Figure 1. Gloria Knight logo. Retrieved from: https://scontent-syd2-1.xx.fbcdn.net
I chose to interview Juliet Carpenter who was one of the founders of Gloria Knight gallery and is one of the uber cool hip young digital media Auckland artists. It was harder than I expected to get the interview, although she was willing she is currently on a three month residency in Beijing and it was hard to pin her down and get the video call interview done so it all feels a little last minute, but I really wanted to persevere because I think what she and her mates did is really interesting and I thought it would be great to be able to talk about a collective group model of leadership rather than a hierarchical one.
I decided to approach Juliet because we shared a similar experience but took vastly different things away from it.
I first met Juliet around 2015 when she took over my position at Mobile Art Gallery an art Consultancy, art for hire and sale business. I had been working there one day a week for a couple of years, I started in the final year of my Undergrad study, and after two years in the role I found that I really disliked the commercial aspects of it. I found it a bit soul crushing, it probably was worse than a ‘normal’ art gallery because it was based around interior design, not art itself, and I found I couldn’t handle matching the paintings to the cushions any longer and so I resigned and went on to do my Masters and make art for art’s sake and teach art for art’s sake to students here at Whitecliffe.
Juliet took a completely different approach, she had recently graduated from Elam and with artists Francis Till, Henry Davidson, Oscar Enburg and Henry Babbage (Dryburgh, 2014) had also recently opened Gloria Knight. She took over the role at Mobile Art to experience more of the commercial environment, to be able to make that work for her and her art practice.
Figure 2. Gloria Knight Aria press image. Retrieved from: http://utopianslumps.com/exhibition/aria/
I find that meeting point of experience and our different reactions to it quite interesting, my experience made me want to bury my head in the sand a bit and devote my focus on art for its own sake, to turn my nose up at the corporate art environment and Juliet went on to embrace it, to successfully market her own art practice, create opportunities for others to do the same and springboard herself into Auckland’s art culture and now even further into Beijing. Clever.
So Gloria Knight was founded by a handful of artists and ran for nearly three years, which is two years longer than most artist run projects, right in the heart of the yachting area in Wynyard Quarter where they successfully as curator Emma Bugden says “staged the familiar tropes of a commercial gallery – restrained white lettering on the door, vase of flowers on the desk, the clean white space” (Bugden, 2016).
Figure 3. Photograph taken at Gloria Knight. Retrieved from http://artsdiary.co.nz/bt42/1201/1.html
They had multiple shows in this space showing their own as well as other people’s work and “fronted a booth at Auckland Art Fair wearing suits, holding technology and looking convincing“ (Bugden, 2016). Gloria Knight also took part in the very first Spring 1883, a hotel based Art Fair in 2014 and according to artist, curator and gallerist Emil Dryburgh in his article on the gallery; Gloria the dame of Wynyard quarter (2014) in these art events they “outshone the community of full-time dealers, suckers” (Dryburgh, 2014, emphasis in original).
Figure 4. Gloria Knight at Auckland Art Fair. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/gloriaknightgallery/photos
The thing I find most fascinating about all this is that they ran the gallery as a collective but invented their own figurehead persona; Gloria Knight who symbolised all their collective decisions like a hive mind for a fictitious queen bee, so it was an artist run leaderless structure that had an imaginary leader. The persona of Gloria was even the subject of a show in 2013 titled WERK where the gallery was set up as if it was Gloria’s own bland hotel like house.
Figure 5. Werk at Gloria Knight. Retrieved from http://artsdiary.co.nz/g1/gloriaknight.html
Which funnily enough was prescient of the gallerist Antoinette Godkin’s actions, when she moved her gallery in 2014 from the art circuit on High street into new premises, her apartment in Parnell, making the visitor interact with art work in the presence of her presence, art in the bedroom and assistants handing out wine in the kitchen.
Figure 6. Antoinette Godkin Art House. Retrieved from http://artsdiary.co.nz/bt42/1201/1.html
I wanted to interview Gloria Knight herself and follow up with questions to Juliet about what it was like to work for a fictional character, but Juliet declined this as an option as she felt that it would be too tricky to get all the others on board for the interview as they are all in different countries now (J. Carpenter personal communication, April 19, 2017).
So instead of interviewing someone pretending to be Gloria Knight I wrote my questions aimed at Juliet herself. I wanted to find out about the inception of Gloria Knight, its leadership structure, working as part of a collective and how it functioned on a daily basis as well as how she felt that it influenced her as an artist. I also wanted to know whether she thought the idea would ever be reprised in the future, Gloria’s great comeback in new premises, slightly older and slightly wiser.
Unfortunately, it was at this point that my whole idea fell over as Juliet stopped replying to any messages. In a last-ditch attempt to get something I could write about I asked a friend to fill in and answer a few questions as if she was Juliet, adding another layer of crazed fiction to the story.
Figure 7. Waiting for a reply. Retrieved from http://www.viabl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/
I learned from this experience a little bit about the art management world during this process, that it’s very nerve wracking depending on young hip edgy artists because they are also risky which is what makes them exciting. I also learned that if you have a structure in place to deal with issues when they arise and a community of artists who just might be able to fill in at short notice, you can get by. It might not be ideal but you make the most of what you have.
Bugden, E. (2016). Hybrid practices: Artist run spaces and money. In G. Amodeo (Ed.), Assay/essay:Artist run in Aotearoa New Zealand. (pp. 53-57).Wellington, New Zealand: Self published with Enjoy Public Art Gallery and The Chartwell Trust
Dryburgh, E. (2014, December 17). Gloria: The dame of Wynyard Quarter [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://hashtag500words.com/2014/12/17/gloria-the-dame-of-wynyard-quarter/
Gloria Knight. (2012). Timeline [Facebook page]. Retrieved May 1, 2017 from https://www.facebook.com/pg/gloriaknightgallery/about/?ref=page_internal
Hurrell, J. (2013, October 25). Venue as artistic persona. Retrieved from http://eyecontactsite.com/2013/10/venue-as-artistic-persona
Gloria Knight. (2017). Logo [Image]. Retrieved from https://scontent-syd2-1.xx.fbcdn.net
Utopian Slumps. (2017). Gloria Knight Aria press image [Image]. Retrieved from http://utopianslumps.com/exhibition/aria/
Akkirman, S. (2012). 13/03/2012 Martyn Reynolds: Letting go, holding back at Gloria Knight [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.artsdiary.co.nz/bt9/379/9.html
Gloria Knight. (2013, August 10). Gloria Knight is at the Auckland Art Fair 2013 at The Cloud this weekend showing new work by Henry Babbage, Juliet Carpenter, Oscar Enberg and Francis Till [Image]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/gloriaknightgallery/photos/a.225984337500900.47035.224489480983719/456051891160809/?type=3&theater
Akkirman, S. (2015). 08/10/2013 Gloria Knight, Gloria Knight: Werk [Image].Retrieved from http://artsdiary.co.nz/g1/gloriaknight.html
Akkirman, S. (2015). Antoinette Godkin art house: Group show:Works from the toxic room 04/03/2017 [Image].Retrieved from http://artsdiary.co.nz/bt42/1201/1.html
Viable. (2015). Skeleton call back [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.viabl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/