In The Spotlight: Ed Cross Fine Art

Hi all! Hoping all is well and you’re looking after yourselves mentally and physically during these difficult and trying times. I’ve been rather inconsistent with my entries of recent but I will endeavour to post, keeping you informed and hopefully inspiring your creative juices! I’ve been fortunate to interview several visual artists, musicians, authors, producers and directors for Occhi during the lockdown so please subscribe and follow the online magazine.

Ed Cross Fine Art works with emerging and established artists across and beyond the African diaspora. The gallery seeks to stage conversations – between practitioners, international audiences, and as guided by its artists to amplify voices historically silenced, and to create space for their independent development. Since launching in 2009, Ed Cross Fine Art has held exhibitions across the world: from New York to Paris, and London to Lagos, the gallery continues to build on its values of cooperation and curiosity. Occhi had the pleasure to speak to gallerist Ed Cross about the gallery and the sector trends, particularly in light of the COVID 19 lockdown.

Please tell our Occhi Readers how the Ed Cross gallery started.

Way back in 1988 I left my London publishing job at Heinemann to live in Kenya to pursue a career as an artist and continue my publishing interests as an independent agent for UK and American Educational publishers – so whilst Ed Cross Fine Art was formed in 2009 after I had returned to London, my connection to Africa long predates that. In Kenya, I collected some contemporary art just for the love of it and later worked as a sculptor myself for seven years but from the beginning, I was enthralled by the diverse creativity and energy that I experienced in East Africa and later the West and the South as I traveled the continent on business. In many ways, I liked the fact that the boundaries between art and life that I had known in the west were far less in evidence.

At around 2006, whilst still in Kenya,  I had an idea that would change my life – and this was simply the notion that “African Contemporary Art” was a hugely undervalued asset – undervalued culturally as well as financially. I saw this as both a business opportunity and a “mission” that,  it transpired,  would define my life. At that time there were very few artists from Africa who were on the world stage, El Anatsui had had excellent shows with October Gallery in London but it was at the Venice Biennale in 2007 that the magnificence of one of his great tapestry works overwhelmed the defenses of the Western art world and changed forever the perceptions of contemporary art from Africa.  By then I was already embarked on a journey towards raising the profile of artists from Africa. My decision to return to my home country was much to do with a desire to take the battle to the Western institutions and collector base and shortly after I arrived in the UK  I was pleased to learn that the Tate Modern who had previously shown little or no interest in African Contemporary art were embarked on a process of establishing a proper African contemporary collection.

Back in Africa, I had focussed on collecting contemporary works with some UK based friends but I soon found myself making friends with the artists whose works I was buying and realized that I could use the marketing skills I had acquired from publishing to help them sell their work – thus I accidentally became a gallerist.  The fact that I had studied History of  Art at Cambridge as an undergraduate helped too.

How would you describe the gallery’s program and what’s your USP, particularly for artists and art collectors?

A young curator who went on to hold one of the most important art jobs in the country once was kind enough to describe me as a magician because ECFA  “does all the things that a bigger gallery does without any of the usual infrastructures”.  In Kenya there is a term Jua Kali “hot sun” in Kiswahili covering the “informal sector” and I have always had a bit of an affinity with that way of doing things – we travel light.

Our resources go into wonderful and highly skilled colleagues, art fairs, pop-ups, and online platforms, and the development of materials that throw light on the artists we represent.  We had a space very briefly when I first started the company but since 2010 we have not had a physical space and since 2018 we have been lucky enough to be part of the Somerset House Exchange project which provides office space for creative businesses linked to its core mission of supporting the arts. This is a blessing in the current crisis.

Our USP is our relationship with our client artists and our commitment to the integrity of them as people and their work. We are always in search alchemy. It is all about the artist and their work, less about the gallery. We are not a gallery that tries to mold artists in any way but we are very much there for them – we are on the journey together and are often friends as well as business partners. We are also open to new “talent” and will take risks with new artists because we can and because it’s core to what we do. Many of our artists come to the art world via unconventional routes and we absolutely embrace that.

I am also only interested in artists that have something that I sense is profound and important to say – I am not interested in artists that try to game the system unless that is part of their practice. I have worked as an artist myself and my mindset as a gallerist is similar in many ways – in the end, you go with your intuition.

To read the full interview visit https://occhimagazine.com/in-the-spotlight-ed-cross-fine-art/

Photograph of Ed Cross by Dola Posh (2019)

In Conversation with Gallerist Jenn Singer

I met Jenn Singer several years ago at a gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan. She struck me as a warm, personable and professional individual with a genuine passion for the arts and a natural ability to engage with people, particularly prospective buyers. It is no surprise she celebrates 5 years of running her gallery with the launch of new artist additions, expanded services,  a new look and redesigned website where collectors can purchase artwork online. On behalf of Occhi Magazine,  I had the pleasure of speaking to Jenn about the gallery, the industry and what we can look forward to.

Jenn, when did you first gain an interest in art and how did it lead to you becoming a gallerist?

I first started my career in the visual art world, nearly 15 years ago, from the perspective of a trained dancer who had been in the performing arts since I was 5 years old.

When I found myself working in an art gallery, almost by accident, I felt at home immediately. My first sale of a painting, that first day on the job, spurred the question “but how much does the artist make?” This question was important for me to ask because, in my experience as a dancer in NYC, the path to making a real living from one’s art can be a tiresome struggle. The answer I received was music to my ears “the artist will make 50%”. I was hooked. That was a good payday for them, and I learned this particular artist’s work sold well. This artist made a living from doing what they loved the most, and from then on that was my “why”. I sell art so that artists can get paid to do what they love.

The gallery is now in its fifth year. Are there any role models in the industry who have inspired and motivated you to be where you are now?

