“It was as much the story behind the portrait as the portrait itself that was fascinating”: Stuart Lochhead on the curation of Artists by Artists
Stuart Lochhead is an art dealer of some 25 years standing. He opened the gallery Stuart Lochhead Sculpture on Bury Street, St James’s, in 2018, having previously been a director for the Daniel Katz Gallery. We chatted with Stuart about Artists by Artists, a new exhibition which will be held at his gallery until 26th July 2019.
Thank you for speaking with us, Stuart. Could you explain what provided you with the impetus for the organisation of this impressive exhibition?
For my first show in my new gallery, I wanted to mount an exhibition that had something new to say. The subject of self-portraits has been looked at many times but the subject of sculpted portraits did not seem to have been addressed. My colleague in Paris, Etienne Breton, also shared an interest in this subject so we decided to embark upon the project together.
Was gathering these works together a lengthy process?
It took around two years from when we first discussed it. As we approached the subject it became apparent that it was as much the story behind the portrait as the portrait itself that was fascinating. I also felt that I needed to showcase mainly well-known artists so people seeing the show could connect in their minds the art of the artist portrayed to the image of the artist they were looking at.
An exhibition almost entirely devoted to portraits of artists and novelists by fellow artists would seem something of a novelty. Is this the case?
Yes indeed – I haven’t found it done elsewhere. The show is just artists. Victor Hugo, whilst a well-known novelist and dramatist was also a superb draughtsman – producing around 4,000 works on paper – much in dark brown ink and wash.
Were there issues arising from dealing with both the estates of the artists and the portrayed?
No – all the works were produced in the 19th century or early 20th century so it was never a problem with the artists’ estates or sitters.
Do you believe the kind of heroic realism embodied by Carrier-Belleuse’s bronze bust of Eugene Delacroix in this exhibition still has a place in contemporary sculpture?
Absolutely. The cult of celebrity of the artist is extremely important today and the image of Delacroix as the heroic artist type represents just the same construction of image and personality as you see today. In his will he expressively forbade anyone to take his image via a death mask or drawing – clearly concerned with his own image after his death. This is manifested in different ways in contemporary art today. Think of Tracey Emin (her unmade bed) and Marc Quinn (his self-portraits with blood) for instance.
To what degree were the narratives behind particular sculptures on show influential in your decision to include them?
They were a large part of the decision-making process. They brought to light the relationships between the sitters and artists portraying them of the purpose for the commission showed the influence that particular artist had on his contemporaries.
How relevant are the artists’ choices of materials to the capturing of the subjects?
It varies. Sometimes the material is used because it is a model or for the production of the portrait in a different material such as bronze. Other times it is just the artist who enjoyed experimenting in different materials anyway.
Can you visualise artists paying homage to each other in such a profound way in the future?
I think it’s less likely.
Photo: James White