Interview with
Maureen Paley Interim Arts.
16/4/99
When did your organization first come into being and what was it called?
I began the gallery in April of 1984 and was referred to as Interim Art and now it is referred to as Maureen Paley, Interim Art.
What was the initial aim/policy and how has that changed/adapted?
When it first began I had initially been trained in art history and art practice, so I had come to the gallery as an artist. It was not what I considered to be an artist run space, because I made a decision that I was not going to be an artist in order to run the space. The policy has changed and adapted in that when I began the gallery I felt that I was working on a much more project oriented basis with the artists .Very early on one of the ways that I funded the space was through my own endeavors and then getting some grants and funding from Greater London Arts (now LAB). We ocassionally had funding for specific projects from other sources like The Elephant Trust or the Henry Moore Foundation.The gallery was at that time being run to make things possible for artists, (there was no concept of an art market then) and the gallery was perceived to be a public space or quasi public space. Since 1990 we have gone towards representing artists and becoming a commercial space.
Where were you based first of all and where are you based now?
When I set the gallery up it was in 21 Beck Road, it was originally an Acme house though now I own it. I was really influenced at the time by a lot of musicians who were recording things in their front rooms, the Punk musicians of the day around late 70's early 80's. People were acting like there was a DIY sense of immediacy about where you could actually show work or make it. I had also taken my cue from the galleries in the East Village in New York that had started in the early 80Ős and had presented work in buildings that were located in a place that was not considered the neighbourhood where the art world was. I have always been based here except during 1991 when I moved to Dering Street for one year and then moved back by January of 92. Currently (April 1999) the gallery is expanding its premises to include a showroom in Bethnal Green of 2,500 square feet which will allow greater possibilities for displaying the work of gallery artists. This new space will function initially as an annexe and supplement the existing gallery at 21 Beck Rd.


What was the reason for you to be associated with/based in the East End of London?
I always felt a tremendous energy in the East End and was quite excited that studios and artists were surrounding the gallery. I think that in a way the whole atmosphere of the East End was interesting to me because at the time I moved here I was living here in the East End as an artist. The only difference is that now I am surrounded by a greater number of galleries than when I began.I went to Brown University in the States and got my BA when I came here I attended the Royal College of Art for my MA. During that time and just after I was living here.
What is the plaque on the front of the house?
Braco Dimitrijevic a Yugoslav artist did a show here in 1988 called 'Outdoor Retrospective 1968-88'.He often creates plaques and monuments to what he considers casual passers by or to people who have not been known but makes their presence known by virtue of putting a plaque up. Jane Gifford is an artist who lives in the East End and makes murals and various other art works had lived in this house with me prior to me starting the gallery and when he came to do his show he asked if someone of significance had been in the house that he could commemorate.I had mentioned her and he felt that it was important to acknowledge someone other than myself having lived here. He put the plaque on the front of the house and it has now become part of the street furniture and we never removed it. He was very happy that it was left as a sculptural piece. It was a piece that was associated with the galleries history.


What part has your organization had to play in contributing to the artistic community in the East End?
The gallery policy from very early on was not entirely East End based,I always had a very international outlook and what I tried to do was to contextualise the artists from the East End and the artists from London. I had a sense that wherever I was located I wanted to look quite internationally at art.I was always interested in showing artists who are established with those who are less well known. Since 1992 any international focus has shifted to mainly showing the work of young British artists, Due to the international context the gallery established for itself during the 80's I am now able to present their work both here and abroad.
Can you name some of the artists Interim Art has shown?
Notable past exhibitions have included: Hannah Collins, Helen Chadwick, Paul Winstanley, Angela Bulloch, Gillian Wearing, Mark Francis, Jenny Holzer, Richard Deacon, Charles Ray, Georg Herold, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Mike Kelly with Jessica Diamond and Matthew Antezzo with Liam Gillick. More recently the gallery has shown the work of Wolfgang Tillmans, Sarah Jones, Hannah Starkey, Ewan Gibbs, David Rayson and David Thorpe.
How do you think the social/financial and artistic environment has changed since you first started?
The way that art has been perceived in the media has certainly changed . There was originally a lot of negative criticism. There still is criticism but I think the climate is different and artists can see thatif they can establish themselves they can sell their work here. They are also taken up abroad. There is a sense on the part of the media, whether it remains in certain cases ironic or hostile, that art is something we can look at. There is not the same embarassment about that. It has actually taken centre stage from being extremely peripheral. When i first started I kept predicting that this might be the direction that things could go in. I constantly would say that art here was very interesting, that the climate here was potentially very strong, and wondered why people were not more supportive, more encouraging of it. It seems to me that this generation has picked up the ball and run with it. They are now more taken up, more understood. You could say it is a very narrow band, that has emerged, and that it is not really feeding out into the broader popular culture as much as it might, but I still think that there feels to be a definite change from when I got started. At that time at least 70% of art shown in Britain was sold abroad, now we have a fairly vibrant and healthy art market, with much work remaining here.


"When I first came into the area I was actually looking for a warehouse space, but I like the fact of being a pioneer , I always think that it is most exciting to have come in very early". Maureen Paley April 1999.

 

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