Timothy Taylor Gallery leads the charge as art world converges on London

By Juliet Herd | 13 Oct 2021 | Culture, Art

Frieze Art Fairs returns to the capital on 13 October and runs until 17 October

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Frieze Art Fairs return to London this week with much fanfare and anticipation after a year’s hiatus with nearly 300 major galleries from 39 countries taking part. 

Both Frieze London and Frieze Masters will pitch their respective tents in Regent’s Park from 13-17 October with the number of galleries exhibiting on a par with 2019, confirming London’s place as one of the world’s pre-eminent art capitals. 

Leading London gallery Timothy Taylor, which has been a fixture in Mayfair for 25 years and now runs a second space in New York, is returning to Frieze London with a solo exhibition of paintings by one of America’s most exciting young artists, Honor Titus, who will be showing here for the first time. This follows his critically acclaimed inaugural solo exhibition at Timothy Taylor New York in January this year.

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The former lead vocalist of Brooklyn-based punk rock band Cerebral Ballzy, Titus, 32, is a self-taught multi-disciplinary artist and musician. His paintings depict figures engaged in ritualised movement, capturing the visual language of leisure and sport, such as the muscles in a diver’s back or the intimate posture of a jockey. 

Here, gallery director Tarka Russell, who has been instrumental in forging new relationships with contemporary artists, talks to Tempus online about what it means to be back at Frieze and how lockdown led to her discovering a new roster of local talent.

How excited are you about being back at Frieze?

“It is very exciting to feel a buzz and energy about London after 18 months in lockdown. There seems to be a great wave of excitement.”

When and where did you first see Honor Titus’s work? 

“At our show in New York, but online only! Tim [Taylor] and I were unable to travel due to Covid restrictions.”

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This is his first solo exhibition at an international art fair – how significant is this for him?

“This is a huge moment for him. Frieze is a global stage. I love the impact of solo presentations at fairs.”

How challenging was it for the gallery during lockdown and were you able to keep the business going by pivoting to online sales? 

We were very fortunate to be already running a hybrid programme with online VR and physical exhibitions. When lockdown happened, we grouped together, brainstormed and came up with an online guest curator series that really hit the mark. The first one was with [art historian] Katy Hessel of the Great Women Artists, who was a total pioneer in this. It made the first few weeks on Zoom really exciting.”

Sounds like you were already on track in terms of digital presentation of your artists’ work?

“Yes, very much so; we have been very focused over the past four years with our online side of the business. It is our third gallery space after London and NYC. We programme the online side of things as we would a gallery space.” 

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Interestingly, although the art market came to a halt at the start of the pandemic, some people actually started collecting for the first time – why do you think that was?

“I think people saw art as a solid investment when other areas seemed static and boring. It also really spoke to a younger generation who were maybe preoccupied with other things before lockdown and maybe didn’t feel welcome in gallery spaces. Online is accessible to all.” 

In what way has your business - and the art world in general - changed since Covid?

“My initial observation is that people don’t feel the need to be at every art fair, every opening, with all the unnecessary travelling. We can achieve so much and save time [operating] from one location.”

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How important are actual shows or do you think online sales will continue to be the way forward?

“Online shows don’t even compare to the experience of a physical show. Art is sensual and emotive. You have to be present to be moved by art. Online is flat and there is not much joy buying from a PDF. Also, it is not the most attractive offer for an artist to be just doing an online show. You want the buzz and energy that is just not available online when you are browsing solo on your sofa.”  

Did you find your artists were more productive than ever over the past 18 months? 

“Yes, for sure. I think we were all challenged mentally. Artists are solitary beings anyway so not much changed in terms of them working on their own, however, I think not being distracted by the outside world let them be more productive. Artists like Annie Morris went to quarantine in the English countryside. She has never lived in the country before and made these incredible diary drawings that were so moving. We did a viewing room with them and a new bronze edition. It was like a snapshot into her lockdown world.”

In what ways did lockdown inspire your work at the gallery?

“I was inspired to curate my summer group show In Real Life, which brought together all of the artists I discovered during lockdown, through Instagram and Zoom. It [lockdown] definitely got me thinking much more and also focusing on local London artists.

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The gallery is exhibiting a new selection of sculptures, drawings and tapestries by Annie Morris, coinciding with her first solo museum exhibition in the UK at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and her inclusion in Frieze Sculpture. Can you tell us about her place in the British art scene today?

“Annie is having her moment right now in art history. It is very exciting and well deserved. Her work is so personal and stems from a tragic experience many women globally have suffered. She suffered a stillbirth, which is a universal experience that not many women speak about. Annie’s sculptures are uplifting and colourful, making this tragedy somewhat a different journey. It is really incredible to see the response to these works from people of all ages, across all continents.”

What else is in the pipeline?

“We will be opening a solo exhibition of another British artist Daniel Crews-Chubb in November followed by an exciting group show early next year. Daniel is another newish name to our roster who has had a tremendous response across the board.”

Honor Titus, Frieze London – 13-17 October

Annie Morris, Timothy Taylor Gallery – 6 October -13 November 

www.timothytaylor.com