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E is for Exhibitions

Part of the joy of collecting art is visiting galleries and seeing exhibitions, the thrill of the new and discovering artists. I have been known in the past to arrange entire family holidays around the prospect of seeing an exhibition. Something I know I’m not alone in doing. One such occasion was visiting the James Turrell exhibition at Houghton Hall which I will never regret doing. One of my favourite books I have at home is one called ‘Destination Art’ by Ann Dempsey which is a great source of inspiration for planning travels.

It is through exhibitions that artists get to establish their reputations, whether commercial or non-commercial, exhibitions in both realms are central to the ecology of the art world. Public recognition is certainly important for an artists’ commercial credentials but it can take years for that to be truly established. Often you will see an artist in a commercial gallery first who later becomes picked up for a public commission or exhibition, which can then catapult their career and commercial standing.

Commercial Galleries

Exhibitions for commercial galleries and solo shows in particular are a good way to see a body of work by an artist at once. For collectors the solo show gives an opportunity to get the greatest sense of an artist and their work. These exhibitions are also important for curators looking to commission artists to get a sense of an artist’s work as a whole and the exhibition catalogues themselves can be seen as ‘calling cards’ for artists. Group exhibitions can be a great way to get to know the connections between artists and offer a level playing field for comparisons. Having the opportunity to discover several artists all at once can be intellectually stimulating and educational.

Commercial galleries I love to watch are: Georgia Stoneman, Willoughby Gerrish and Candida Stevens. All these gallerists have a great eye and feel for quality. At the international level, the major players are Gagosian and Hauser and Wirth. These two galleries alone probably have the greatest control of the contemporary art world in the public sphere and with private collectors, so its worth keeping an eye on their exhibition programmes. To be taken on as an artist with either of these galleries is considered the pinnacle of representation for many artists.

Public Galleries

Public galleries are where you tend to see the more established artists, and those of historical importance. One London exhibition I am trying to catch before it closes is Michelangelo: the Last Decades, taking place at the British Museum and closing on the 28 July. A good follow up looks to be Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael at the Royal Academy from November until February 2025. The V & A in London has one of the best exhibition programmes in my opinion, with so much interdisciplinary work to see. The Lucien Freud etchings exhibition looks like a must see there. Another London public gallery with great programming at the moment is the Serpentine. Currently showing Yinka Shonibare, the work of seminal feminist Judy Chicago is being shown later this year.

New Talent

On my radar for some time has been the work of Joy Labinjo. Labinjo is a graduate of Ruskin School of Art, part of University of Oxford (our ‘local’ school of art here at Zuleika towers). I first saw her work directly in her gallery at Cromwell Place and then at Frieze art fair. ‘We Are Briefly Gorgeous’ has just opened at the Southwark Park Galleries and features newly commissioned work. Labinjo has painted people from the local community in Southwark for the exhibition, and I can’t wait to see it – Joy Labinjo at Southwark Park Galleries


Art Fairs are also a great way to discover new artists and see a lot of art at once. They’re efficient for the art hunter to get ideas and inspiration from. Last week I went to the Treasure House Fair in Chelsea and was educated not just in fine art but in ancient fossils, historic silver candelabra, marquetry tables and crystal chandeliers. The British Art Fair at the Saatchi Gallery is always a must see for lovers of British Art and our sister, Zuleika Gallery, will be taking a stand there again in September.  And of course there is the contemporary art fair Frieze in London returning this October.  A relatively new fair in recent years that has become a firm favourite is 1-54 at Somerset House, also in October. This art fair focuses on Contemporary art from Africa and is now in its 12th year. The Craft Council’s fair, Collect is another must-see – a fabulous fair for lovers of ceramics and contemporary craft and design. It takes place each year in February.

Explore Internationally

A must see on our family calendar for exhibitions is the Architectural Biennale in Venice. Ever since the gallery took a space in 2018 to show the work of the late Manijeh Yadegar Hall on the Dorsoduro, we have fallen in love with this particular biennale and the visual and intellectual joys it has to offer. The theme for the 2025 presentation has been announced to be: Intelligens. Natural. Artificial. Collective and I’m already thinking about when to go. The reason I particularly like the architectural biennale is because it feels truly collaborative, interdisciplinary, ambitious and global – a melting pot of ideas and creativity.

Finally – Talent is Everywhere – Go Local

Final word – support your local galleries! Seek out quality that is close to hand – focus on talent and support the local galleries. This is where it all starts for many artists and collectors and is central to sustaining the careers of so many in the art world.