Staying open: Rózsa Farkas on space in the reality of coronavirus
Q. Arcadia Missa was founded as a project space in 2011 before being established as a commercial gallery in late 2014. What can you tell me about that transition and the reasons that motivated it?
It was a mixture of practical reasons I guess, but also I was very motivated by many of the artists I was already doing projects with, who actively encouraged me to make the switch. I often think that if Arcadia Missa had opened a few years earlier, before so many of the drastic cuts that happened, maybe we would have remained non-commercial. I am very glad that it turned out the way it did though, as I get to grow with the artists I came up with.
Q. Arcadia was founded in Peckham, at a time when the area was experiencing massive changes, a reason you cited for moving the gallery to Soho in 2018. What effect did this move have on the gallery? How the space was used? And who was using it?
The Soho space was TINY, so unfortunately it took away a lot of the in real life discursive element of Arcadia Missa (however many discussions still remained within the publications), now we have moved to another space that could facilitate conversations again, but of course I have no idea when it would be safe to do so. The core audience of Arcadia Missa (often artists and art students) still came to Soho, but the biggest difference we saw is that many more curators and collectors came to see shows. Also, and this is rather null now, people visiting London could make it to the gallery more often once we moved to the centre.
Q. Community has always been central to the gallery’s ethos. Competition is at the very centre of any commercial enterprise. What strategies do you use in order to limit the antisocial effects of competition within the gallery and its community?
I don’t feel that there is competition within the gallery, but I also am not sure what we do to mitigate against this. It’s a tough question – the only thing I can think of is that the publications are vital for us to be able to show much more of the people we admire than we are physically able to within the gallery programme. However I still wish for more time and space, to provide a platform for more artists – there are a lot of great ones within AM’s wider community …
Q. Capitalism has transformed over the last decade leading to new forms of exploitation in the art world and on creators in particular. What framework can galleries like Arcadia provide in the effort to limit this exploitation?
I think transparency in how you work is important – which in itself is a challenge as it requires constant communication (which is labour too).
Q. Very few publicly funded galleries in London actually reflect what is happening in the city today. Arcadia has supported a large number of emerging artists and curators living and working here. What could these institutions do to better serve this community?
Funnily enough most of the artists began working with AM whilst living in London and have since left – this shows how hard a city it is for artists. So many friends and collaborators have left in the last decade, as well as the ones who stayed who have had to live further and further apart. I’m not sure what institutions should do in this regard, but often when it comes to rectifying institutional problems, it is worth starting with their own structure, so as to better understand the artists and communities they serve.
Q. The coronavirus emergency has significantly emphasised existing inequalities and injustices within our society. As we reflect on this, what role can visual culture play? And what must the art world do in order to support it?
We are still working that out I think. My priority is staying open, keeping jobs, creating new ones where possible, trying to make money for the artists. I don’t see the gallery as only a place for ideas to be represented or presented, but it is also a place of work. So trying to protect workers, is something that all spaces should push for.
Q. The gallery has very recently relocated to a new space on Duke Street in Marylebone. What was behind the move? And all things considered, what can we expect from the programme over the next six to twelve months?
In a really hard year it was an extremely lucky event … as for the programme it’s very hard to say as I am writing this during a lockdown. We will hopefully be doing shows by two new artists, and by three artists currently on the AM artist list. Also, the next issue of How to Sleep Faster should be out in the next couple of months.
Q. Lastly, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the generation that came before us. The artists and galleries who came of age in London during the boom years of the late 1990s and early 2000s. What could they be doing to help those of us who need support?
I think they are probably facing very similar challenges to me. Although they may sell art for more money, the overheads are going to be higher. So far all the galleries in London have actually been quite supportive of each other – sharing information on things, organising to promote things together, etc. I feel that there are other gallerists that are older than me who are also really helpful in terms of offering advice when I ask, so I would say most are doing quite a lot!
Rózsa Farkas is the owner and founder of Arcadia Missa Gallery and Publishers in London.