How (and when) did they start their gallery, what has changed in the art world since then, what is their profile, what do they collect themselves, and what is the impact from Corona at their gallery? This week with Boris Devis (Everyday Gallery)
We’re you exposed to art while growing up?
Well, after some reflection I am inclined to say yes. Besides being a businessman, my grandfather was a much-loved painter locally. Both my parents also sometimes worked on canvas, but art historical themes or philosophical angles were not immediately discussed between dishes. Rather, I’ve been exposed to a sense of aesthetics. We were the only house in the street where the living space underwent a metamorphosis three times a year. There was no specific love for art or design, but there was a fluidity of the interior. So I grew up in an ever-changing environment, in which the living room was redecorated time and again. My love for beautiful things was born there and the idea that a house is not a fixed environment, but a place you can transform into how you want it. Nothing is set in stone, so no decision you make are forever, like the wedding sets used to be.
How did you come into contact with the art world?
Thanks to local art heroes, who also became favourite conversation partners in the pub. In the first place I am thinking of Roger Claessens, who is also the father of a good friend. At first I didn't understand a word of what he was saying, but it did fascinate me. Then he would show me a photo – an X-ray of a grebe with a hook in his stomach or something like that – which became art, he turned everything into art, into installations, even history was transformed. As a kid I did not understand how he could establish these links, but it also made my brain more fluid towards art.
Furthermore, the likes of Raymond Minnen and Jef Geys were never far away. Geys was the more illustrious figure, a man you just didn't see in the pub, but who was talked about. He was from Balen, everyone talked about him, he exhibited at the MoMA, he was an über-artist and a supreme god, there was always an anecdote about him. I haven't met him in person. Claessens and Minnen were daily customers in the 'Jazzoet' pub on the Rozenberg in Mol, which has just closed. There was a work by Geys in that pub, a photo assemblage of all well-known figures from the Mol area, which he had made about 30-35 ago. I was able to buy it just last week, it was still hanging in there! Now that history will soon hang in my house.
Actually, I've always had one or another artist close by. The door to that world had been ajar for so long.
What was your first job in a gallery? Or did you immediately start a gallery yourself?
I did indeed start my own gallery out of the blue. First I set up a residency, with the intention of being a kind of catalyst for young artists. I was especially amazed by a new generation of artists, mostly from the Design Academy Eindhoven. After a few studio visits I thought it was awe-inspiring how they could already make such a strong work, in those little crawl spaces of studios. What if I could provide those people with every opportunity? What great things would come from that?
Lionel Jadot was just about to start a big project; he turned a 15th century paper mill into workshops, and I wanted to be a part of that. I thought: I should just start a residency studio and send those guys there. Surrounded by many other creatives, many questions get quick answers. That's the first thing I started, I wanted to be a link between galleries, I didn't want to sit in a white room behind a laptop, that didn't seem like anything to me, but through that residency I saw that galleries can do much more and starting a gallery was only the obvious thing to do next. Our first exhibition 'In Real life' showed many works created in our residence. Such as the 'lady chairs' by Anna Aagaard Jensen. Meanwhile, 'Everyday AIR' is also the permanent studio of our artist duo Touche—Touche, where Theo Demans is currently preparing for his 'explicit' contribution to the Frans Pavilion in Venice.
How would you describe your gallery’s profile?
Located in the new architectural district in the south of Antwerp, Everyday Gallery highlights artistic practices that defy the boundaries of traditional art disciplines and develop beyond the confines of the gallery’s walls. Home to both emerging and mid-career artists, the gallery is committed to durable, long-term creative investment, providing coaching, mentoring, and representation to artists in all stages of their career. At the core of Everyday Gallery’s activities lies the conviction that art can act as guide, both in our own lives and on a communal level. Art, Everyday contends, can help us to envision a path toward a sustainable and equitable world. Carefully curated, each new show establishes an aesthetic space in which expanded sculptural work, painting and digital art conjoin and allow for an enriching dialogue between artist and visitor.
What do you think is the best part of being a gallerist?
Being on the frontline of the artist's development, in whatever phase or capacity. And hopefully be of some interest to him/her/they anyway. Gaining the faith and trust of the collector who, convinced of your vision, steps into your story and that of your artists.
Which national / international galleries do you feel an affinity with?
CLEARING New York/Brussels, Peres Projects, Ramiken Crucible. Closer to home, I feel related to Tim Van Laere, Sofie Van de Velde and PLUS-ONE gallery. In the New South ecosystem you will consciously – and unconsciously – make certain decisions because of the behaviour of those closest to you. You influence each other consciously and unconsciously; you notice, for example, the professionalism of older galleries. So the benchmark is very nearby. If this wasn’t right next to me, I would be less informed. You hear things and talk about it among each other. That eco-system ensures prosperity.
In an ideal world, which artist would you most like to represent?
Daan Gielis and Tom Volkaert. Both are crucial for the construction of the gallery. Without these bearing walls there could be a heavy impact on the stability of our structure. In other words, right now I can't imagine that I would rather represent other artists than those we already work with.
What has changed in the art world since you took your first steps?
It seems to me that the art world is catching up with the digital realm, a world of platforms and online marketplaces – which I was already familiar with through Goldwood (a company focused on historical and authentic design, set up in 2008) and 1st Dibbs – who we have been working with for ten years. I also notice that talent is scouted at a very young age, very young artists with a limited oeuvre quickly get great opportunities and exposure. Hopefully, they are all well managed. After all, we are only at the beginning of digitization and all its counter-movements. Very exciting dynamics are emerging, in which we will certainly play a pioneering role. Hopefully we can help democratize the art world without making it populist.
What / whose work do you collect yourself?
Of course the lion's share is from my own stable, pieces of people close to me. Besides Jef Geys, I am currently surrounded by work by Calvin Marcus, Laure Prouvost, George Rouy, Daniel Boccato, Jordy Kerwick, Julien Meert, Nora Turato, Anastasia Bay, Alicia Adamerovich and Mamali Shafahi.
Has the pandemic changed the way you see the artworld?