The Dealers Behind London’s D’Stassi Art Gallery Have Some Ideas on How to Make the Art World a More Welcoming Place
The childhood friends opened the space in 2017.
Childhood friends Michael Howes and Edward Sanders grew up sharing passions for art, fashion, and culture. But as adults, they found the atmosphere in most galleries chilly, and at times unwelcoming.
In 2017, Howes and Sanders decided to create the environment they were looking for and opened D’Stassi Art, a London gallery with an egalitarian approach to art and fashion.
In the years since it opened, the gallery has become a unique space for emerging talents that cultivates unexpected collaborations to introduce new and younger audiences to the world of collecting.
Recent crossovers include a collaboration with the fashion powerhouse Fiorucci and the artist Endless, who together created limited-edition clothing, prints, and skateboards. D’Stassi Art also just launched Spotlight, an online store with exclusive pieces by artists at accessible prices.
“A lot of our time is spent coming up with ideas for organic collaborations between different artists, media, and art forms. If money is the motivator, it’s not going to work,” Howes says. “My belief is that you have to be completely immersed in creating value for the artist and collector.”
The cofounders recently caught up with us and shared the idea that power the gallery and explained what the art would could learn from the music industry.
What inspired each of you to enter the art world?
Michael Howes: From a very early age, my personal interest always laid within various art forms: music, dance, painting, drama. To be able to spend your time working on projects that genuinely excite you and feed your appetite for creativity is something I am very grateful to be a part of.
Edward Sanders: I began building a small personal collection of contemporary and street art with my girlfriend and instantly caught the bug. I became engaged in trying to create an art company that had certain similarities to other creative industries like music and fashion. I have worked as a record producer for the last 10 years and love how inclusive and welcoming shows, recording sessions, and fashion collaborations can be. This became the initial fuel to start D’Stassi.
Was there a particular art movement that galvanized your interest?
MH: My interest in art was definitely given a new focus and direction through the introduction to the late and great [street artist] Richard Hambleton. I was lucky enough to be introduced to his genius many years ago and immediately fell in love with his ideas, his early street works, and his need to create. Naturally learning about the roots and key players of the street art movement led me on a journey of intrigue and discovery, with many other exciting artists like Crash, Futura, Daze, and Kenny Scharf.
ES: Living in London and being lucky enough to have spent a good amount of time in New York and Los Angeles through my music career, it became clear that the power of street art is undeniable. Starting D’Stassi and getting to meet legends like Al Diaz and Trevor Andrew has been surreal.
Does the gallery have a guiding ethos?
ES: I never want any of our shows to feel elitist or unwelcoming. It’s important for collectors and guests to have a great time while being able to take the art in. Working alongside brands like Fiorucci enables us to clash two different cultures and introduce young people to how fascinating and important art is.
Your Fiorucci x Endless event saw culture, fashion, and art meet. What was the thinking behind this?
MH: Exactly that: bringing a brand that has deep roots in the street art world together with a new generation of artists to create an exciting and impactful event. Fiorucci’s last artistic collaboration was with LA2 and Keith Haring during the ’80s, so to be able to put together and host an event like that was a great achievement and brought us closer to the ultimate goal of culture creation.
What was the thinking behind Spotlight, your online store?
ES: We wanted to find a way to give incredible emerging artists their own platform. Michael works closely with Richard Hambleton’s work among other icons. However, we knew it was really important to also focus on finding a select few emerging artists each year to exhibit, promote, and sell online and via our creative pop-ups. This has, in turn, led us to build great relationships with artists like Rose Madone, Adam Handler, Schoony, and others. We are both especially excited to launch the Spotlight artists we have joining the roster this year and in 2021.
MH: I believe there are many people who would love to be able to start collecting art, but perhaps feel alienated due to high entry levels and a feeling of elitism in the ordinary gallery system. This is our chance to bring great artists at great prices to our global audience, creating the right platform for whoever it may be to start a collection they can genuinely enjoy and build upon.
What would you like to see a change in the industry?
ES: I have always struggled to understand walking into a gallery only to feel like you’re not welcome or maybe even unworthy. Art is an incredible asset to buy into and it is also hugely inspirational to younger generations. We should be keen to encourage educating and supporting people to become more involved in the art world.
MH: Art should bring people together and should be for everyone to enjoy and take part in…. not just the one percent.
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