If you can’t visit Patrick Heide at an art fair or in his space on London’s Church Street, then the best place to talk about his gallery is standing outside of a small corner coffee shop, sipping a hot drink. The gallery works extensively and intensely to promote its artists with exhibitions and art fairs all over Europe, so you can see that Patrick is used to talking about the artist’s and their medium, no matter the setting. Though he is measured and rational, it is obvious that he has true passion for his work. He cares deeply about the conversations these artworks, and specifically this medium, can instigate and consistently looks forward to inviting those exchanges.
Buying Artworks On Paper
As the founder of Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, what makes you so passionate about works on paper and how do you work to convey this enthusiasm to your existing clients as well as potential new buyers?
Drawings and works on paper were, frankly, the artworks I usually responded to most, both visually and emotionally. Three qualities primarily strike me about the medium: the sensuality, the immediacy and the intimacy. Combined in a work these properties have an impact that is frequently deeper and more touching than any other medium.
Sophie Bouvier Ausländer, for example, takes maps and covers them with wax and gouache to then dig through the colour, revealing scarred landscapes. Or Minjung Kim, who tears and burns strips of textured and coloured Korean mulberry Hanj paper which she then collages into harmonious compositions.
Works on paper also offer such a variety: the handling of the paper, the different paper types and their haptic properties, the broad range of techniques, the solidity paired with fragility, the empty space.
My own personal passion for the medium finds its expression in the programming of the gallery. We do specialised fairs like the Drawing Now fair in Paris or the Works on Paper section of TEFAF to promote the medium, but there is a quite specialised group of interested curators and collectors. Fortunately, we succeed in finding new clients, of all ages, where the spark of enthusiasm just simply jumps across.
As an international design studio based in London, Designed by Woulfe works to glean from all of the diverse cultures that the city has to offer. With such a diverse and international group of represented and collaborating artists, ranging from Switzerland to Iraq to Germany to South Korea, how do you manage to present each artist and their cultural backgrounds without having them conflict with one another?
Is there anything you think that is provided by having your base in London that perhaps another city wouldn’t be able to offer the gallery or your artists? Luckily, the language of art leaps across many borders. We might have a client from Hong Kong who newly discovers an artwork from a German artist and falls in love with it. Much of the gallery presentation aesthetic is abstract and works to engage in conceptualised conversations. In my view, you could almost say: the less narrative a work of art is the more possible links to other cultures you are likely to find because they communicate on another level. The fascination with finding the essence of an expression is a real driving force for me. The cultural backgrounds play a role and find their expression in the works. Yet, the diverse cultures join a plurality of connected forms, themes, aesthetics and roots that binds them together apart from their history.
London offers a diversity of cultures and inspirations like no other city in Europe. I love London’s ‘live and let live’ attitude. It is a crossroads of ideas and cultures, open to encounters of diverse thinking, with unique exposure to new artists and their art.
Your website declares the mission statement as “[i]n an attempt to reveal the underlying patterns of human society, the gallery program hopes to present artistic statements that are visually, sensually, and intellectually challenging.” What are your criteria for evaluating whether an artwork can meet this standard?
My gut reaction is always my first and foremost criteria to evaluate whether an artwork moves me or not. Then, a deeper analysis of the work, its past and future trajectory becomes important, and, in my view, how you get along with the artist is also vital. In respect to the statement on the website, it very much links in with the answers above: the fascination with the medium of drawing and its sensuality, immediacy and intimacy. And the search for a multi-layered yet essential expression in art. Further, the ability of an artwork to have several levels of understanding: a literal one, a more profound and possibly a metaphysical one.
British Artist David Connearn
British artist David Connearn, for example, draws parallel lines, free hand, one below the other, for more than 30 years. The monotony of the act is mind boggling, the simplicity and beauty of the compositions in my view unparalleled. The concept couldn’t be simpler; yet the connotations of a line never being like another line whilst still following the same path opens up a whole field of prospects. We can bring that into our own experiences with parallels to regularity and small changes in our breathing, our routine, our existence. Comparisons to the layering of earth strata or even our thoughts, to weaving, singing and rhythm, all essential actions and structures. The possibilities are endless.
Of course, it is important to foster young, emerging talent and you are very clear that this is something that Patrick Heide Contemporary Art strives to do. What support do you provide to these artists, whom you refer to as ‘Breeders’?
The Breeders program was started with the idea of nurturing emerging artists, even graduates.
Some artists manage to market themselves well or build up networks that support them, though the strategies have recently depended more and more on social media presence, the current trend, and investment. If you don’t fit into these categories, it is very hard to get exposure and to be exhibited. I very much believe that you have to assist young artists that interest you, start integrating them in exhibitions until they are ready for a solo presentation. It might not always be commercially viable, and it might turn out to remain challenging. In some instances, their commercial success comes quite early on as with the German painter Pius Fox, or recently the Brazilian artist Alice Quaresma. In other cases, the road to success might take longer, yet the collaboration and mutual inspiration makes it always worthwhile. To observe the development of an artist is one of the most gratifying parts of my job.
