“It became clear right from the beginning that one way to make the Collection stronger was to engage with artists directly”

By Anna Savitskaya - Monday, February 29, 2016
“It became clear right from the beginning that one way to make the Collection stronger was to engage with artists directly”

Not many family art collections in the world can boast such a committed and complex approach to building its collection of contemporary art as the Zabludowicz family can. Since the 1990s Poju and Anita Zabludowicz have been accumulating their broad and extensive collection of artworks, which now counts over 3,000 pieces. In addition to digging for some details on the Collection’s upcoming exhibition Emotional Supply Chains, Artdependence Magazine spoke with Director Elizabeth Neilson and curator Paul Luckraft about the history of the family’s collection, its development over the years, their work with young artists, and their various programs.

“It became clear right from the beginning that one way to make the Collection stronger was to engage with artists directly”

“It became clear right from the beginning that one way to make the Collection stronger was to engage with artists directly” – an interview with Elizabeth Neilson and Paul Luckraft from the Zabludowicz Collection

Not many family art collections in the world can boast such a committed and complex approach to building its collection of contemporary art as the Zabludowicz family can. Since the 1990s Poju and Anita Zabludowicz have been accumulating their broad and extensive collection of artworks, which now counts over 3,000 pieces.

The exhibition program of the Zabludowicz Collection is based on the principle of promoting emerging talent. Their venues in London, New York and their three locations in Finland (accessed by appointment only) give preference to the works of the younger generation and are actively engaged in educational activities by means of a large number of public talks and other projects aimed at interpreting and providing the wider public with more insight into the world of contemporary art.

Since 2010 the directors of the Zabludowicz Collection have organized three residency programs in Finland, and just recently opened a new one in Las Vegas. The dialogue created under these residency programs actively replenishes the ever-growing collection.

One of the unique initiatives of the Zabludowicz Collection is the Invites Program, which provides artists without commercial gallery representation the opportunity to present a solo exhibition in the Collection’s London venue.

In addition to digging for some details on the Collection’s upcoming exhibition Emotional Supply Chains, Artdependence Magazine spoke with Director Elizabeth Neilson and curator Paul Luckraft about the history of the family’s collection, its development over the years, their work with young artists, and their various programs. 

Elizabeth Neilson, Photo David Bebber, 2015

Artdependence Magazine: What led to the formation of the Zabludowicz Collection in the 1990s, and how did the art scene in the UK look like at that time?

Elizabeth Neilson: Before the Zabludowicz family first started thinking about collecting, they were already very active in the art scene: they had a lot of conversations with influential people, they started doing their research and most importantly, looking at art, and they realized that the role of a collector has many levels in the art world. It has been an organic development over the past 20 years, and this is quite an important point to emphasize with regards to what is a personal, family collection.

When they first started looking at artworks in the early 90s, the community of artists and galleries and art schools was much smaller than it is now but contemporary art in the UK was really gaining energy. The collection was always going to be post-war, but they initially looked at the Modern period, however, without a collecting background the young couple found it quite difficult to gain access to this art. But Anita was adamant and pretty quickly they got involved with contemporary art, specifically photography and moving image. Following their instincts and interests, they found themselves being interested in an international perspective. They also started thinking about the present day, about collecting what defines now rather than being overly focused on building a historical collection.

AD: How has the Zabludowicz Collection developed during the past two decades? What were the guiding principles in assembling the Zabludowicz Collection, and do they still remain the same? 

EN: The Collection has become more focused in its activities both public facing and behind the scenes. Having an exhibition space allows the collection to be examined in a public forum. The whole transformation, however, has been quite natural. We were never overly strategized - it was first about having a place for showing the collection and, as a natural progression of that, working with artists, curators and the public.

The group of works which makes up the Collection is growing all the time and engaging with these artworks, as well as the artists and galleries we were buying from, is what guides its growth - all this in combination very quickly turned the Collection into what it is now.

AD: The residency programs play a significant role in the Zabludowicz Collection's activity. Why is that and what is your method for working with artists in residence?

EN: It became clear right from the beginning that one way to make the collection stronger was to work and engage with artists directly. We always attempt to involve artists in the preparation of the exhibitions. This way, the collection gains more knowledge about the artist’s practice and the work will have the best possible exposure in the exhibition and afterlife in the archive. Also, artists are able to gain valuable experience, and the collection is able to take better care of the works, so everyone benefits from this engagement.  The residency program is different in that it is not always outcome or exhibition focused. It is more about building a deeper understanding of how artists work.

Our residency programs in Finland and in Las Vegas are very different: Sarvisalo is a rural island in Finland and Las Vegas is an iconic city in the middle of the American desert. So, in many ways, they are quite opposite to one another. We made the decision to allow people a lot of freedom when they are in residence. We don’t require that the artist produces any work for the collection during their stay and it is not necessarily about producing a show,s although we have invited artists we are working with to do residencies but this is more about the conversation and curatorial understanding of their work than any production. It is quite an unusual situation in that respect.

Installation view from Zabludowicz Collection: 20 Years, photo by Tim Bowditch, Zabludowicz Collection, 2015

Installation view from Zabludowicz Collection: 20 Years, photo by Tim Bowditch, Zabludowicz Collection, 2015

AD: How are artists selected?

EN: We select the artists internally and then we invite them - partly because we don’t have an administrative structure to deal with applications and also because it is a small program that only handles between two and five people every year. We choose the participants for the residency programs following conversations with the artists, the curators and the founders of the Collection. Over several years we have built up enough knowledge that we feel confident that we can invite those artists who stand to benefit the most from the residency experience. Our very specific type of provision is not right for every artist.

