As the second edition of Paris+ au Art Basel has drawn to a close, and the doors of Paris Photo 2023 opening, this month we are shining our spotlight on Paris. Recent gallery openings including Modern Art and Hauser & Wirth highlight a clear shift in focus to Paris. Alongside Paris+, Asia Now…
This month we have been talking to Matt Watkins, who is co-founder and Director at Parafin gallery and prior to this worked at Haunch of Venison and Tate.
Where do you work ?
Parafin. A gallery located in Woodstock Street, London W1. According to a recent Evening Standard restaurant reviewer Woodstock Street is ‘part of that slightly unpropitious dogleg between Oxford Street and Bond Street . . . that hopes nonetheless to be considered Mayfair’.
What is your job title?
I’m a director and founder.
What time did you wake up ? What are you usual working hours?
I woke up at 7.30am. I usually start at 9.30 and work until 6.30 although there are always things to do at home in the evening too and at weekends. If I’m traveling then things might be slightly different. And if we have an opening followed by drinks/dinner then the finish time will be, ahem, considerably later.
What are your key tasks ?
There are many as we are a very small team. They run from the day to day managing of the gallery (accounts, payments, invoicing, payroll, all the really riveting stuff I enjoy so much) to working with artists on forthcoming exhibitions and anything else they need our input on. Then pursuing sales conversations is absolutely key of course and pursuing other opportunities for the gallery and our artists. I also look after website, print, design and publishing for the gallery and on occasional collaborations with other institutions.
What was your career path to this role ?
I started in publishing working for various iterations of Tate’s magazine, starting in advertising and ultimately taking on the role of publisher when ‘Tate Etc.’ launched in 2004 (I’m glad to say it is still going strong). I then moved to the commercial gallery sector to oversee all publishing for the no longer existing London gallery Haunch of Venison. As the gallery expanded in to Zurich, Berlin and New York the role grew in to a broader communications role. As director of communications I oversaw all aspects of the gallery’s communications from PR to print and publishing. In the latter years I also designed the majority of the gallery publications including books with many wonderful artists including Richard Long, Frank Stella, Wim Wenders and Giuseppe Penone. It was the upside to an otherwise often demanding role.
When Haunch of Venison closed in 2013 my colleague Ben Tufnell and I turned to each other and asked the questions ‘should we?’, ‘could we?’. And we decided we should give it a go. 18 months or so later with a little help from some friends and the support of some great artists we launched our own gallery Parafin. And here we are nearly four years on.
What are the best and worst things about your job ?
I was definitely not born for accounts, but someone has to do it. But working with brilliant artists is such a great privilege and one that has to be remembered when other things get you down.
What careers advice would you give to your 18 year old self with the benefit of hindsight?
Keep an open mind. You never know what opportunities might lie ahead and while you may plan a future career path there may be other unforeseen opportunities waiting around the corner.
Have you had a secret job that is not on your CV ?
I haven’t looked at my CV since about 2004 so I have no idea what’s on there. My computer probably couldn’t open the file these days anyway.
Notes from DRAW · 25.04.2018