Twenty years ago Pippa Graber knew that she wanted to be an art dealer so set herself a project that incorporated all the aspects of learning how to be an art dealer,’ writes Michael Holland.
Jump forward twenty years and Pippa is about to launch her own gallery, but I wanted to know more about the woman who now represents artists on several continents: ‘I had been doing some local theatre set designing, and making and selling pottery, and doing some writing for a parenting magazine, and was looking for a job in the arts, so when an artist friend asked me to represent her it just seemed to encapsulate all the things I wanted to do.’ Which is when Ms Graber set out on her life plan. ’I got some funding and the whole thing took on a life of its own,’ she recalls, ‘and after a year I ended up with a gallery space in a large restaurant in East Dulwich, so pretty much invented my own job’
After three years at East Dulwich, Pippa began working from her Honor Oak Park home, where she held exhibitions and participated in the global art fair schedule, mainly with the Affordable Art Fair. From the beginning it sounded like an incredible journey towards opening her own space. I was curious about the highlights, and she had highlights aplenty.
‘The best thing about this career is I get to do my favourite things, which are meeting new people and being around art. It provides an interesting and diverse social life and experience. I also run an intern programme and I am thrilled that my past interns have gone on to do amazing things in the art world… I can not think of one specific highlight from the past but opening the new gallery is definitely the apex of my career – I have a new intern starting at the gallery in June.’
Pippa has also veered off the road to embrace something else that she loves: ‘I am involved heavily in The Maverick Festival in Suffolk which is an Americana music festival; I work with artists who are also musicians in the genre and exhibit their work at the festival.’ I could see her mind drift off to the openness of the countryside with Bluegrass playing on the wind. Then she was back. ‘I suppose the highlight of my work is that you never know what will pop up next.’
What is it that you love about your work?
‘Mainly it is the combination of the art and the people I work with. I am really specific and I have to like the work and the artist. I have artists I have been working with for a long time from London and New York and new ones now from Suffolk where I live part-time.’ I could tell there was more. ‘The travel, especially to Hong Kong, which I loved, has been a real bonus… I prefer a working holiday because I love my job.’
When did you decide to open up a gallery?
‘I have always had spaces that I have shown from, including my house in Honor Oak Park, but four years ago I decided to sell the house and open a gallery that ideally would also be my home. This is the fruition of that.’
But any rollercoaster ride has its downs to follow the ups. ‘I think a low point has been the last two years when I was building the gallery. It is a hugely stressful thing to do and my advice to anyone thinking of doing a new build is, don’t if you don’t have to! It was important to me to be back in Honor Oak if possible, and, fortunately, this property came up, but it has been a long and twisted road to this point.’
So, it has been difficult to get open.
‘Difficult doesn’t even start to express it, more like “horrendous nightmare of stress and worry!” But that is now fading away as one of those “never again” experiences of life and it is starting to feel like a reality that will be worth the effort.’
‘While art did sell during the lockdown, there were no art fairs and I had no base to sell from except for my website. I missed the art fairs and not seeing my other gallery friends, and it forced me to embrace social media on a higher level… I have a base now but due to Covid we will not be having the big opening party that I was hoping for. The opening will be a soft one and I just plan on being open for more hours to begin with… The gallery is Contemporary, and we specialise in abstract and photo-realistic still-life but we are not limited to it. Plus, we offer bespoke framing.’
For the opening, Pippa is putting up the work of Kate Felton-Hall, Darren Lynde-Mann, and Lisa Henshall. She will be following this up with a show of still life works from the UK and Spain.
There are also plans for art classes three mornings a week.
All these events and exhibitions will be announced on the website: https://www.artdoglondon.co.uk/ and via the newsletter which you can sign up for:
23 Brockley Rise, Honor Oak Park, London, SE23 1JG