Sarah Wiseman Gallery celebrates 20th Anniversary

Sarah Wiseman Gallery
May 11, 2018 12:39PM

We catch up with Sarah Wiseman as her gallery celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Guests at the Gallery's 20th Anniversary Celebration May 2018

Sarah, congratulations on the 20th anniversary of the gallery! Tell us about how the gallery started and your first exhibition.

Opening a gallery became an ambition of mine whilst studying History of Art at University. In the background of many artists’ careers I was aware of the important role gallerists played in creating opportunities to exhibit and promote their work. I found it very inspirational as these individuals were brave enough to believe in the artists, take risks and find a way to put their work on show to the public no matter what.

The core of my business is that I firmly believe in that transformative moment when the artist and gallery successfully work side by side. I loved that energy from my studies and I love it even more now that it is part of my daily professional life.

Running alongside my ambition were two other catalysts to taking the step to opening a gallery.

The first was when people kept telling me that I couldn’t! One conversation I distinctly remember was with a friend while I was still at university. We were discussing what we wanted to do in the future and I said I wanted to own a gallery. She simply said ‘You can’t do that!’ The idea of it was an impossibility in her mind, but that closed mindedness got me thinking, ‘Well why not?’ And from that moment, I started to consider it a real possibility and began to look for ways to make it happen, which meant working in the art world to get the necessary experience.

The second was being turned down for a dream job in a gallery in London as they thought I would be leaving too soon to open up on my own. It was quite a compliment that they feared my ambition. When we met again a few years later at an art fair where I was presenting my own gallery they said ‘We should have employed you!’

I am very proud that I have had the courage of my convictions to stand by that initial ‘Why not’ moment and once I had my gallery, I was going to do all I could in my power to keep it; so, my career path was set.

Our first exhibition was called ‘Fresh Paint’. It reflected the new artists that we had on show and the fact that the refurbishment had just been completed. The show had a great energy, with abstract and figurative paintings. In fact one of the painting by artist Adam Stone is still remembered by clients today. It is a huge painting of a man diving into a swimming pool, very dramatic and it set the tone for the gallery’s future. I remember it very fondly.

What factors were important to you for the gallery when you opened – what do you think sets Sarah Wiseman Gallery apart?

I always have set my own agenda for the gallery, sourced my artists and curated my programme. The gallery has grown through the artists and collectors I have met on the journey. This has always been important to me, to know the artist, to be able to communicate their ideas directly, to give access to the work in an easy way, to allow the idea of collecting art to grow naturally in people’s minds, to try to be as uncomplicated and straight forward as possible.

We always put our artist’s at the front of all our communications, to help collectors engage with them and their practice, whilst creating positive experiences with art.

One collector said to me at our 10th Birthday ‘that you have always had a singular clear vision about how you want to run your gallery and that is why it is a success’

How would you describe the gallery’s programme – what would you say you look for in an artist?

The gallery programme is a balance between solo and group exhibitions. Artists need the focus of a solo exhibition, it is a place for them to develop and grow new ideas, it often is a catalyst for the new, which is what makes them exciting and nerve wrecking. Then with the group exhibitions there are moments to make connections within our group of gallery artists and to open up opportunities to show work by new artists. When you work with a large group of artists you find that they are all ebbing and flowing at different rates and need different things from you as a gallery, the key is listening to all of that alongside the conversations you are having with collectors to create the programme. So it is very organic process and one that is always being fine tuned.

What I look for in an artist, is commitment and a strong visual identity. It is instant choosing whether or not an artist will work for the gallery, I am very visual and that connection has to come across for me very strongly. I also look for potential, and try to see where an artist can grow to from their current stand point, does their work have a sense of longevity a continuing conversation they can develop.

What achievement, moment, or success are you most proud of?

This moment, in fact! I have been asked the question a lot recently and there are too many moments and people to mention that have been pivotal in the history of the gallery. Looking back it is quite emotional to think how far we have come along and I am proud of everyday that I have been dedicated to the gallery. I am even prouder that my enthusiasm has brought many wonderful people to work with me at the gallery and be part of its history and future.

However when looked at as a whole they all build to one thing and that is today celebrating our 20th Anniversary and the gallery’s future.

Daniel Ablitt
In the Flowers (Memory), 2018
Sarah Wiseman Gallery

Artist Daniel Ablitt (centre) at the 20th Anniversary Celebration

Which are your favourite pieces at the moment? (tell us a bit about the artist & their production process)

Daniel Ablitt’s new collection of work is very special to me at the moment. Daniel is having a solo exhibition ‘Foundations’ at the gallery and it is the backdrop for the 20th Anniversary celebrations. I have worked with Dan for 6 years and I really admire his work and his ethic. In recent times we have spent many hours discussing how to develop his established practice, where to take his work, to push it to a new level.

In this exhibition I have encouraged him to take a leap of faith and go for it, I have given him the freedom to take the work where he wanted it to go!

It has been nerve wrecking for the both of us! Yet, truly rewarding! It took a while for Dan to settle into a different way of thinking about his work to find a new depth and narrative to explore. For a while it was all just up in the air as ideas and then they began to fall into place. I feel this is just the beginning and now that he has started testing his own boundaries he wants to break more of them down as the ideas are really flowing!

Dan’s exhibition really represents what the gallery is all about, working closely with our artists to help and encourage them to grow their careers, so it is a fitting show to have on while we are celebrating the start of our 20th year!

What element of your work still makes you really excited after 20 years at the gallery?

There has to be two things and I appreciate they are a constant theme. So the first is seeing new work by artists in the gallery, their creativity and willingness to always push themselves is very motivational and inspiring. It is that endeavour that gives the gallery its buzz and energy.

The second is when our customers/collectors get as excited about an artist as we do, it is so rewarding.

Oh there has to be the third telling an artist when they have had lots of sales!! Never fails, to make me feel good; it is great to be able to tell creative people when they are being successful!

Angie Lewin
Sarah Wiseman Gallery

Sarah Wiseman (centre) with assistants past and present, Emma Jagare, Allyson Austin, Johanna Gullberg & Sarah Lacey

Sarah Wiseman Gallery