The autumn season will be a busy time for the International 3, one of Manchester’s longest-running independent galleries, as it gets set to vacate its central Manchester premises of thirteen years to open a new headquarters at 142 Chapel Street, Salford. Gallerists Paulette Terry Brien and Laurence Lane are also gearing up for the Manchester Contemporary, which takes place in Spinningfields over the last weekend of September. Returning this year in a new, waterside venue and featuring more galleries than ever before, the art fair, to which the International 3 are responsible for inviting the cream of the UK’s independent galleries, will be the biggest yet. Natalie Bradbury spoke to Paulette to find out what the move across the river will mean for the International 3, and what to expect from this year’s Manchester Contemporary.
Natalie Bradbury: Let’s go back to the beginning. How did the International 3 come about?
Paulette Terry Brien: The International 3 was started by three artists, Laurence Lane and Martin Vincent and I, as a platform to profile artists living and working in this city, by raising their profile nationally, regionally and internationally. We aimed to make Manchester known internationally as a city with world-class artists.
In 2005 we realised that the art market plays a significant part in artists’ development and that there wasn’t really anyone working with artists in that way in Manchester. Artists were starting to be approached by London-based galleries so we decided to build up a core group of artists with a strong practice, who were in our peer group and had exhibited in group shows at the gallery. We took part in the Zoo Art Fair and that gave us a springboard into the art market. We sold work, and it gave artists opportunities to exhibit elsewhere because museum directors and curators also go to art fairs. It showed us what was possible. Martin Vincent moved to Glasgow in 2006 and we became a gallery that represented artists and offered professional development.
NB: Can you tell me more about the International 3’s new space in Salford – and are you going to be taking the Bob and Roberta Smith gallery sign with you?
PTB: We just found out last week that we can get the Bob and Roberta Smith sign off the current building, so we will be taking it with us and it will be really nice to have that continuity. We see the new building as being an HQ and an office. It will be very welcoming – we want people to feel that they can come in. It will also give us a chance to present small, curated taster displays of work by represented artists which will be available for sale.
The ethos remains the same – to present exciting and interesting contemporary art. We are going to be relaunching with a new website and new logo in mid-to-late November, and showing a work we bought from the recent Lionel Dobie Project auction Lot No. In many ways it’s going to be the same but different. We’re seeing it as a 12-18 month period to raise the profile of the gallery, but our longer-term aim is to find a gallery space again.
NB: In the meantime, you are going to be doing off-site projects.
PTB: We will be maintaining a curatorial programme with off-site and curated projects, starting next spring. This will be a combination of giving opportunities to artists we represent and looking at bringing in new artists. We want to give new, emerging artists and graduates opportunities. We are looking at interesting sites in the city which haven’t already been used for creative activity, and we are also looking at developing projects in MediaCityUK and in Cheshire which will help us tap into new audiences.
NB: How did you become involved in the Manchester Contemporary?
PTB: In 2008 we were invited to do something at the Buy Art Fair, so we curated an exhibition of recent graduates and other galleries. 3 or 4,000 people came to see it, so it was a fast track for artists to get their work seen by lots and lots of people. In 2010 we took on the Manchester Contemporary as ‘curatorial co-ordinator’ (we use that term as we don’t choose or contextualise artists). We select who comes to the fair based on the kind of artists they work with but leave the rest up to galleries – it’s up to them who shows, what they show and how they show.
The Manchester Contemporary is about developing Manchester and trying to give it something it doesn’t have. We see it as an extension of what we have always done and it adds to our ambition to develop a collectors’ base in the city. We are also trying to create something that’s interesting for the general public by showing artists who probably wouldn’t come to the city for any other reason.
We are also part of a steering group, with representatives from the Contemporary Art Society and Manchester Art Gallery, which has developed a VIP programme. This gives galleries an opportunity to invite collectors who live elsewhere to Manchester, and for them to be able to see what is happening across Manchester and Salford, for example at Islington Mill, Castlefield Gallery and Rogue Studios. This shows that the Manchester Contemporary is part of a bigger art ecology. Rotterdam Art Fair is a really good example of how a fair can galvanise a city into being part of it, and we always hoped that other organisations would see it as an opportunity to present themselves alongside the fair. It is still an emerging market but the fair is growing year on year.
NB: How do you select the galleries?
PTB: We try and invite new galleries each year. We take part in art fairs all over the world, and many of the galleries we got to know from being in same fairs. We want to explore other things that are happening in the market so we also invite project spaces, who don’t represent artists or sell work as their core practice but are looking at what it means, for example Aid & Abet from Cambridge and Paper Gallery from Manchester. It is important for us to be able to show there is good quality work outside London, so we try to make sure we are representing what is happening on a regional basis by inviting galleries like WORKS/PROJECTS from Bristol and Workplace from Gateshead.
NB: Which galleries are new this year?
PTB: New galleries include The Sunday Painter, IMT from London, Vitrine from London (Alys who runs the gallery visited the Manchester Contemporary last year), Aid & Abet from Cambridge and Platform A from Middlesborough.
NB: What can visitors expect to see on the International 3 stand?
PTB: We will be showing new paintings by Alison Erika Forde, so visitors can see her work alongside her current show at Manchester Art Gallery. We are also going to be showing Sean Penlington, who just finished an MA at Chelsea. He graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2010, but he hasn’t shown work in Manchester since he has been at Chelsea. We will also be showing new paintings by Rafal Topolewski, an associate artist, to build on his recent solo show at the gallery. He has just gone to London to start a Masters at the Royal Academy, but we are maintaining the relationship. There will also be a new video work by Pat Flynn. We are going to show Rachel Goodyear‘s limited edition print from her recent solo show at the International 3 and make an installation of her work in a plan chest.
NB: What’s different about the space where the Manchester Contemporary is going to be held this year?
PTB: It’s a different space entirely, an unused glass unit which is all on ground floor. It’s a rough space with unpolished concrete, but we think it’s a better exhibition space.
NB: What impact do you think the fair has had so far?
PTB: We went to an art fair in Cologne and an exhibitor we didn’t know had heard of the Manchester Contemporary, so Manchester is getting a reputation internationally. The galleries who visit feel like there is a supportive network here, and they feel like they can do exciting and substantial projects in spaces they couldn’t use in London, for example Man & Eve have exhibited artists at Islington Mill and galleries are impressed by spaces like Maurice Carlin’s Regent Trading Estate. A lot of the feedback we get from galleries and collectors is that the scale makes it easy to develop a personal relationship and really find out about an artist.
Manchester Contemporary takes place at Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester from Friday 27 to Sunday 29 September, 2013.