Fraser Kee Scott is certainly becoming recognised as a mover-and-shaker of the art world. He opened his Notting Hill-based gallery (A Gallery) when he was just 19 and has since seemingly perfected the ability to see the message-beyond-the-skill that so often conceals an artistic talent that is set to become huge. Hence, A Gallery has attracted a vast following of artists and critics alike, keen to see which new talent is being showcased by Fraser. Revealer of the message-within-the-art and campaigner for making a change to the world by encouraging everyday folk to go out and buy art, Fraser is certainly a busy bod. But he kindly made time in his when-is-he-scheduled-to-breathe diary to speak to me about running a gallery, his passions and how to get a shedload of followers on Twitter. But I’m not revealing that last discussion. ‘Cos I’m going to use it first.
Did you always intend to be a gallery owner or were you more inclined towards becoming an artist?
As a child If anybody asked me what are you going to be when you’re older, I’d say; ‘I want to be a painter’. The
opportunity to run a gallery came up and it was a natural thing because my family are all self-employed and have shops or factories. Running a shop or a business was what they did so running a gallery just seemed the natural thing to do.
How do you spot an up-and-coming artist?
The thing that most people notice is the technical skill. That’s the first thing that people will spot. This actually goes against what the art establishment will tell you, but people who are not necessarily art critics or who don’t hold authority in art respond to technical skill. However, that isn’t what I call great art; great art is the message within the work. If the techincal skill’s there then the public will be more willing to consider it to be a good artwork and will therefore be willing to look for the message and take the message seriously.
Do artists approach you or do you seek them out?
We get sent resume emails every day from artists. Personally I’m not really looking for new art now because I’m more
focused on promoting the artists that we’ve got.
The last couple of artists that I took added me on their ‘Myspace’ sites, funnily enough! I had a look at their work and it was really amazing stuff. So we put them on our website and then I sent out a press release. The first day that the press release went out, we got them four pages in IT Magazine which was really great. But I wasn’t looking; I just saw them!
How do you encourage the public who may not necessarily be ‘into’ art into your gallery?
We do all sorts of things. We constantly send out information in any way that we can. The highest success has resulted from getting articles in GQ Magazine or The Evening Standard; stuff like that. These get seen by hundreds of thousands of people so we promote to the press a lot. We leaflet constantly, putting invitations around London and in people’s doors; we build up email lists of lawyers and architects and email them – all these methods are how we attract new people.
How has the recession affected you? Do you feel that the art world has been quite badly hit or have you been ok?
We’ve sold more! The last year we’ve definitely sold more than usual. It’s got nothing to do with the recession but it’s got everything to do with what we actually do.
The bad thing about the media is that they are fear-mongers; they make their money from creating fear. When the banks got into trouble, that was their problem and bad enough. But the high street wouldn’t have suffered in the way that it did if the media hadn’t harked on and on about it. As a result, people got scared and they stopped spending. So we make sure that we don’t listen to it at all; we increase production and we’ve expanded.
On the subject of the mass media, they can give artists such as Damien Hirst and Anthony Gormley a bad press which may alienate the public from the artist. How do you strive to draw artists and the public together?
I think that the government believes what the media says but it’s the public whose opinions can override what the papers would have us believe. What comes out of some of these newspapers is disgusting and can cause a really negative effect. So I don’t read the papers! It’s not real or true – it’s a completely biased form of propaganda and it makes you question who are running them and what their intentions are. Take for example the band, Coldplay; they make really good music, people like their stuff and respond well to it because of it’s beauty. And then some of the papers print nasty and backstabbing stuff about them and no matter what Coldplay produces, these papers will never be positive because being positive about this particular band is not that paper’s agenda. So when it comes to art, the thing to do is not to concentrate on the negative messages about art put out by those kinds of papers. Focus on the media that will print positive stories.
Art has been getting outside a lot more these days; does this help the cause of bringing art and public together?
