This year’s FEAGA AWARD ceremony honored two outstanding gallerists, each having achieved acclaimed merits in the field of arts and the art market.
The lifetime achievement this year went to Leslie Waddington for his efforts in creating and directing an exemplary gallery of high international standing. The laudation was presented by Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of the Tate Gallery.
Ani Molnar, runnig her young but already internationally recognized gallery in Budapest, Hungary, received the award for creativity and new inspiration as well as for exempary cooperation with the art community. The laudation was presented by Hans Knoll, gallerist in Vienna and Budapest.
A tribute to Leslie Waddington
FEAGA Award Basel 2013
There are very few dealers who can claim really long service in the premier battalion of the art world. Many of the most famous survive only one campaign, promoting the artists of their own generation. A few also succeed as agents for the next generation. Almost none are successful for as long as thirty years. Leslie Waddington, who celebrates his eightieth birthday next February, has been on the front line for more than fifty years and is a now a campaign veteran without equal in the profession.
Longevity and endurance are both to be admired. However, this morning his peers and competitors in the art trade, as well as curators and critics, honour him for his energy and imagination, for his loyalty to artists rather than fashion and for his commitment to transparent, fair and ethical practice. I have never ever heard anyone complaining about a poor or sharp deal from Leslie Waddington.
The strengths of Leslie’s approach to the art of dealing come from his background and formation. The soft lilt of his voice reminds us that he was born into a Jewish family in Ireland and he has always been a slight outsider in the London art establishment. His father, Victor, ran a successful gallery in Dublin for thirty years, dealing in Irish artists such as Jack Yeats and works from the School of Paris- small paintings and works on paper by Matisse, Picasso, Rouault and Soutine. However, Leslie’s spiritual and intellectual root lies in the literature rather than the art of Ireland, especially in the writings of James Joyce and in the modernist tradition as it developed in Paris between the wars. It was this interest that took him to Paris and the Sorbonne in the early fifties, rather than to a British university. There he encountered existentialism, Sartre, Giacometti and Camus and gained a respect for the intellectual that has conditioned the whole way he has lived his life. It made him open to the work of Samuel Beckett in a way that was unusual in Britain in the fifties and sixties, but it also gave him an abiding interest in words and literature that has allowed him to keep the daily machinations of the art world at a distance.
It is that regard for intellect and for the pleasures of conversation that makes him such a great companion. It has brought him respect from critics, including David Sylvester and Clement Greenberg, the friendship of artists such as William Turnbull or Patrick Heron and a close association with powerful collectors such as Alistair McAlpine or EJ, ‘Ted’ Power. Leslie is quick in his wit, instinctive and decisive in his choices, both in art and in people. He has no time for the grand public occasion. He is at his best in a conversation around a small dinner table where his erudition and knowledge of French literature and philosophy can bring illumination and humour to the gathering. However, he can be impatient with others who are slow or cautious in their deliberations and generally has not much time for museums, with their committee structures, slow processes and even slower payments of his invoices.
In 1957, Victor Waddington decided to move his gallery from Dublin to London. He was joined in the new business in 1958 by his 24 year old son, Leslie. Initially, the Gallery continued on a familiar path, but by 1960 Leslie’s influence had brought the emerging St Ives painters to the Gallery with one person shows for Heron, Hilton, Frost, and Wynter and later others including Hitchens and Frink. In the early sixties London discovered post war American art, rapidly embracing Abstract Expressionism, Pop and the emergent Colour Field painting. Leslie, along with James Mayor at the Mayor Gallery, John Kasmin at Kasmin Gallery presented enormously influential shows of Louis, Noland, Olitski, Poons and others. By the mid sixties, Kasmin and Waddington, along with Alex Gregory Hood’s Rowan Gallery, were also showing Anthony Caro’s coloured welded steel sculpture and what became known as ‘The New Generation’ following Bryan Robertson’s exhibitions at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1964 and 1965. Waddington became independent of his father in 1966 in forming Waddington Galleries with Alex Berstein of Granada television as his silent partner. Over the next decade he showed the new sculpture of Turnbull, Tucker, Scott, Bolus and Annesley alongside the American painters, Heron, Hilton, and Frost, presenting a powerful case for Abstraction. McAlpine bought extensively, later making a major gift of his collection of contemporary sculpture to Tate.
Waddington never really embraced conceptual or American minimal art, but by the eighties he was showing new European and American painting and sculpture with his representation of Baselitz, Paladino, Flanagan and Craig-Martin. Interspersed with these new figures, he remained loyal to British painters such as Patrick Caulfield and Peter Blake, and to lifelong passions such as Dubuffet, Matisse and Picasso. One of my pleasures during that period would be to visit the viewing room at the Gallery on a Saturday morning and have Leslie pull out in quick succession great works by Picasso, Matisse, Baselitz, Morandi, Flanagan, Arp, Laurens, Leger, Miro, Caufield, Tapies and Dubuffet in a random cascade of finely chosen images. You always had the sense that it was the excitement of sharing his passion with others that made Leslie such an effective salesman. Certainly, he had the ability to spot a fine work by a modernist master lingering in a day sale at Sotheby’s, and to show it to great effect in his galleries on Cork Street, or at an art fair. At a time when the Tate and other institutions in London were far less ambitious than today, he made his gallery in Cork Street a place where young artists and collectors could receive an education in modern art. And he also brought on younger colleagues. Both Alan Cristea and Tim Taylor learned their craft with Leslie and Hester van Roijen was for some years an influential partner.
