’t say there are any trends as such although there seems to be a broader receptiveness towards video works and artists using the media/internet/technology in recent years.
Daniel Firman, Nettie Horn Gallery
What would you define as success for an artist? And for the gallery? Are the two necessarily aligned?
I guess an artist becoming internationally recognized would be a sign of his or her success. Exhibiting in museums and institutions and being in important private and public collections are valuable elements in the development of an artist’s career. The gallery’s success is defined by the success of its artists so the two go hand in hand.
And what do you think makes a good art exhibition? Are there any in particular that stand out in your mind as truly amazing?
Good exhibitions are usually bold, poetic and experimental at the same time. There are three exhibitions in recent years that stand out for me: one was a two-person show with Brancusi and Richard Serra at the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, another was Tino Sehgal’s show at the Guggenheim in New York and there was also the Francis Alys exhibition at the Tate Modern in London.
Do you have any new artists or shows coming up that you could tell us a little about?
In September we will be showing a Danish collective called AKassen who mainly work with performative installation and sculpture – their work is often developed through discrete interventions within spaces and contexts, which subtlely reveal themselves with a degree of surprise and humour.
In October we are presenting Sinta Werner’s third solo show at the gallery. Sinta essentially plays with the architectural qualities of her surroundings to create architectonic installations that deconstruct and fragment the space. Through these installations, she creates elaborate fictitious environments that often mislead or disorientate the viewer so she very much plays with the grey areas that exist between what we see and what we imagine.