What are the key factors for the committee’s decisions? Which are the criteria a gallery has to fulfill in order to be qualified for a fair? We asked one of the Artissima committee members – Jocelyn Wolff, Director of the Paris-based gallery Jocelyn Wolff – to tell us more about the process and the criteria.
Gallerists are colleagues but also competitors. How useful is it to have a committee full of gallery owners to decide about each other’s entry? Why can’t curators or journalists make these decisions?
Actually, as gallerists, we know more about galleries than anyone else. We are able to make honest decisions about colleagues. Gallery owners have more knowledge about galleries than curators or collectors have. There is much less conflict of interest. In addition, committees are composed of many members. You have a plurality of visions in each committee for each fair. A Committee changes every time. You have to be very honest because you would also expect other galleries to be honest if they were in your position. At a certain point they are also judging our work.
Who chooses the committee and what are the criteria?
The fair’s director decides on the committee. Each director of each fair builds his or her own committee and is trying to get a compilation of people with different voices. However, the chosen galleries’ ethics are crucial. I don’t think that you will see committees of leading art fairs composed by galleries without a certain reputation.
After the committee is set up – what stands at the beginning of the selection? I guess you get a lot of different portfolios…
Actually, it is not so complicated because of the different sections of the fair. You look at every application for the main section focusing on the artistic quality.
What are the key factors for the juries’ decisions? Which are the criteria a gallery has to fulfill in order to be qualified?
On one hand, the artistic quality is very important. On the other hand, it is important for galleries to show artists with high significance. The idea is to focus on unknown galleries and to integrate them into a professional network. In my view, this is the most interesting part because you need to be more objective when you look at things you don’t know. You just have to look at the material that is delivered to you.
Do you have other main criteria besides the quality of the work? Like the different countries?
Yes, of course we do. Each fair in the world wants to have an international aspect; that is very important for everybody involved. An Italian collector who comes to the fair in Torino also wants to see things he doesn’t see in his backyard. Thus, it is important to welcome foreign galleries. So we are a little bit more curious about foreign applications.
Sometimes, galleries are not allowed back to a fair, which certainly isn’t always an easy decision. Does practice make it easier?
It is a collective decision. Each individual of the committee is involved in the votes, that way you can avoid conflict of interest. It doesn’t mean because we are colleagues and competitors that we cannot play fair. Actually our ambition is to have the best quality at the fair. If the quality of the fair would be terrible it would not be good for the reputation of the committee itself.
So do you sometimes fight for a specific gallery?
Of course I do, but there is also a common understanding about galleries with low quality. There is not much to debate about.
Holding a position in this committee is not only quite tough but it is also rather powerful. Does it benefit you in any way?
You do have some benefits. You are more involved and therefore you get into a special relationship with the fair. We also get a small discount on the price of the booth. That is why it is nice for me to take a bigger booth every year and to be able to make a more generous presentation. However, it is not a paid position.
Are you happy with the section New Entries? Any decisions you would have made differently?
When you actually see the results of your decisions it is always a surprise. Sometimes you get a good surprise, but there are also bad surprises. I am very demanding, also towards myself, and I am not someone who is easily pleased by anything. There is always a lot of work to be done, generation after generation, to develop a very high level of sensibility and respect towards the work you show.
Which is your favorite booth in the section New Entries?
One gallery I discovered thanks to Artissima is the Gallery Allen from Paris – they are my favorite new entry. I like their wonderful sensitive ceramic works.
// Interview by Anna Maria Burgstaller and Sabrina Möller
ARTISSIMA – 6/11 – 8/11/2015
More informations on www.artissima.it