I receive most of my motivation and inspiration from the artists themselves, as it’s their passion that leads to creation that drives me to support them. Without art where would any of us be? It would be a very different, less bearable world for sure. I am very grateful for my teachers along the way, the gallery owners who I’ve worked for in the past. Without them, I would not have learned the business of art. I asked a lot of questions and learned a lot (and a lot of what not to do). But over the past five years in business, the art world has changed dramatically. So I’ve mostly looked for inspiration from business leaders and role models from outside the art world, which seems to be somewhat lacking in innovation when it comes to dealing with shifting business models. I’ve never been comfortable with the lack of transparency and “coldness” of the white box gallery model. I have also witnessed and experienced the lack of support of women in the arts. So, my inspirations have come from women in business who are also creatives but not necessarily from the art world proper.

One of my recent inspirations is Mary Portas and her book Work Like a Woman. The white male dominance of the fashion world she describes reminded me of the hurdles that women who work in the art world face. It seems that in creative industries, there would be more, not less, support of women and their invaluable intuition at work, but that’s not how it is. It’s still mostly run by men who care more about their bottom lines than people. Mary has powered through, broken down the systems that weren’t working and rebuilt her business as a leader who gives back, encourages working from the female seat of intuition and supports other women in business to do the same. I have a long way to go in developing this business, but it’s leaders like Mary that I look to when I need a boost of confidence and encouragement.

How would you describe the gallery’s program?

We represent a diverse, international roster of emerging and mid-career contemporary artists, including Anne Austin Pearce (USA), Al Luke (South Africa), David Stenbeck aka@dovneon (Sweden), Emily Weiskopf (USA), Faatimah Mohamed-Luke (South Africa), Frida Harari Sitton (Mexico), Michelle Rogers (Ireland), Timothy P. Wilson (USA) and Virginia Wagner (USA). Our artists & exhibitions have been featured in Wallpaper*, Cultured Magazine, VICE – The Creators Project, The Huffington Post, Glamour and Hi-Fructose Magazine, among other publications.

Our expertise and global reach make collecting contemporary art easy, but our services reach well beyond this, including sourcing and consigning artwork from the secondary market, trade accounts for international art advisors and interior designers for residential, corporate, hospitality, film & tv set design, public art & commercial projects, custom framing and representing and connecting artists with global brands for mid-large scale licensing and commission projects….

 

You can read the full interview on Occhi Magazine’s official website. 

Jenn Singer Photographed by Peter Roessler

Coronavirus: Be Safe and Careful!

Hi all! It’s been a very long time since I blogged and I’ve missed it. At the neglect of my blog, I’ve been very active editing and writing for Occhi Magazine. In the last few months we’ve reviewed some great films, directors, authors, visual artists and award-winning musicians such as Jackiem Joyner and legendary Sergio Mendes. Please visit the Occhi Magazine website for further information. I’m also pleased to say OPEN Ealing has also opened its community art centre in Ealing, London.

Unfortunately, like other venues, the community’s use of the venue has been under threat due to the coronavirus. Under the growing shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ll be confined in my studio, writing and working on some new work I hope to share with you.

In these difficult and unprecedented times I wish you and your loved ones the very best. Like most of you, I’ve witness empty shop shelves, panic buying and a great sence of fear. Please look after yourselves and each other by following recommendations proposed by the World Heath Organisation and your national health authorities.

In Conversation with Musician Ray ‘Mr Goldfinger’ Angry

Raymond Angry, David Emmanuel Noel & Occhi MagazineRay Angry is a classically trained pianist, producer, musical director and one of the most sought after artists today. Aside from his documented talents, he’s a very unassuming, respectful and admirable individual, which I’m sure is an attraction for the plethora of acts who have worked with him. Ray’s first-class resume features collaborations with Jeff Beck, Wynton Marsalis, Mark Ronson, Q-Tip, Yolanda Adams, Daniel Winans, Joss Stone, Sting, Me’Shell Ndegéocello, Esperanza Spalding, Dionne Warwick, Dianne Reeves, Queen Latifah, D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Kelis, Christina Aguilera and ongoing associates The Roots. Currently, in London, we managed to catch up to discuss his current residency, initiatives and future projects. The full interview is available via Occhi Magazine

For further information on Ray Angry please visit his official website, TwitterFacebook and Instagram accounts

Ray appears with Daniel Merriweather at LAYLOW, Golborne Road, London, UK this evening from 8pm

Raymond Angry Photo by Jill Greenberg

In Conversation With Musician Richie Goods

Richie Goods, David Emmanuel Noel, Occhi Magazine
Photo by: Kasia Idzkowska

Richie Goods is someone who comes to mind when I think of an artist who excels in the techniques of musicianship. Possessing an extremely professional and buoyant approach to his art, Richie Goods is a celebrated bassist, bandleader, and producer, who has worked with a plethora of universally recognized acts including Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, and Alicia Keys.

His new album entitled  ‘My Left Hand Man’ celebrates the legacy and compositional talents of his late mentor, Mulgrew Miller.  It is an intoxicating collection of tracks that respectfully pay homage to Miller. Confidently fusing elements of jazz, blues, and funk, the album successfully delivers a broad-stroke of psychedelic sounds, solos, and memorable renditions delivered meticulously by a cohort of some of the finest musicians on the circuit. Featured artists include pianists Shedrick Mitchell and Mike King, guitarists Tariqh Akoni and David Rosenthal, Lil John Roberts on drums, vocalist Jean Baylor, vibraphonist Chien Chien Lu, and percussionist Danny Sadownick. The composition and musical arrangements are what we expect from an artist of Good’s standing, leaving it easy for me to recommend this to your record list. It was great catching up with Richie to discuss the album and his career in general. The full interview is available on the Occhi Magazine website.