In a way, the idea to organize a residency program in Las Vegas was initiated because of conversations we were having with a number of artists. Not all of them ended up coming in this first iteration but they were formative in its development.

Installation view from Zabludowicz Collection: 20 Years, photo by Tim Bowditch, Zabludowicz Collection, 2015

Installation view from Zabludowicz Collection: 20 Years, photo by Tim Bowditch, Zabludowicz Collection, 2015

 

AD: Paul, can you please tell us more about the Invites Program. When and how did it start?

Paul Luckraft: The Invites Programs, launched in 2012, provides a unique opportunity for UK-based artists without commercial gallery representation to have a solo show at the Zabludowicz Collection in London. Artists have been selected as a result of extensive studio visits and shows run for around six weeks. 

Paul Luckraft, Curator at Zabludowicz Collection

There have been 26 Invite exhibitions so far, and we tend to organize between five to seven exhibitions each year. So, we’ve done quite a few Invites exhibitions by this point. They have a modest budget and a quick turnaround period. We are always looking for a variety of exhibitions throughout the year, and for different uses of the space.

AD: I imagine that it is quite difficult to choose, from the large number of potential candidates, one artist to produce a solo exhibition. What are your criteria for making this choice?

PL: Primarily we make our selection by visiting artist’s studios and exhibitions, including both BA and MA degree shows, and we are also very attentive to the recommendations of other artists and curators. We are also always on the lookout for things that look and feel interesting and ambitious. Of course, we do not want to limit ourselves to the London art scene either. But it is always a tough decision to make the final selections.

AD: How does the process of communication with a young artist look like?

PL: We are always ready to offer everything we have to realize the idea of the artist. Of course, it is also very important for the artist to have a certain notion of what he or she is trying to achieve, and from that point we can offer the curatorial support to try to realize the artist’s concept. For us, the joy of working in an institution like this is to have an opportunity to collaborate with a large number of young artists who are at the starting point of their careers. It is gratifying to see how they express themselves and to see how their project transforms from an initial conversation in their studio into something concrete. 

Installation view Zabludowicz Collection Invites: Jemma Egan, 2016. Photo: Tim Bowditch 

AD: In your opinion, is the interpretation of contemporary art necessary, and to what extent?

PL: Without a doubt art needs dialogue around it in order for it to be activated; it needs to be accompanied by in-depth interpretation. With this in mind we always schedule a variety of public programs around our exhibitions. We curate public talks and discussions, screenings, workshops in order to expand on ideas around the show. Exhibitions are also accompanied by publications in order to help the public get to know the subject and the artists involved.

AD: What advice would you give to young artists searching for attention and recognition?

PL: First, and perhaps rather obviously, I would emphasize a serious commitment to your practice. Art should have that sense of urgency and feel important to the artist. It is also important to obtain visibility and to take an active part within the artistic community - to be in dialogue with other artists and curators, writers and thinkers, younger or older. In these days this is really crucial. Artists should also be ambitious, in a positive sense of wanting people to have the chance to encounter the work. An exciting project can come out of a conversation with another artist, or curator, or gallerist. I think that the social side of the art world is very important. 

Emotional Supply Chains, 24 March–17 July. Daniel Keller, Onanet Spiruline 1, 2015. Living Spirulina algae, aqueous nutrient solution, ‘nanocube’ glass aquariums, power plugs, heaters, airstones, air compressors, LEDs, pumps, tubing, steel, silver, cubic zirconia. Dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist, Zabludowicz Collection, and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin. Photo: Hans-Georg Gaul.


Emotional Supply Chains, 24 March–17 July. Simon Denny: The Innovator's Dilemma. Installation view, PS1, New York, 2015. Courtesy the artist and PS1, New York. Photo: Pablo Enriquez.

AD: Could you give us some details about the Zabludowicz Collection’s upcoming exhibition Emotional Supply Chains.

PL: Emotional Supply Chains is a group exhibition running 24 March ­– 17 July, and it features 17 international artists from the Collection, with six new comissions. It addresses the construction of identity in the digital age, reflecting on how a sense of self is multiple rather than unified, and is assembled through a supply chain of constituent parts: objects, ideas and experiences that are often mediated on-screen or online. The participating artists are in many cases working with different types of storytelling, focusing on portraiture and self-portraiture. And they test out different modes of authorship, something being very present in the works, and sometimes working in a seemingly more distanced documentary guise. Overall I would say the exhibition aims to present how artists are dealing with the tensions and ambiguities around our simultaneous presence and absence within digital space; a space still very much linked to tangible real life circumstances and scenarios. Accompanying the show will be a public program of live events, talks and performances. And a publication will be available from mid-May, featuring a commissioned texts by excellent young writers Laurence Scott and Sam Riviere, and exclusive content from each of the exhibiting artists.

More information about The Zabludowicz Collection is here.

‘Zabludowicz Collection’ is at Taidehalli, 19 March – 24 April 2016

‘Emotional Supply Chains’ is at Zabludowicz Collection, 24 March – 17 July 2016

Anna is a graduate of Moscow’s Photo Academy, with a previous background in intellectual property rights. In 2012 she founded the company Perspectiva Art, dealing in art consultancy, curatorship, and the coordination of exhibitions. During the bilateral year between Russia and The Netherlands in 2013, Perspectiva Art organized a tour for a Dutch artist across Russia, as well as putting together several exhibitions in the Netherlands, curated by Anna. Since October 2014, Anna has taken an active role in the development and management of ArtDependence Magazine. Anna interviews curators and artists, in addition to reviewing books and events, and collaborating with museums and art fairs.

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