INTERVIEW WITH REBECCA MARCUS-MONKS: THE KOPPEL PROJECT
Natalia González Martín, February 2018
The Koppel Project is a creative hub based across two sites in London – Baker Street and Holborn. It comprises two contemporary art galleries, seventy artist studios offering studio spaces for artists and creatives, a bookshop and a coffee shop. Rebecca Marcus-Monks has been in charge of The Koppel Project since May 2017. Rebecca completed a Masters in contemporary art at Sotheby’s. She also ran a commercial art gallery in New York’s Upper East Side.
Natalia González Martín: What differences do you see in the contemporary art world between London and New York?
Rebecca Marcus-Monks: The art scene in New York is mainly commercial due to a lack of funding, whereas in London there are so many facilities to get funding for art, it becomes more about the art than the selling. Here, I have complete creative control.
NGM: The two locations are extremely ambitious in terms of space, how does the financial side work?
Courtesy of The Koppel Project
RMM: All the money comes from the same place; the president of our charity is in charge of the financial aspects and does not get involved with the art part. When I came to the Koppel Project, in May 2017, I opted to bridge the two spaces together so that there would be one coherent view of The Koppel Project as a company. A crossing over of the two spaces allows us to save some money. It’s much easier and cheaper to order everything in bulk. Before, each space had its own curator, they had separate exhibition programmes; they never crossed and there was not much communication between them.
NGM: Do you have the same freedom when it comes to choosing the exhibitions?
RMM: It’s a mixture of things. Themes that I come across, artists I am interested in. I really like showing artwork that changes the way you think about art. The last exhibition was about Mexican food, which you never think of as a subject for art. We also receive a mass of proposals. When I took over there were some shows that had already been promised and which we are now developing. So although it was a fresh start for everybody we still had to carry on some thing that had been left from the past directors.
NGM: What does the Koppel Project offer that is different from any other art space?
RMM: The gallery operates separately because we don’t usually charge for the space. That way we can be involved and in return we take commission. This involvement means promotion, curation and guidance, which helps further our vision as well as guiding the artist with those little things that sometimes may not seem so important. We think about all of those elements that can be easily forgotten when someone is making the work. From the studio perspective, we are keeping the costs down as best as we can. We try to provide the best custumer service possible, always answering questions. Everybody has my mobile number for when they need to call me, we are aiming for a community, not just individuals going to their spaces and closing the door.
"In the studios you can find all kinds of creative people, from artists to fashion designers, architects and photographers."
Courtesy of The Koppel Project
NGM: What is the link between the exhibition spaces and the studios?
RMM: At the moment, the connection between the two is not as strong as I would like it to be. The exhibition space is currently operating independently and it is taking a bit of time for us to figure out the direction to take this in. The plan for 2018 is to include at least one studio artist in every exhibition and, hopefully, to create an exhibition with a majority of studio artists.
NGM: In the studios you can find all kinds of creative people, from artists to fashion designers, architects and photographers. What is the selection process for the studio artists and what do you expect from them?
RMM: When I started we only had 50 studios, and about 47 of them were filled. At that time, for the most part, people were photographers, painters or fashion designers. Now that we have expanded to the 4th and 5th floors, we have doubled the studios. Filling those studios has its difficulties, especially with the limitations of the building - limited ventilation, not having 24 hour access etc. This means we have to vary who comes in into the building. We now have a team of architects, which offer a different version of creativity. If everybody is a painter, it gets a little bit boring, so we want to enhance different modalities. We now have performance artist, video artists, commercial photographers, fashion designers, writers and sculptors. I am actually trying to include more video and performance artists.
NGM: That mixture is hard to find, especially in art school.
RMM: Exactly, you are so focused on your own medium. Our approach allows dialogue to happen - architects can have a huge influence on painters and vice versa. It would be hard to come across these people otherwise because they don’t work in the same circles, and this gives a different view. We also have a good mixture in terms of where people come from, and although most of them studied in London, there is that diversity which is really important.
NGM: The Koppel Project also offers a residency summer programme?
RMM: Yes – we are planning to do another one as long as we can stay in this building. The first year, we did not really know what was going to happen, but it turned out great as people were peering through the windows, everyone passing by was like ‘what is happening?’ A lot of people became interested in the space and it was great publicity for individual artists and the space as a whole. From the artists’ perspective, many used the residency as a time to explore new work, which they might not have been able to in the studio, as the residency provided a deadline. Changing spaces affects the process and the approaches artists take, enabling them to develop new work and to experiment. It became an exploration; there was no specific goal.
"I really like showing artwork that changes the way you think about art."
NGM: It seems like great marketing! What other marketing tools do you use?
RMM: We run Instagram, a website - the standard social media. We have press lists for every event that we put on, we are just trying to get the word out. One of the reasons for doing group exhibitions is because it allows more people to spread the word about the show. I think, although social media and publications are really useful, getting people talking abut the space is what keeps it going.
NGM: What is the aim for the future?
RMM: Well, it depends in our leases. The location might change, but the goal is to keep going, create more communication between the studios and the gallery so that the entire community is better connected, and to keep supporting emerging artists, to keep as much going on as possible.
Courtesy of The Koppel Project