Galleries - February 2011

either in the gallery or online – which represents about a third of Piper’s entire print output. He employs, moreover, a full-time art historian working from a substan- tial reference library (the only relic of the superb second-hand book- shop he used to run from the same building some 20-25 years ago) to provide the academic backup and authentication. “Time and choice” are his watchwords and, as far as he is concerned, fairs just can’t give them in anything like the same way as a visit to the gallery or its remarkably comprehensive (and attractive) websites can. There is an ethical and very personal dimension to all this too as far as he is concerned – “people have paid a lot of money for a piece of paper (or canvas), which is quite an act of faith and trust, and I like the idea that they know where I am – I’m not just some bloke at a fair who appeared and sold them something, and then they never saw again. I like the accountability and would rather miss out on a possible customer and do it in my style in my place.” That question of per- sonal style comes into much of what he does and how he does it – the 50-odd individual catalogues a year he produces, new art book signings, the excellent DVD films he makes on the artists and Art fairs, from such giant internat- ional affairs as Frieze and Basel right down to local events like Reading and Windsor, have be- come such a ‘given’ of the cont- emporary art-buying scene over the last 20 years or so that the idea of any commercial gallery, large or small, deliberately esch- ewing participation in them has become almost unthinkable. Yet there you have Mike Goldmark, sitting (well, probably not, in fact!) in the middle of a small Rutland- shire town (Uppingham c3,000 pop.), with a gallery reputedly turning over a fair few £million per annum and employing over 20 people, who has never been to a single one and has, for the time being at least, no intention of changing his mind on the subject. Asking him why in a recent interview, he is quick to point out that he has absolutely nothing against the whole idea of Art Fairs per se and is full of admiration for the commitment and enthusiasm last month’s interviewee, Will Ramsay, has shown in building up the Affordable brand. “It’s more that I’m just not comfortable with the way they work for us – when people buy art from me I feel it’s so important they have no feeling of being rushed into any decision. Also I think it’s important they should have absolutely the best possible choice, and scholarship, to support it.” He cites, as an example, someone wanting to purchase a John Piper print – at any moment he has c.140 in his current stock for them to view potters he shows, as well as the numerous, constantly changing and updated websites, each dedicated to an individual artist, that have become perhaps his best known trade mark. And that raises a final and important point about fairs, the often cited fact that they are a means of attracting new custom- ers to the gallery. Mike feels strongly that the idea prevalent among so many galleries, parti- cularly London ones, that all you have to do is open your doors and “the people coming in are simply going to run up the white flag of surrender and buy the work of art” is, as he puts it, “dead in the water.” Mike Goldmark has to make things happen and it is his very personal, idiosyncratic style in this area – for him running a gallery (or shop as he prefers to call it) means taking on the equi- valent and intuitive process as “an artist making art, finding out what you don’t know” - that saw him acquiring over 720 new customers last year (the fact that he actually knows the figure is significant in itself). While 66% of his sales are still via the internet, he is also noticing the visitor numbers to the gallery are now rising significantly as people, switch off their PCs and get in their cars to come and see it for themselves – he cites one man who came in recently for the first time who had been buying from him over the internet for two years. With things like this happening, there is another way . . . 10. GALLERIES FEBRUARY 11 ANOTHER WAY Nicholas Usherwood talks to Mike Goldmark