I have always had an interest in art – even as a child I was always going to museums, exploring art, studying the Old Masters.
I left my career in finance because of family considerations. I’m an academic person, so I decided to study to become an art historian. I did this at Christie’s Education for two years in the late 90s, before eventually launching The Cynthia Corbett Gallery in 2004.
2. Generally speaking, have you noticed any similarities when working in finance and working in art ?
The biggest similarity or common thread is the importance of developing honest and trustworthy relationships with people – people that you might be representing, advising, trying to influence or people you are trying to sell to. The fact that I had a very expansive, 15-year career in the financial sector taught me a lot about different cultures and the international nuances and concerns of people, which serves me well in the art world. The most important element of both worlds is building and cementing relationships.
” The fact that I had a very expansive, 15-year career in the financial sector taught me a lot about different cultures and the international nuances and concerns of people, which serves me well in the art world. ”
3. How would you classify your gallery and what works do you represent ?
The Cynthia Corbett Gallery is an international contemporary art gallery committed to the highest quality art and to nurturing the artists we represent. We nurture our artists in every possible way – whether it’s by assisting them with getting a piece in to a public or private collection or by building their international profile with journalists and critics. Ultimately the artists we represent are the artists we love and believe in. This ethos makes it very comfortable and enjoyable for us to work with our artists because we totally believe in their work and their futures.
4. You have an annual exhibition programme in London, Los Angeles and New York. In your opinion, which city currently has the most active and exciting art scene and do you see that changing in the next 5 to 10 years ?
All three are so different and have different aspects that make them exciting and challenging. London is the most international of the three places: it’s where people go to see a gallery or exhibition. Both London and New York have expensive real estate, which makes it very challenging to show art: where do galleries show artists’ work? How do they afford it? LA has more opportunities for younger and emerging artists. It’s still a big city, and it’s not inexpensive, but it’s a dynamic place and is ideal for younger artists as it has lots of affordable studio spaces and young galleries that they can show in. I think we’re going to see a lot of artists moving between LA and New York and back again over the next few years, depending on their career stage.
For The Cynthia Corbett Gallery, it’s really important to be able to have a presence or an exhibition in all three places as we reach a different client base.
” LA has more opportunities for younger and emerging artists. It’s still a big city, and it’s not inexpensive, but it’s a dynamic place and is ideal for younger artists as it has lots of affordable studio spaces and young galleries that they can show in.”
5. When it comes to representing new artists, what influences your choice ?
More than anything it’s commitment to practice and quality of work. Ultimately I am moved by aesthetics, what I see and what I like. I like to consider how serious and committed an artist is before taking them on. It’s often about timing and luck as well; a very young artist may approach me at a particularly busy time when I’m not able to offer the hand holding that they need, so I can’t take them on at that point. In short it’s about aesthetic, commitment and timing.
6. Give us some more insight into the Young Masters Art Prize. How many submissions do you receive ?
For younger and new artists or for those not well known in London we encourage artists who might want to work with us to apply for Young Masters, which runs every two or three years (it launched in 2009 and we’ve had editions in 2012 and 2014. The fourth edition will be in 2017). We encourage artists to apply who have a link to the past and pay homage to art history. They can be any age or nationality and work in any discipline but they have to be influenced by art of the past.
” We had 400 applications in 2014 but we expect to double that in 2017. The profile of the Prize has grown so much over the years due to the international activity and promotion we’ve undertaken. There’s a huge interest in the Young Masters concept among artists and galleries from all over the world. ”
Young Masters is a not for profit initiative, and while we might not end up representing the artists involved in the Prize, it’s a fantastic exhibition opportunity in London for artists.
7. Based on the last edition (2014) of the Prize, what are some of the qualities the judges looked for in an artist and their work ?
There are two strands of the Prize: the overall Young Masters Art Prize and the Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize, which we launched in 2014.
For the overall Prize we look for originality, skill, technique, links to the past. Work can be in any genre, but there has to be a voice that’s original and unique.
The Ceramics Prize is very much about uniqueness, but the skill and quality of craftsmanship has to be outstanding, regardless of the artist’s age or stage. We choose makers, but their work tends to lean towards fine art.
8. Do you have any upcoming exhibitions that you are particularly excited about ?
Our Summer Exhibition (27 June to 9 July) is really exciting. We’ll have a showcase for one of our most established and successful artists, Deborah Azzopardi, who we’ve been working with for last eight years. She is producing incredible new work for the show – the largest body of new work she’s ever produced – as a well as a montage from 2005 of five images that were sold in poster form by a large-scale retailer. This montage will be an incredibly exciting buy for someone.
The second aspect of the exhibition is a focus on new work by Young Masters alumni, which will give visitors a preview of what’s happening with Young Masters between now and next year.
The Cynthia Corbett Gallery
The Cynthia Corbett Gallery’s Summer Exhibition will run at the Royal Opera Arcade Gallery in London from 27 June to 9 July.
The gallery will present a Young Masters showcase at the Royal Opera Arcade Gallery during Frieze from 3 to 8 October.