Today, we have been speaking with Christine Hourdé, Gallery Director at the Mayor Gallery, an established gallery specialising in modern and contemporary works, based in Cork Street https://www.mayorgallery.com/
What have you been up to during lockdown?
We decided to close the gallery on the 17th March, which was earlier than the government’s decision as we came back from a shortened TEFAF as we saw lockdowns happen in European countries for good reasons. The week before we made sure that we all had VPN installed on our computer at home and that all connections were secured. I came home with printers, laptop and files, ready to work from home.
Very quickly with my director, James Mayor, we decided that the best thing we could do for our collectors was to leave them alone. We only called or emailed them individually to inquire about their safety and health as we have really loyal and long term relationships, and we knew that many of them had visited TEFAF and are also big travellers.
What we are most proud of is our Weekly Newsletter called Stories from the past. Once a week, with the help of my colleagues, James Mayor our director recalls a year at the gallery since 1973 with anecdotes and historical events. It is witty and fun and for the last 10 weeks we continue receiving emails after emails from our followers cherishing this breath of fresh air and praising them. We are not selling anything. Just keeping our followers sane!
We have of course participating in online exhibitions for Frieze NY, more recently for ArtBasel and have recently reopened the gallery with both online and physical exhibition of International Pop.
We also took time to update our website, and added a viewing room. That was the product of many lockdown webinars, increasing the pressure of the need of this new tool!
Is there anything in particular you have learned from the last few months?
Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty. Being loyal and continue the hard work. Keeping in “soft touch” with collectors and show your loyalty to all the companies you work with so the eco-system does not fall.
We are against the hard sale of the big brands which flooded our Inbox with their constant flashing news, some of them almost daily!
How do you think the art industry will change, going forward?
Hopefully the relatively new trend of showing prices in online viewing rooms will lead to more price transparency. Collectors have been craving this for decades which led them to turn more and more to auctions for the wrong reasons. Hopefully now it won’t be such a secretive world, and I am persuaded that this is an incentive to buying if people did not have to ask for the price in the first place, this is often a dreaded step for collectors and advisors.
Although there is already an increase of online sales, people miss the fairs. There might be less fairs in the following years of course but probably of better quality. I just wish that the booth distribution could be done by computers completely randomly so that you don’t get the same big brands holding their forts in the largest and obvious central locations but instead give the visitors and collectors the chance to encounter a new artist, new gallery that will not be in their pre set path already. This is what is precious about online viewing room, this opportunity to discover and not be biased by a physical location.
Do you have any advice that you would give to people entering the industry?
Have our own identity, don’t try to please the crowd and cherish every relationship that you build.
Are there any art organisations that you have been particularly impressed by in the way that they have evolved and responded to the current situation?
One of the most impressive organisation is still is the Artist support pledge, a great initiative by Matthew Burrow which helps support the artists to continue selling their artworks during the lockdown at a very affordable price and pledging their support in turn to other artists. I have acquired a few works by Justine Formentelli and Ema Epps and I am proud to have been part of this.