The dark art of creative patronage

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An art commissioning agency, All Visual Arts (AVA) that recently based itself in King’s Cross, has opened its first exhibition. The exhibition space and offices are tucked away down the cul-del-sac, Omega Place, across from Housman’s Bookshop, in an unprepossessing warehouse.

The show's main features are a 3m-high bobbin of dolls’ hair and a knotted form wrapped in crows’ feathers. Fittingly called ‘Bound’, the work is by artists Alice Anderson and Kate McGwire.

Both of the pieces have been specially commissioned by AVA for the space. The agency’s logistics co-ordinator, Sam Barnes, stressed that they are not a gallery. “We’re a commissioning body — making art with artists rather than trading it like a commercial gallery. He likens the space to more of a showroom, with a rolling programme of public exhibitions.

“It’s a bit like the old arts patronage system, we fund things to be made…the idea is to work directly with the artists and produce good art and build a great collection.” adds Sam, who says it is a unique arrangement in the commercial art world. He explains that the system means artists get an advance to be able to make their work, rather than waiting to have a work sold and a gallery taking a big cut.

AVA has existed since 2008, established by Joe La Placa, an art dealer and Mike Platt, a hedge fund manager.

Despite the agency’s rather general-sounding name, there’s signs of an acquired taste for gothic creepiness in all the work in the main space, offices (an orb made of mouse skulls sits on someone's desk), and in some exquisite pieces under wraps in the storeroom, for an exhibition later this year. A special labyrinth will be built in the King’s Cross space for the art of French artist Charles Matton — featuring masterfully lit, tiny detailed models of interiors such as Sigmund Freud’s study and artist’s studios.

Sam Barnes admits AVA is tucked away, but says there’s plenty of logic in locating near galleries such as the Gagosian and Pangolin and the University of the Arts. And it seems not impossible to find for non-locals: “Charles Saatchi was in this morning” he adds.

Some rich, dark and twisted art to be discovered in a warehouse down a little alleyway near a train station? How very King’s Cross.

Bound runs until the end of the month. www.allvisualarts.org

Clare Hill

About Clare Hill

Clare is a writer and editor who lived in King’s Cross for a decade. She is passionate about local history, transport and food. Contact Clare by commenting on her posts or go to http://www.clarehill.net
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