In 1985 Leslie made the best acquisition of his life, Clodagh, whose beauty and wit captured not just Leslie but also his friends. It was her resilience, humour and sense of proportion, coupled with steady support from Alex Bernstein, that helped to keep him above water in the uncertain commercial years of the early nineties. However, even in that difficult period, Waddington continued to embrace new art, taking on Fiona Rae, Ian Davenport and Lisa Milroy from the next generation.
In recent years the Gallery has continued to prosper with secondary market sales working alongside beautifully presented shows by figures such as Heron, Caulfield, Halley, Tapies and Woodrow and focused exhibitions by earlier masters such as Picabia, Albers and Milton Avery, an enduring enthusiasm both of Leslie and his father, Victor. From time to time he has also made important historical shows, such as the reassessment of ‘Colour Sculptures-Britain in the sixties’, which he made in 1999.
And, of course, Waddington has been a feature of Art Basel and other the other major Fairs since the early seventies, always showing important masterworks alongside new work by the artists he represents. No one better deserves the accolade being given to him this morning. Please join me in saluting Leslie as he receives this esteemed award in succession to other historic figures who have made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of modern and contemporary art.
12 June 2013
The work of Ani Molnar
FEAGA Award for Creativity and new Inspiration Basel 2013
Many thanks to the members of the FEAGA board and president Adriaan Raemdonck as well as the jury and it’s president Ernst Hilger for the invitation to propose a young gallery for the Innovation and Creativity Award 2013!
I have the honour to propose a young colleague from Budapest: Ani Molnár!
Ani Molnár opened her gallery in Budapest in 2008, after being active in the contemporary art field already since 2000.
After her studies in economy Ani Molnár was working for 10 years in the business sectors of international firms. In 1999 she finished her education in art management and exhibition organization at the Institut für Kulturwissenschaft in Vienna. After this she was active as a curator during the years 2000 through 2008.
Molnárs start as a curator is remarkable: her first shows were organized in office buildings under refurbishment, such as the neo-renaissance Ybl Palace in Budapest in 2000. Later, as a member of the Studio of Young Artists’ Association she curated the group exhibitions entitled „Short Stories” and “Take one” at the Budapest Gallery, a municipal gallery, furthermore she also had a project in the Budapest Kunsthalle entitled „Venus Studio”.
In 2007 she initiated the non-profit Park Gallery project, which is a unique off-space exhibition series inside a major Budapest shopping mall. The project is an attempt to bring contemporary art closer to those who are not visiting galleries and art institutions. 14 exhibitions were organized in the past 6 years, mainly site-specific installations. The involved artists are not necessarily represented by the Ani Molnár Gallery, but are at the forefront of contemporary Hungarian art. Behind her curatorial concept was an effort to select artists who were already engaged with the question of form and its relationship to the public space. The shopping centre shoulders the bulk of the finances in the creation of these artworks. The works develop a dialogue with the space as well as with the visitors of the mall. Several outstanding artists have participated; currently there is an Andreas Fogarasi show. The project received the prestigious Summa-Artium Award in 2009.
The Ani Molnár Gallery opened in 2008 and represents mainly Hungarian and CEE artists from the younger generation. At the beginning the gallery focused on sculpture, which was unique in Budapest at the time and is also special for the international galleries scene. The gallery profile changed over the years, today installation art is at its main focal point, but the gallery also represents artists who work in paint, graphic art, photography and sculpture. Ani Molnár prefers long time cooperation and keeps intense relations with the artists of the gallery, maintaining dialogues about their art and the projects. She is particularly partial to artists who are sensitive to current social issues, the place and role of ethnicities in the region and the peculiarities of urban life. All exhibitions in the gallery are organized based on curatorial concepts. There are regular group exhibitions, which more and more often include artists from outside of Hungary.
Molnár Ani Gallery participates at local and international art fairs. In the last year she participated at Viennafair, Contemporary Istanbul and Artissima Torino.
Annamária Molnár recognized early on that in order to represent the needs of Hungarian contemporary art galleries more efficiently, a more intense cooperation was needed within the Hungarian art scene, a collaboration that included art institutions as well as private for-profit galleries. In 2011 she therefore undertook the presidency of the Association of Hungarian Contemporary Art Galleries. In addition to cooperation back home, as president, Ani Molnár also championed integration of Hungarian galleries into the international art scene. It was on her encouragement that the Hungarian association became an active member of FEAGA. In the past two years the association has also organized various programs and events, such as Budapest Contemporary visitor’s program, that enabled foreign curators and art professionals to familiarize themselves with contemporary Hungarian art.
During her first 5 years the work as a gallery owner in a rather small country like Hungary brought Ani Molnár to the conviction, that art needs international exchange of ideas, discourse and, last but not least, also the international markets. The international career of an artist is crucial not only for financial reasons: it proofs the quality of the art on the international scale. And every successful artist brings benefits to his or her local surrounding, for example by bringing more attention also for other artists, by introducing the local art discourse into international discussion, and, to give one more example, a rising appreciation for art of a certain area.
In the Hungarian situation the dicision to work on a more international level is crucial: as in many other former socialist countries the well functioning art institutions are very rare, the status of contemporary art is still quite low, and the art markets are still small. Therefore Ani Molnárs decisions to enforce the cooperation between the Hungarian galleries on one hand and, on the other hand, to make her gallery´s program more international will have a good impact. The status of galleries in the public and also in the cooperation with museums and art institutions needs to be developed. And the Hungarian artists have to be introduced to the international art community, as well as international art has to be shown in Hungary.
May the award encourage Ani Molnár to continue her good strategies and also support the intentions of all galleries in the region!
12 June 2013