POST_INSTITUTE - INTERVIEW WITH LUCY VON GOETZ
Emilie Fitzgerald, May 2018
Lucy von Goetz is an art dealer, curator and gallerist. She founded the Post_Institute space in Brixton in 2018. Described as ‘an island in the midst of a raging sea of regeneration and gentrification’, Post_Institute shows emerging artists and gives a platform to contemporary ideas. The space is not permanent, being on a site marked for demolition and so it is both a response and a temporary solution to an exclusive, commoditised art world.
Emilie Fitzgerald: Can you talk a bit about how you became founder of VON GOETZ ART and the new Post_Institute space in Brixton?
Lucy von Goetz: The whole thing evolved very naturally over quite a short period of time. I was acting as a dealer for a photographer friend of mine in May last year. We put together an exhibition in Shoreditch of some of the works in his archive, which went really well. It then became clear that it would be useful to have a larger roster of artists at my disposal to show potential buyers, as well as to curate into interesting and curatorially minded shows. So I started doing a lot of studio visits in London, Belgium and Germany – before planning a group exhibition for December 2017 (The Long Count). I was very lucky to find a space at quite short notice in Mayfair – a disused office space just off Berkeley Square. The catch to this was that the show could only be open for two days.
2017 ended on a high and I started 2018 looking for the next space for an exhibition titled Slippage: Performative Utterances in Painting – a 5 artist group show. After months of searching, it became clear that I couldn’t afford to rent the kind of space I wanted for this show. I couldn’t find anything for less than £2000 a day. And I really didn’t want another ‘flash’ show like last year.
I then found myself on Gumtree and booked a viewing of what is now the Post_Institute. It was a total mess, full of wood and rusty scaffolding, leaks and junk – but the old brickwork and gorgeous natural light pouring through the roof totally got me. I knew almost immediately that I was going to take it on but I forced myself to think about it for 24 hours before committing.
The space is marked for demolition and will be turned into luxury flats (of course!). But this meant I didn’t need to be tied into a long lease and steep financial commitments – so the fact of the building’s fate has made the exercise possible.
Hot Milk, installation view
© VON GOETZ ART
EF: Where did the name Post_Institute come from?
LVG: The name came about from a long discussion with Oliver Morris Jones who co-curated the shows Slippage and Hot Milk with me. We were debating definitions of museums, galleries, institutions, foundations, project spaces etc. We found that common denominators amongst institutions are their buildings, their sites, their architecture. These things are integral to what the institute is. Frank Lloyd-Wright’s Guggenheim, London’s Tate Modern, Renzo Piano’s Pompidou; these are the atriums, the halls, the hotel lobbies of a globalised art world. The Post_Institute moves away from this because it has to.
EF: What drew you to opening a gallery space in Brixton?
LVG: As much as I’ve come to love Brixton, it’s people and it’s energy, I actually had no comprehension of this before opening here. It was simply this space that drew me here.
EF: What challenges have you faced opening a new gallery space?
LVG: The main initial challenges were the DIY issues. I’m not a particularly practical person, so finding myself in builder’s merchants and timber yards, up ladders and scrubbing walls was definitely a learning experience – but there was a sort of romantic enjoyment in the whole thing, it’s very satisfying to get your hands dirty.
EF: How do you choose the artists that you exhibit?
LVG: There’s no specific criteria, it’s just about who’s making work that’s truly contemporary to our world now – and the artists I’m drawn towards tend to have a strong theory, thought and research process behind their practice, as well as a strong aesthetic.
“the artists I’m drawn towards tend to have a strong theory, thought and research process behind their practice, as well as a strong aesthetic.”
Michaela Yearwood-Dan, Cool 'N' Deadly, 2016
© VON GOETZ ART
Hot Milk, installation view: (top Left) Jonathan Lux, Plot Twist, 30 X 40cm, ink on board, 2018, (table) Bea Bonafini, Spring Bouquet, 100 x 100 x 50cm, jacquard knit, clay, pigment, painted wood, 2017, (ceramics on table) Bea Bonafini, IL Cenone, ceramic coffee head cups collection of 10, (right) Jennifer Mehigan, Fantasy Flesh 001, 120 x 180cm, inkjet on silk, 2018
© VON GOETZ ART
EF: Do you have any advice for young or emerging artists looking at exhibiting in galleries?
LVG: Probably just to have some business acumen. If you don’t know the people or the gallery – always get a consignment agreement sorted and signed. I’ve definitely heard way too many horror stories!
EF: Your group show, Hot Milk, featured largely female artists, could you talk about the show and the reason you chose these artists?
LVG: There was a part of me that wanted to do an all female show, you know? But then I sat down and asked myself why, and I couldn’t convince myself of any solid reasons that hold up with what Hot Milk aims to question and explore. So I quickly disregarded the notion of a single gender show.
The artists for Hot Milk were picked because of how refined each of their practices are in their chosen mediums (video, ceramic, painting, installation, sculpture).
I wanted to bring questions of contemporary feminisms into the space and the show – but without it being over-bearing or even necessarily present in the work. I wanted the gallery to become a “safe space” for the tenure of Hot Milk, creating a confluence of artistic practices under the umbrella of feminist theory, encouraging a reading of the artworks on display both on their own terms and in the context of postfeminism.
The term “feminist” did not necessarily describe the works on view in that show. Instead it convened a group of artists for whom feminism has varying degrees of importance. The curatorial framework for the show kept a lightness of touch, nodding to much broader discussions of how curatorial practice (for example, all-female shows) and the revisiting (and rewriting) of histories as herstories, could emerge as more concrete theoretical and historical trajectories.
“I wanted to bring questions of contemporary feminisms into the space and the show – but without it being over-bearing or even necessarily present in the work.”
EF: Do you have any exciting plans for the future?
LVG: I’m absolutely addicted to planning. And probably to excitement and challenges too. So I’m aiming to enjoy what is happening here at the Post_Institute for now, and consider the next project in September time. But the show that will take place during Frieze week this year should be pretty epic!
(left) Hannah Tilson, Marta Boros, 2017
(right) Milly Peck, Cucoloris, 2018, 110x150cm
© VON GOETZ ART
Lucy von Goetz