Interview with Thomas Dane, founder of Thomas Dane Gallery in London and Naples
One of the most stunning views of the Gulf of Naples is the one you can enjoy from the gallery of Thomas Dane, located in Villa Ruffo in Via Crispi and inaugurated in 2018. A longstanding presence in the art world, Thomas Dane has been involved with London’s evolving art scene since the 1990s and has been witness to its constant changing since then. In this interview the gallerist shares his memories of some key moments of his career, his role models, and his thoughts about the future of the art market.
When did you start your gallery and what led you to open a gallery?
I opened a gallery because I started to represent Steve McQueen in 2001 and it did not make sense not to have a gallery. Our first space opened in Duke Street St. James’s’ with an exhibition of Steve’s work in April 2004.
What did you do before? What is your background?
Previously, I worked on my own, backing artists projects, and advising well-known collectors. I had a rather maverick yet interesting mix of roles. My background is a BA (hons) in Art History.
How would you describe the program of your gallery? What is the fil rouge that connects the artists you represent?
The programme is really diverse, sometimes even eclectic – not just a reflection on us or a single aesthetic or movement. We try to build connections and showcase the best, rather than building a brand. Moving image and painting have had a strong presence throughout. I developed the programme originally in discussions with my partner in the gallery Francois Chantala, but also often through discussions with artists and friends. It has genuinely been a team effort since.
Why did you decide to open a gallery in Naples?
The decision to open in Naples was instinctive. It is a city I had always had a curiosity for, its mystery, its ambiguous beauty… It is a beguiling city. All the artists I talked to were equally drawn to it, and for all of us it became natural, almost effortless, fluid – the opposite of moving to, say, New York, Hong Kong or Los Angeles.
Can you tell us about the choice of the spaces for your galleries, both in London and in Naples?
We have always ended-up with unconventional spaces! In London, the first space on Duke Street is like an apartment. Naples is not dissimilar, only much bigger, more stately, and with, perhaps, one of the most beautiful views in the world.
How has your work changed since you started your gallery?
Rather than my own work, I would say that the Art World has changed in this period. It is relentless in its speed and it has shrunk space and time with all the territories and events one is expected to cover. I think Naples helps to slow things down, helps us contemplate and reflect. The space itself has a beautiful calm to it.
What are some of the most emotional moments that you remember from your career as a gallery owner?
Hard question. The most recent was obviously the opening of the Naples gallery last year. We went there with no clear idea of what we were doing and why we were doing it really, but the Neapolitans utterly embraced the project. For a gallery to open in their city when most are looking at Asia or North-America must have meant a lot to them, and ultimately to me.
Is there someone who influenced you in your work?
A few people, and in very different ways – my friends Kinaston McShine and Richard Flood, from the museum world, for sure. The artists I ‘grew up’ with in London during such exciting times in the Nineties, some of whom I ended up representing, like Michael Landy and Steve McQueen. Also I would add Anthony d’Offay who was the model gallery in London at the time, in terms how a gallery should operate and care for the artists. And Karsten Schubert, a great friend, who brought another level of connoisseurship as well.
What are the challenges for galleries today?
There are so many. Survival. The market has a much deeper effect now. As a result, a lot of people ignore some of the best art that has a less buoyant market or no market. This is very depressing.
What are your predictions for the future of the contemporary art world?
Mhmmm. A challenging period ahead. We have seen too much expansion, too much greed… It is not all sombre though, but is it really sustainable in the same way? We have to continue balancing the market with philanthropy. Encourage the next generation of collectors to support the Arts as a whole and not let the market alone dumb things down too much.
3 Duke Street St James’s
London SW1Y 6BN
11 Duke Street St James’s
London SW1Y 6BN