Rod Barton owns two eponymous galleries located in London and Brussels.
You opened Rod Barton, London in 2009 and a new Brussels space in 2016. What prompted you to open the second location? What is the relationship between the two galleries?
I started my gallery in 2009 as a manageable project whilst working full time as Studio Manager for Julian Opie. It naturally grew from a one day per week operation in a very small space to our much larger current venue in South London, which is now open on the usual 3 days per week set up. Since late 2013 I have been working full time on the gallery and it is amazing what you can achieve when you can put all your focus onto a project; it can develop rapidly.
Brussels was also a natural development. The gallery took part in Art Brussels last year and through this experience I was fortunate to meet some influential people working in the city. From these connections I learned of a space becoming available at Rue de la Régence, 67, a building that houses multiple galleries. It’s a perfect spot. The location is sandwiched between the antiques district of Sablon and the high end fashion district of Louisa. It is this location and the growing art scene in Brussels that prompted me to go for it. The international high speed rail link between the two cities also helps and the geographical position within Europe makes it interesting for my clients.
The London/Brussels spaces have a direct relationship, as the new space is a continuation of the program and will contain the main exhibition program whilst London will continue to be the programming headquarters. London will also see some privately held exhibitions that run alongside the main shows in Brussels.
How do you choose the artists you represent? Are there themes or aspects to which you pay special attention?
It is very difficult to explain the aesthetics that I am looking for. I have a certain style or taste that I am particularly interested in, but it’s challenge to articulate. I follow a feeling I get from the work.
I am also interested in the person behind the work. It is important for me to have a good feeling and trust in the artist before I spend time and money in promoting the art. Commitment is important for me. I will be doing this for a long time to come and I hope the artists I support have the same drive and motivation to make their work as I do.
For example, Bas van den Hurk was a recommendation by another artist who thought I would work well with him and would enjoy his work. Upon meeting and viewing his work in 2009, I was instantly interested. You can not beat Bas’ professionalism, his dedication to his practice is what I respond to in equal measure.
Your second show with Guy Yanai opens at your Brussels location on April 19th. How did you meet Guy? What drew you to his work?
Yes, I am very pleased to be working with Guy and to be hosting his show during an important time of the Belgian art calendar, as the world will be watching.
I came across Guy’s work when a dealer friend introduced me to another dealer in London. He was displaying Guy’s work in his private viewing space in a residential apartment with a few other artists. The work just arrived and still had to be installed and it was leaning up still in the cardboard packaging. The work struck a chord with me the first time I saw it. He has a unique way of painting; the deliberate linear brush strokes that gives the work a modern pixilated quality which brings the medium to the present day that appeals to me. There was one particular work that interested me and I wanted to purchase it but did not have the funds at the time. I took a photo of it instead and shared it on Instagram. It was from this posting Guy reached out to me by sending me some catalogues in the post. From there on we started to communicate and develop our working relationship.
Do you live with any artwork?
Yes, I do. When I first moved to London I started to go regularly to openings and exhibitions. I had my own place and I knew I wanted to live with art. I had a job but my budget at the time was low and was only able to afford to buy prints, so I started to buy prints from Chisenhale Gallery, Counter Editions and the Glasgow Print Studio. I still live with them all today.
However, as time has passed I have been able to upscale my budget and buy unique works of art from artists that I have exhibited and from others whom I admire and want to support. I own works by: Ross Iannati, Bas van den Hurk, Dan Shawn-Town, Gabriele De Santis, Alfred Boman, Dominic Samsworth, Ethan Cook, Kenneth Alme, Jean-Baptiste Bernadet, Chris Succo, Emmanuel Rohss, Max Ruf, Sean Kennedy, Michiel Ceulers, Luc Fuller and Grear Patterson.
I recently acquired a work by Erin Lawlor a British artist based in London. Erin is making fabulous work that scream of historic references in a contemporary manner. I am so excited by her work that we have planned a solo in Brussels this coming June. Erin recently had a wonderful exhibition at the Glyptotek Museum in Copenhagen earlier this year – I encourage everyone to go and check her work out.