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Conversation  |  Director, Art14 London

Stephanie Dieckvoss

In Conversation with
Stephanie Bailey
London, 28 February 2014
Photo: Ossi Jalkanen © Art Fairs London Ltd.
Photo: Ossi Jalkanen © Art Fairs London Ltd.

Stephanie Dieckvoss is Director of Art14 London, the self-proclaimed global art fair launched in London in 2013 by ArtHK founders Tim Etchells and Sandy Angus. Dieckvoss joined the fair after co-directing ArtHK, and has been a driving force behind the fostering of Art14’s global ambitions, building on the organizers' natural connections with Asia while also attracting galleries from South America and Africa. Now entering its second year, Dieckvoss reflects on the vision for Art14’s past, present and future in this interview.

How will Art14 differ from Art13, which was launched last year as the first truly global art fair?

The fair has developed immensely from last year, and I am very excited about this year’s second edition. Having grown organically, we could strengthen all sections, London First and Emerge, and again have a wonderful variety of galleries focusing on editions as well as photography, allowing collectors and first time buyers to find something within a limited budget. The fair will feel more global. We have 42 countries represented this year, and galleries from Taiwan and Pakistan will be showing in London for the first time. I am especially excited that we have more galleries at the fair who can fill the demand for ‘modern’ works of art, both from the UK as well as from other on western countries. Park Gallery will bring some astonishing modern Arab works and Delhi Art Gallery from India will show some masters of Indian Modernism. I love MF Husain’s work, maybe especially as I met him once.

What lessons did you learn from the launch last year, and how have you address them this year?

Art14 London builds on the achievements of last year’s fair. We worked very hard to engage a more globally diverse group of exhibitors and are excited to have galleries from 42 countries and all continents to participate in the fair. As I mentioned, we put a greater emphasis on modern galleries, too. We extended the opening hours of the fair as we found that visitors loved to stay longer at the fair than anticipated and we also made exciting changes to the fair layout. The restaurant is now on the gallery level and Food 4 Art promises to be a very exciting new initiative, mixing both food and art in a very interesting way.

Another new initiative we launched this year is Art & the City, a programme of events, some private, some public, exploring how art is a motor of economic and social change in cities from Shanghai to Washington DC and from London to Dubai, which enriches the fair’s interest in changes in the art world and beyond while reflecting on the impact culture can have on urban regeneration. Art cannot be seen in isolation as merely a commodity that is being put on a wall. Art has always been a key symbol of power at times but also of cultural engagement and enrichment for the public. Art & the City is an initiative that discusses the current importance art has to play in the regeneration of cities and regions and will devise models of best practice that again can be shared between partners from all regions of the world. It is innovative as it engages not only the art world players in the debate but also developers and policy makers. Hopefully it can inspire more private and public commissions as well as art and cultural initiatives.

I wanted to talk about Art14's geographical scope. For example, Art14 Projects will present a diverse line up of installations by artists from Asia, the Middle East and Africa as well as the west, a geographical focus that also reflects in the fair itself. Why do you think this kind of global perspective is important today?

London is one of the centres of a globalized economic world and this needs to be reflected in its cultural offerings. Art fairs are an important driver, both economically and culturally in showcasing current trends in the art world. It is important to give a platform to galleries and artists from all across the world and create a dialogue between European and US galleries and their counterparts from other continents.

In terms of the diversity that is produced within this global focus, can you talk about the selection process when it comes to deciding which galleries to work with and why?

We do a lot of scouting, and you always need to know the territories you’re working with. But it’s an open application process, and this year, a lot of galleries knew about the Fair, so it was easier than the first year round. We have a selection committee that consists of curators, who work independently, and select galleries based on proposals for stands. Then we have a single curatorial advisor for the two sections devoted to younger galleries, who we hope will give a very sharp aesthetic. And sometimes galleries come to us…

This year's Talks includes one series titled 10 Things You Didn't Know... which will look at Indonesian art, Chinese art, Middle Eastern art, photography, editions and curating. What do you expect from such cross-regional introductions? Is it important to use the fair as a site of education, if so, why?

The educational aspects of the fair are very important to me personally and I worked hard to ensure not only a very strong talks Programme but also develop partnerships with interesting institutions and nonprofit partners

The talks also include a view into the rise of museums in Asia, not to mention the relationship between art and the city. Can you talk about why these themes were chosen?

The Global Private Museum Summit demonstrates Art14 London’s dedication to bringing major global private museum owners to London’s vibrant art scene. The galleries exhibiting at the Fair will show artists from almost every continent of the world and display them in dialogue with each other. The summit reflects the need for an art world with an international outlook and allows private museum owners to share their knowledge and expertise with a view to driving change worldwide.

What have been the challenges of mediating a global art fair like Art14?

It is hard to measure the success of an art fair. Many do so by visitor numbers, other by press coverage, or by attending curators. For me the success is given if galleries have had a good fair, have made sales, and established contact to important clients so that they feel the fair has exposed their gallery to a good audience. Galleries are our main clients and if they are happy, so am I.

How do you see the fair evolving in the future?

I have lots of ideas for the fair, as well as ideas regarding what needs to be done to have a global art market that functions better – which includes much more education and professional development. For the moment, I believe our project is one which is very unique, and which is very much needed. I want to focus my time and attention on developing it, and making it the highest quality possible. 

The fair has grown in an organic way, though I’m not a fan of huge art fairs. I want to consolidate what we’re doing, and ensure that the quality gets better and better. And that could include a larger education programme, more talks – there is a lot to do. I’m thinking about 2015 already. 

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