INTERVIEW WITH LILY BROOKE
Natalia González Martín, February 2018
One of the greatest things about London is that art pops up in the most unexpected places, like in your local café, in a shipping container, or an office. Or, in the case of Lily Brooke, inside a house. I direct myself to 3 Ada Road with the help of Citymapper. Through the big windows, I can already peek into the room in the house, purely devoted to the display of art. Lily greets me at the door and, after a short introduction about the artist exhibiting, I am left to discover the work by myself. The space offers an intimacy with the work that I have not experienced in traditional art galleries. I observe the works, and the works observe me. Lily is in the living room, where some more pieces are displayed, settling into the daily rhythms and routines of the home.
Natalia González Martín: How did you decide to set up you own gallery? Where did the idea come from and was it something you have always wanted to do?
Lily Brooke: I originally began curating exhibitions in my home both for experimental purposes and due to financial limitations. The shows were approximately every 3 months and only lasted for a week as I moved furniture out of what was usually our living area. Over time, as I built relationships with artists, clients and other contacts in the art world, I began thinking about a permanent space. It seemed like the right thing to do to set the permanent space up in the house whilst I continued to establish myself/the gallery.
NGM: Lily Brooke Gallery is not a conventional space, was that a result of the current market circumstances or a deliberate desire to change the rules of the game?
Lily Brooke at James Lomax | Details form the difference at the Lily Brooke Gallery, 3 Ada Road. Courtesy of Lily Brooke.
"it wasn't my initial thought to change the rules of the game but I think collaboratively, with all the other spaces, it is slowly but surely happening"
LB: It was due to the current market initially - I couldn’t trust it and whilst I’d ideally have a separate gallery space it was becoming more and more evident that even existing galleries were now struggling to function, with numerous big names closing this year alone. I did a fair bit of research and found there were a lot of spaces opening in South London in homes, shops and pop ups. It wasn’t my initial thought to change the rules of the game but I think collaboratively, with all the other spaces, it is slowly but surely happening.
NGM: In your experience, what are the limitations of setting up a gallery in your home, and the benefits of it?
LB: As with starting out in any industry you have to build your reputation, not only with clients but also with other people working in the industry. I think it is possibly harder for others to trust you when you are using the space inside your home as people may presume it isn’t as professional or you’re not as dedicated - either way, as with most things, time eventually resolves this. Ultimately working from home has a freedom to it as I open by appointment only, so I don’t have to be fixed to the space constantly. I personally find this very refreshing - spaces don’t need to be open 2-5 days a week - if people want to visit the space they can easily organise a time to visit. The 'by appointment' set up has also given me the freedom to visit other spaces and artist studios, attend events and network which is crucial.
NGM: What difficulties did you encounter at the beginning?
LB: Possibly not trusting my gut enough. I’m a lot more assertive now with what I want from each show and each artist whereas before I didn’t ever say no to anything.
NGM: What would you do differently if you were to start all over again?
LB: Because I began curating exhibitions in the house before starting the permanent gallery space I felt I could get the initial trial and error phase out of the way. When I closed for six months to rebrand the space I already found I knew the intricate details I wanted to apply and I gave myself sufficient time to consider all the different boxes I had to tick!
NGM: Being an independent gallerist means not having to answer to as many parties, how does that affect your choice of artist?
LB: As I’m not tied down to certain interests of institutions and funding bodies I can show artists who I'm really excited about showing, as opposed to having to tick commercial boxes to stay afloat/open. So, that has allowed me to have lively and fruitful connections and discussions with the artists, and to show things I think the current art scene could benefit from.
Lily Brooke is currently showing Details Form The Difference, an interactive exhibition by Ruskin graduate James Lomax. Open by appointment until 27th March 2018.
"that has allowed me to have lively and fruitful connections and discussions with the artists"
Lily Brooke Gallery
3 Ada Road, London, SE5 7RW