The approach
Interview with Jake Miller
September 1998

When did your gallery first come into being and what was it called?
"It first started in March 1997 and it has always been The Approach."
Who were the founder members?
" Me with a few friends, Damien Meade and Ana Genoves, and some others that all mucked in."
What was the initial aim/policy and how has that changed/adapted?
" The initial aim /policy was to put on quality shows that would attract as many people to see them as possible, and to enjoy ourselves!The main change since starting The Approach has been my decision to represent a handful of artists.I have now started to represent three at the moment. The Approach now works with Daniel Coombs, Gary Webb, Philip Allen andMichael Raedecker."
What was the reason for you to be associated with/based in the East End of London?
" The East End was an area that we were particularly interested in as there are plenty of other galleries around. We felt that people would like the idea of visiting all the local art galleries such as Interim Art, The Showroom, Matt's, The Whitechapel and various Shoreditch spaces and end up having a drink and a bite to eat at The Approach. Bethnal Green was particularly attractive as it's a friendly area and the central line tube can get to you from town in 20 minutes. Another factor is that I have lived in the East End for most of my life and I feel comfortable here."
Who were are you funded by?
" We get direct sponsorship from breweries such as Whitbread due to our unique positioning above a popular pub. They generously contribute to cards, mailout, adverts that kind of thing, and the pub promotes and sells their beer. Also the large crowds that the openings attract helps pay the rent through their generous alcohol consumption. "
Have you ever had any support from Tower Hamlets?
"Not financial, no."
What circumstances do you think have enabled your gallery to survive and flourish?
"Word of mouth has been great for us. Everyone seemed to have heard of The Approach in a very short space of time. It's a beautiful looking gallery and visitors like to tell their friends and colleagues of their discovery of a gallery above a pub. The atmosphere is welcoming in the good bar downstairs which is a contributing factor as well. People seem to really like it here, its a sociable place. Other galleries in the area help generate an audience and I have had great help and advice from good friends. But at the end of the day none of this would have happened if the work we have shown wasn't as strong as it has been. That is the most important thing."
What effect do you think you have had on the profile of current British Art ?
" Its kind of difficult to say as we haven't been going for long. But we do tend to show artists based in Britain, usually young artists that have just left college and having their first solo show. I suppose I like to feel that The Approach plays a significant role in raising the profile of young artists who are just emerging into a British art arena."
How do you think the social,financial and artistic environment has changed
since 1972 ?

Again it is quite hard for me to say as I am a relative newcomer, but if it wasn't for the drastic change in the financial environment over the last 15 years then I wouldn't be here doing this at all. For young artists to be selling work from their degree shows was unherad of in 1972. Now some students feel that they've failed in some way if their degree show hasn't been a sell out, they haven't got galleries climbing over each other to sign them up and they haven't become an overnight success. Charles Saatchi has had an incredible effect in creating this environment. He alone has made it possible for young artists to continue making ambitious work at a young age. The bad side to this seems to be, as Mark Wallinger pointed out, artists careers seem to be entering a time limit comparable to a footballers. However the dust seems to be settling and I think we have now found ourselves in a position where more collectors are interested in young artists and museums and public collections are wishing to buy young artists work at earlier stages in their careers from places such as The Approach. Young artists are also much more aware of the strength of their position as well as their vulnerability in a quickly changing market place."
Why do you think the artistic community established itself in this area of London?
"Because of the Industrial nature of the buildings, so many warehouse type of buildings that were fairly cheap for artists to occupy. A lot of people had the imagination to move into these big places and turn them into studios because companies had either gone bust or moved on. These warehouses had become run down quite a while ago and the nature of the East End from the past meant that there was more of this kind of property than say in West London.The housing associations helped too.I am too young to know really but I think the sociable drinking places in the area was part of it too, like this pub artists have been drinking in here for a long time. Its an economic thing really, like Islington in the 1960's when my parents moved there, that was a rough run down kind of area but some people could see the potential to move into the area and that has just spread into Shoreditch."
What is the profile of the work you show ?
A mixture between young British Art that I find exciting and that is newish or fresh and I like to invite curators along as well to give their view on things. I give them a free reign. Peter Doig has done one Matthew Higgs has done one Glen Brown is going to do one. They put more older generation artists in which is great I don't want to feel as if I am just showing young people although for me the people I mix with and the work that I see tends to be a younger generation."
What proportion of the artists are local?
" I don't know really its not an issue."
What is the next show?
" A group show curated by the painter, Glenn Brown (December-january 1999)."

The Approach exhibitions list 97/98/99

Interview with Harry King previous landlord of The Approach Tavern

Other Educated persons
Artists & Art organisations in the East End of London 1972 to 1998

Map of Tower Hamlets