It does help. The more exposure that you can get as an artist, the more you can get seen and heard by the public and the better off the public will be. If one person has a really bad day, then they come home and put on their favourite record, it can really ease the stress. That’s just one person but if you take that to the level of society, art can do the same thing. So the more public art that there can be, the more people relate to it as easing stress. Following on from that, the more attendance we get to galleries and so on. The more that the artist can have an effect on culture – and I’m talking about the creative artists who are putting out positive messages that are reflected in their art – the better society is. And actually, society wouldn’t survive without these artists doing just that.
Running ‘A Gallery’ obviously takes a huge amount of work and at times must become stressful; how do you balance productivity and stress so that you stay enthusiastic and positive about each work day?
I write poetry on the train and tube and it is certainly something that helps. But essentially you have to remember that life is a game and – I don’t ever ‘work’!. I play a game instead! I’m not at work – I’m doing what I love and I’m helping and fulfilling my purpose. Work is play with a purpose.
Any particular aspects of your job that you love?
It really cuts down to purpose and help. Ultimately the need to help lies within us, be that helping ourselves or the groups that we belong to or society; if you talk to an individual about how they help society, you’ll generally find that the person who feels they are helping is happy. Those who feel they are not helping or even doing the reverse, be that in the job they’re doing or the life they’re leading, can feel really miserable and not necessarily understand why they feel that way. Art has a very high potential to cause an effect. And that is why doing what I do is so fulfilling; I can hire an artist and help them and that in turn puts out a sphere of positivity to his audience. When Paul Normansell, one of our artists, got a commission to do an album cover for The Killers, his mum was writing messages on his Myspace site saying ‘Oh, I’m so proud of him’ and so on! For me that was one of the best things ever to see that knock-on effect of this artist having displayed in our gallery and the personal positive effect it was now having for him.
Well, back to my ‘game’! Any game is made up of barriers, purposes and freedom. If you don’t have barriers, you don’t have a game. Oh my God, there are LOADS of barriers in my job and major things to overcome. But I can do it. It’s not easy but even if these barriers are huge, once you’ve overcome them it’s all the better!
Do you have any exhibitions coming up that you’re really excited about?
Oh, yes! We’re bringing Mercedes Helnwein over in a couple of weeks to Notting Hill. That’s going to be great; she’s really amazing and it’s going to be such a great show with so much work having gone into it.
The standard is very, very high. After that we’ve got a show called ‘Gloss’. That consists of three artists; Paul Normansell, Maxibillion Wiedemann who just did the VH1 ‘Divas’ campaign in New York and Mikael Alacoque, who is a recent graduate but he’s doing exceptionally well. He actually worked for me in my gallery for six months and was one of the best graduates to come out of art school the year before last. It’s called ‘Gloss’ because I was trying to find something that linked them all together and the word ‘gloss’ has a couple of definitions; one is to put a shiny surface on something to make it stand out and the other is to put a positive idea over something which is not necessarily viewed to be that positive, to ‘gloss over’ something. It’s an interesting concept and the work is really strong in that show too.
Any advice you can offer to anybody who might be interested in persuing a career similar to yours – budding art gallery owners?
Just do it!
I’d just like to thank people who buy art! It’s an important thing to do because they’re helping and supporting artists who are defining culture. So I just want to thank the people who have supported us over the past few years and would like to encourage more people to buy because as I mentioned before with creating positivity in society, art has an extremely positive effect.
I’d like to thank Fraser for such an interesting and thought-provoking chat. Nice chap. Below are links to the aforementioned exhibitions:
Mercedes Helnwein – Whistling Past the Graveyard – 19th November to 6th December at Wanted Gallery, 15b Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, W11 2EE – http://www.agallery.co.uk/gallery.php?cat=8736
Gloss – Mikael Alacoque, Paul Normansell and Maxibillion Wiedemann – 10th – 30th December at Wanted Gallery, 15b Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, W11 2EE. Mikael – http://bit.ly/2q5iFv,Paul – http://bit.ly/2v2yvQ, Max – http://bit.ly/owUjs
Also check out Fraser’s ‘A Gallery’ website with plenty more artistic talent: http://www.agallery.co.uk/
Plus some great advice for artists on selling art!: (log in to Myspace first and then scroll down; it’s the seventh blog entry. Be advised you may get seriously distracted by Fraser’s previous blog entries and end up reading those as well so allow some time for this!). http://tinyurl.com/yd3h2hv