Daniella Wells is a freelance consultant with over 20 years’ experience in the art market with a focus on museum quality 𝓬𝓻𝓪𝓯𝓽. Her work encompasses a range of events, predominantly art fairs ⫸ One of them: Collect, International Art Fair for Modern Craft and Design 2019, by Craft Council UK ⫸ Dan Pierșinaru was part of the Collect 2014 team, working alongside Daniella. The experience was unique, as well as useful, their relationship based on respect and appreciation still continuing.
Daniella Wells & Felix Flury, Gallery SO
Dan Pierșinaru: Dani, I know you for five years already and I am happy every time I see you, every time I am talking with you. Now we are at the Collect 2019 Fair. I know you are involved in so many fairs, so I would like to ask you why do you think a fair is important for the world, for the artist, for the galleries? What do you think a fair brings to the world?
Daniella Wells: It’s a good question because I think a lot of people are questioning the nature of a fair – What is its role is? Especially when it seems there is a fair on everything now. Often some of the bigger fairs have an overlap in the marketplace which then raises the question – Why would I make a trip to visit this particular fair?
At Collect we create an annual view, a snapshot of the market for collectable craft. For enthusiasts, collectors and museum curators it is a fantastic international resource – they can have a quick look of what’s happening around the world. Joining up the international network is probably the most important role of a fair.
D.P.: Now that you’ve been involved in organizing – what’s difficult in putting up a big fair like Collect? Or in general, a fair of this magnitude? What do you think is the most difficult part that people should know about?
D.W.: The most important thing is to know your market and to find the right players to be involved in the event. No singular part of the fair is particularly complicated to organize in itself, but the difficult part is about how all the areas work together. You have to take into consideration opposing, important aspects (like the huge public audience and taking care of VIPs). You have to look after different people in different ways. When an event is live it is characterized by its staff, and these individuals have to flex and adapt. It’s not always easy, as I’m sure you know.
D.P.: Let’s see the other side. What makes you enthusiastic about organising a fair?
DW.: I think it’s the buzz of a contemporary fair – the excitement of what comes out of the box, the selection, the new perspectives. Mostly, the contemporary aspect but I also love to see the development of the fair, how it has changed through time in terms of its range of international participants particularly. This year feels like the most international – it’s simply reflective of the overall marketplace for art and design. A much more diverse range of international works are now shown at Collect. I am really happy to have galleries and artists from all around the world here.
D.P.: What do you feel this edition of Collect 2019 revealed until now?
D.W.: We are in a very celebratory mood because it’s our 15th birthday, so this year is to really celebrate the success of the past and look to the future at the same time.
Isobel Dennis, the new Collect Director, has commissioned interventions in the space; the big installations in the atrium are a real showstopper. There are beautiful different moments throughout the fair like the wooden carved portraits (the sculptures that are looking out through the window in the middle of the fair). So the event as an exhibition this year is great and also the numbers are amazing. We are very, very busy. We’re popular in terms of number of visitors and we have had some fantastic VIPs and collectors coming through the doors. This year we also had a lot of new groups, new international groups – collectors and curators – that follow special programs that help them come to the fair and really engage with it. After so many years, I love it when someone new is coming for the first time and I can welcome them into our world.
D.P.: Do you have any recommendations for the young galleries that want to start at a fair like Collect? What do you suggest them to do in terms of content?
D.W.: It’s a really good thing to focus on the next generation of galleries, on the next generation of agents and dealers, on what are they going to do. I feel we are in a process of change in terms of how the marketplace is working in our field. I like the new gallery flexibility, a lot of dealers are working with pop-up exhibitions, working in collaboration with gallery spaces and that certainly feels like a really good way to work flexibly. We have been very pleased to see the growth of the marketplace at Collect, to see a good curve in sales, so we need new galleries.
I think that a lot of people entering the field have the dilemma of “How can I react to the marketplace? How can I do something new in the market or come to a new country?”.
In terms of recommendations, I would advise young gallerists to focus on what they really want to say and how they want to do it. Ask themselves “What do I want to be the lasting impression of what I do? What do I want to be remembered for?”. I think the most important thing is to make an impression, to present a memorable selection of artists. Then you start on the journey to get a following.
Also, talking to people who are very established is a good way of learning. A lot is learnt through years of practice! We have some amazing gallerists here who are particularly exceptional, who want to push the boundaries of conceptual jewelry and to support young artists.
Lin Cheung in a presentation at Gallery S O during COLLECT fair 2019.
D.P.: What is your relation with contemporary jewelry?
D.W.: A visit to Galerie Marzee when we were first encouraging galleries to join Collect for the launch back in 2004 was my introduction. I had no idea jewelry had such scope.
My favorite thing to do at the fair is wear the pieces, encouraging people to put them on, encouraging them not to be scared. The fun aspect of wearing jewelry is something that I really love about working with these objects. I also bought some pieces for myself. I would like to build a little collection through time to signify that jewelry is something that I think is important.
Daniella’s website: https://www.daniellawells.co.uk/
More about Collect International Art Fair for Modern Craft and Design: https://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/what-we-do/collect/. Collect is moving to Somerset House (27 February – 1 March, 2020). Stay tuned!