The post-pandemic world has brought into question many of the traditional structures that governed the way we led our lives. The art world—an industry famously allergic to modernising in any drastic way—adapted by bringing exhibition and art fair programmes online, while auction houses jumped on the NFT hype that took off in 2020 when the world was locked at home.
Gallerist, curator, and researcher Robert Spragg has taken this a step further, uprooting what we understand by the traditional brick-and-mortar gallery structure, in favour of his latest venture, general information. Working out of London, the project describes itself as 'a commissioning office focused on exhibitions, writing, and new developments in contemporary art'.
Ahead of its debut exhibition, Absence Makes the Heart, Spragg sits down with Ocula Advisory Rory Mitchell to discuss general information, and the concept behind his new brainchild.
Tell us about general information?
The project brings aspects of my professional practice together, combining exhibition-making, writing, commissioning, and artist research. It's consciously multifaceted and open-ended, but I wanted to articulate these different ways of working under one formalised identity.
For a while, I've been keen to initiate something that valued close working relationships with artists. During my time working at White Cube and Stephen Friedman Gallery, and in my more recent freelance curating and research work, my relationships with artists are the most important thing.
This project will allow each collaboration to manifest in the most suitable way at a natural pace, whether in the form of an exhibition, a book, an edition, a research report, or whatever it may be.
You have been very engaged with emerging artists for a while now, working in both curating and writing, for example. What led you to start this project?
My first and current project Absence Makes the Heart is a group show in a temporary space on Old Bond Street, with a group of London-based artists I have admired for some time. At this point in time, I don't want to open my own permanent space. In addition to this resolving more practical and economic issues, and not being fixed to one permanent site also suits my itinerant and flexible way of working.
Do you feel the landscape has changed for galleries recently? It feels as though there are a few more young galleries opening now with slightly different approaches...
I think the landscape has changed notably in the last few years, as well as the whole dynamic of representation. This is being led by both artists and the galleries, as it allows for greater freedom and it means people will be less proprietorial about their working relationships. If you think about Alvaro Barrington, for example, who has changed the outdated territorial model for how many galleries one artist can work with at the same time.
I think another aspect of the way younger galleries are operating is how open they are to collaborate or host one another's projects or artists. There are many London galleries I admire and feel an affinity with; Sundy, Ginny on Frederick, and Harlesden High Street, to name a few. Collaborations are something I would love to explore further.
What are your plans for the next six months or so?
I haven't thought too much ahead yet. I've been focused on the current group show, with a view to use that experience to see what feels right after that. I am always talking to artists and I have a few ideas in mind about publishing artists' writing.
Another intention is to think about the general information website as an exhibition space. Not creating an 'online show' format per se, but the potential ways in which it might be able to commission artists with more experimental projects in mind, or perhaps host another organisation.
Will you work with artists as an agent as well?
As it stands, my plan isn't to represent artists, although I can imagine a situation in which we work together on multiple occasions. For example, working on an exhibition together, and then perhaps producing a book together, or realise a performance event at a later stage. I like maintaining a dialogue with all the artists I've worked with in the past, with a view to another opportunity to work together in the future.
Main image: Exhibition view: Group Exhibition, Absence Makes the Heart, general information, London (27 October–12 November 2022). Courtesy general information.