GI-019. Sims Reed Gallery

Sims Reed Gallery

  • Address: 43A Duke Street St. James’s London SW1Y 6DD, United Kingdom
  • Director: Petra Kwan

Petra Kwan (P): Up until last year, we were located in the iconic Economist Building in St. James’s, a Grade II-listed building designed by Alison and Peter Smithson in the early 60s. They were radical and influential architects, forming part of the ‘Independent Group’, which included the artist Eduardo Paolozzi. The building fuses Brutalist design with an understanding of the history of the area. The gallery was located there for twenty years.

Last summer we moved just down the road, to Duke Street – it is a stone’s throw away from our old gallery space. We join a bustling hub of Old Master, Modern and Contemporary galleries on this street and can see the Royal Academy of Arts from outside our door. We are now closely aligned with Sims Reed Rare Books which whom we share space and has always been our brother company. Now both sides of the business, under the umbrella of Sims Reed, are under one roof, which pleases our clients and friends immensely!

The gallery is an intimate space and exhibitions are tightly and concisely curated. Rare books – which are art books and artist’s portfolios – jostle alongside the prints in the gallery. Visitors tell us that they enjoy the unconventional non-‘white cube’ space and find the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere refreshing. We are very busy on Duke Street, which has long been an important street for commercial galleries. The area of St. James’s is a wonderful place to be in – there is so much history in the architecture and businesses here, such as the oldest cheesemonger in London!

P: I have tried my hand at different slices of the art world but the common thread has always been working closely with prints. After working in a museum and an auction house in this field, the opportunity to work in such a well-established gallery in the heart of London, that specialises specifically in prints and works on paper, was irresistible to me.

P: The common theme throughout all of our shows is our focus and dedication to bringing original prints and works on paper to the attention of the public. Printmaking forms such an integral part of many artists’ practice, so by showing an artist’s work through the lens of their prints, we hope to offer a different insight into their artistic output.

Also important to us is that our visitors find our exhibitions accessible and that no question is silly to ask – we love to speak to people about the works!

P: After our Allen Jones exhibition (which runs until 16th March) we are looking forward to a show of Aaron Kasmin’s new works – Up in Smoke. This British contemporary artist (the son of Hockney’s first art dealer) produces wonderful, vibrant and detailed drawings inspired by American post-prohibition era matchbooks. We also look forward to taking part in Art Central Hong Kong fair for the first time during Art Basel Hong Kong week, as well as Art New York in May and Masterpiece, London, in late June.

Outside of the gallery, I cannot wait to see Landscapes of Hercules Seghers at the Met Museum this Spring! He is one of my favourite printmakers and also a favourite of Rembrandt, who collected his work. In London, I am excited about the survey of British artist Rachel Whiteread at Tate Britain this autumn. I like the rigour and process of her sculpture and her use and inspiration of everyday objects and architectural space.

P: It is too hard to choose a single artist but two spring to mind: Peter Doig and Bruce Nauman.

I love the atmosphere that Doig evokes in his works; the way he hovers between figuration and abstraction and his use of lush and vibrant colour. Nauman is an artist who manages to come across as playful yet confrontational and I like the challenge that he offers you.

P: Allen Jones: Thrill Me, our current show, was challenging but rewarding to organise! It was our first exhibition in the new space so we worked hard to install all the works without overcrowding while allowing each work to speak for itself. It was an amazing privilege to collaborate with Allen Jones. He has been so accommodating and generous, loaning a selection of his early work including his original hand-written diploma thesis with unique prints – All About Fire – that has surprised visitors and given people the chance to see something so personal and special.

P: People often think that you have to be very affluent or an art connoisseur to acquire and enjoy art, but in fact the beauty of prints is that you can buy an original artwork by iconic and important artists at reasonable price points – even blue-chip artists can still be accessible to everyone.

A common misperception about prints is that many people think that they are ‘copies’ or ‘reproductions’. We always try to inform and engage our visitors about printmaking and the fact that they are original works of art. Many artists – Warhol, Lichtenstein, Hockney etc. – use printmaking as an important part of their practice and it often informs their paintings.

P: We are attuned to what our clients enjoy and are looking for, so this is always in mind. We search for prints that are both rare and interesting and aim to collect a broad range of works by an artist. Condition is paramount.

P: London is an exciting art hub. Although Sims Reed Gallery is situated in a historically established art area, you will find art pockets that have sprung up all over the city – from Bethnal Green to Peckham and Deptford. In many cities, there is an art ‘district’ but in London, art hubs are everywhere. I feel that there is a real entrepreneurial spirit with young art galleries.

P: I think that galleries’ interaction with the Internet will continue to be an important focus. Being online-savvy for promotion and transactions will have to be part of any business’s strategy. This goes hand in hand with making the most of one’s retail space, as these costs are high. So I think that more events, collaborations and pop up events, including partnerships with other creative industries, will be inevitable.

  • Photos courtesy of Sims Reed Gallery