Working With Up-and-Coming Artists
Katherine Murphy, for example, disappears in her studio and, sometimes, I don’t hear from her for over two years. The subsequent studio visit then reveals the most sublime, cleverly abstracted works about the complex and, at times, inhuman world of labour.
More importantly, emerging artists are the nutritious soil of our creative future. It may sound a bit grand, but without artists being able to work creatively and freely, that soil will run dry, or turn the art world into an investment gamble, which it has partially already done.
One other fact was curious: when we opened the “Breeder” section, we introduced six artists, of which 3 had a child within the first year. Not the kind of nurturing I had in mind but, of course, quite wonderful.
The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht is one of the many fairs where Patrick Heide Contemporary Art exhibits. What do you think the fair organisers have done correctly in terms of presenting artwork and where do you think it will need to improve going forward?
TEFAF in Maastricht is, in many ways, my favourite fair. TEFAF shows only the best quality, independent of trends, which in my view it has successfully achieved for decades. The presentations are stunning and carefully curated, at times maybe too traditional, yet for many clients it is simply the most beautiful fair in the world. Since the beginning, TEFAF has presented a wide range of fine and decorative art from antiquities to contemporary, with specialised dealers showing the very best of niche objects like walking sticks or snuff boxes. I personally find this art historic range most inspiring, as I see contemporary art with all its desire to break the code and conventions as a trajectory, still mostly nurtured by its historical roots. Sophie Bouvier Ausländer, for example, works with post-war road maps as described above. Across the aisle is a dealer showing important historic maps. From British artist Susan Stockwell we presented a 19th century dress made of bank notes addressing the historical role of women- a piece much liked by collectors and dealers of coins, historic dresses and woman art, and these are just obvious connections.
TEFAF’s image is probably a bit dusty and old fashioned. The crowds that are attracted by the trendy atmosphere of contemporary fairs like Art Basel or Frieze are not necessarily drawn to its antiquated setting. The fair management is working on refreshing the image as it is vital to attract some of the “contemporary” crowd, yet even more so to get the younger generation interested and wanting to come.
Designed By Woulfe consistently incorporates different works of art with diverse mediums into their interiors and because paper is such a fragile medium, what advice would you give to help maintain the quality of a work (i.e. no direct sunlight, proximity to a heat source, etc.)?
Every artwork has its own idiosyncrasy and special attention it needs. For works on paper, generally speaking, too much light exposure is usually problematic. Direct sunlight can be disastrous because of the fading of the media used, in particular ink, and the bleaching of the paper. It is important to watch out for archival paper and media for longevity and invest in high quality protective framing. This is often costly, but worth it in the long run. Extreme temperatures and humidity are also an issue, this can be heat sources and even weather. Generally, is better to not have works on paper in such environment. A dealer/artist should normally warn clients of particular conservation caveats. In case of doubt, it is always better to just fire away with questions. The works of Minjung Kim for example are made with the Mulberry Hanji paper. The paper is of great quality, highly dexterous and very durable. However, its colours fade dramatically when exposed to a lot of daylight. Or the maps of Sophie Bouvier Ausländer that she covers with wax and gouache. As artworks they are not fragile at all, because the wax gives them a perfect protective layer. They can live in places that would be considered borderline or a no-go for other works. When direct sunlight hits the waxed surface though, it can even melt, particularly when the heat level rises inside a frame.
Which of your artists are you most excited about in 2021?
Minjung Kim was included in the new edition of Vitamin D, an important survey by Phaidon on contemporary drawing, which is a great honour. Kim has been very successful in the past years and is now at a point in her career where the big break-through is not far. Thomas Müller is one of the best known and most respected drawing artists in Germany. For years we have been pushing to establish him on the international stage and will hopefully make good headway in 2021. Of the younger artists, Alice Quaresma had much deserved recognition recently, also institutionally, so she is likely to get more and more attention. But then who knows, by the end of what is probably going to be another very peculiar year, it might be someone completely different that rises to the upper echelons.
What is your ideal client?
Probably my 3-year old daughter, because she generally thinks that what I do is all great, then she criticises me at the most unexpected moments. And her comments are never commercially driven. To answer this question honestly is probably too complex and personal. To put it simply, someone who shares your passion for the art you are passionate about.
Designed By Woulfe has invited Tova Ossad of Ossad Art Management to interview a range of art world personalities. Her fifteen years' experience working in this sphere has exposed her to many artists, auction specialists, art advisors, conservators, and gallerists, thereby giving the Design Journal fresh insight into the fundamentals of art. This series will explore buying, selling, appreciating, and everything in between.