Will Davies, Director at Simon Lee Gallery gives us his answers on what life has been life in lockdown and discusses what’s next.
What have you been doing during lockdown?
The first few weeks of lockdown are somewhat of a blur in my head. Aside from obsessing over the news like everyone else, the process of establishing what the lockdown meant for the gallery and our artists and how to best navigate the evolving situation required a huge amount of input across the team. As things began to settle into a new rhythm and I came to terms with lockdown life, I have found that both the frequency and quality of my conversations have increased, albeit it on Zoom, Teams and the occasional phone call, rather than in person… Despite the challenges this moment has raised, it has been rewarding to be able to have open and honest dialogues with my colleagues, artists and contacts and feel that a lot of my relationships have become stronger as a result.
Is there anything in particular you have learned from the last few months?
Lockdown has thrown up a lot of difficult questions during a time when insight and perspective have felt like an unattainable luxury. This period has been a stark reminder of the importance of being agile and keeping your core purpose at the forefront of each decision you make.
How do you think the art industry will change, going forward?
It has been encouraging to see how this moment has brought about a new sense of collaboration between galleries as we try to decipher what this moment means both in the present and for the future. As much as I miss certain aspects of travelling, it will be interesting to see if there will be lasting effects from everyone stepping off the endless schedule of exhibition openings, fairs and biennials. It is hard to predict the next 24 hours these days, let alone what the future will hold, but I feel the last few months have shone a spotlight on both the weak spots and resilience of the art industry and would like to think the latter will define this moment when we eventually have a chance to look back.
Do you have any advice that you would give to people entering the industry?
As someone who graduated just before the 2008 recession took hold, I am familiar with what it means to be entering the art industry during a complicated moment. I think it’s important to accrue a range of experiences rather than focus on a single specialism too soon and prioritise genuine connections with your contacts over the temptation to network for the sake of networking.
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?
Broadly speaking, I think museums have had to wrestle with a wider range of challenges than commercial galleries, but it has been encouraging to see institutions pivot in creative ways. I thought Yorkshire Museum’s Curator Battle on Instagram was a great way to build conversations around museum collections when they are all locked behind closed doors and I have enjoyed watching a number of the artist lockdown diaries commissioned by The Hirshhorn Museum.