James Cope is a curator of contemporary art and runs the gallery AND NOW in Dallas, Texas.
How did you get into contemporary art? Was there a formative experience which shaped your interest or your eye?
Growing up in England, I skateboarded a lot and was greatly informed by American skateboard culture and British counterculture. While living in Edinburgh, Scotland I started to put on small exhibitions of my friends’ work, and it grew from there. I didn’t want to get a “normal job,” so the art world seemed like a natural place for me to be.
You were the associate curator at the Goss-Michael Foundation in Dallas and also the director of sales at Marlborough Chelsea for a couple of years. How did those experiences differ?
My time at the Goss-Michael Foundation versus my time at Marlborough Chelsea was like night and day. At the former, I was a curator and exhibition maker, and at the latter, my role was as a salesman. Besides confirming my love for curating, my time in both the non-profit and commercial worlds has allowed me to create a program at AND NOW that incorporates the best of both.
You’ve worked with artists Damien Hirst, Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, Kadar Brock, Jim Lambie, Ryan Foerster, Rose Marcus, Peter Sutherland, and many others. How do you determine who you want to work with and how you want to present their work?
First and foremost, the work has to be visually compelling and contain conceptual content. I also have to like the artist as person and form a solid rapport, preferably over a significant amount of time, since what I do is so personal.
Can you tell us about the “Video Days” exhibition you put together a couple years ago with Larry Clark and Spike Jonze?
It was a video and film show that I had wanted to do for some time, but commercial galleries weren’t interested because video and film are so difficult to sell. Southern Methodist University (SMU) approached me about curating a show and it seemed like the perfect time – shortly after I had landed back in Dallas. The show featured artists Larry Clark, Florian Drexel, Spike Jonze, Nicolas Provost, Christopher Samuels, and Ryan Wolfe. The title, Video Days, is the name of Spike Jonze’s skateboard video. Unfortunately, there was almost no response; the show wasn’t promoted, and even the film professors at the university weren’t aware of the show. Maybe it was to do with the content of Larry Clark’s film, Kids.
How did your current gallery, AND NOW, develop? What prompted your return to Dallas?
I wanted to get back to organizing exhibitions on my terms and not have to focus only on making sales. I had originally planned to open a space in New York, but it wasn’t financially possible, especially for the way that I wanted to run a space – from a curatorial perspective. My wife is from Dallas and that was a huge reason for coming back, and I have support here from local collectors and museums.
You opened Dan Colen’s show during the Dallas Art Fair a couple weeks ago. Can you tell us about that? How do you see the Dallas art scene developing over the next year (or how do you think it should)?
Dan came to the gallery last year to see the Daniel Turner exhibition. We started talking, and he asked if I would be interested in doing a show. We spent the better part of a year working on ideas and formulizing the show.
As far as the Dallas art scene goes, it is exploding right now. Between happenings like Dallas art fair week, collectors from other cities starting to take notice, and new galleries and artists popping up, there is a lot going on. I think directing focus to the education of contemporary art and art history among the new collector class is vital to the continued cultural growth of the Dallas art scene.
What other projects or exhibitions are on the horizon for you?
The next show at the gallery will be Ethan Cook. I am also organizing a show in Brussels that will open next year.
Do you live with any art? If so, can you tell us about how you came by those works of art?
My wife and I have a small collection, which is mostly comprised of artists who have become close friends, some of whom have shown at the gallery.