Jamie Angell, Director of Angell Gallery. Photo: Richard Storms
Interview with Jamie Angell (JA) on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his gallery and its closing by Emese Krunák-Hajagos (EKH)
EKH: What do you think has made you the successful gallery owner that you are? What is your secret?
JA: What has made me successful as a dealer is the enthusiasm I have for the artists I represent. Clients know that I fully support the artists and therefore trust me, they hear it in my voice. Also, communicating with our clients with regular email newsletters and an active Social Media presence certainly adds value.
EKH: Regarding the selection of your artists, you said in an earlier interview with us, “My mission statement has always been the same: to show artists who take risks in their work.” Later you added, “Well, if I believe in something, I’ll make it work.” And you have by showing digital art since 1998 along with another non-traditional artwork. What will happen to your artists now?
Mitchell Chan in his installation, Art & Inactivism, December, 2016. Image courtesy of Angell Gallery
JA: I made it a point to contact galleries which I think may be interested in some of my artists. So far, six have found new galleries, I’m thrilled for this!
EKH: What was the most difficult situation you’ve faced during these 25 years? How did you overcome it?
JA: The most difficult situations have been the 3 recessions I’ve endured. Having said that, I’ve always looked at difficult times as opportunities to dig deep in my reservoir to find the strength to grow even stronger. I’ve always prided myself on being resourceful, nibble and not afraid to take risks. During the 2009 recession I secured a new lease for a 4000 sq ft gallery on Ossington Avenue which opened in early 2010.
Daniel Hutchinson, When The Lighthouse is Dark Between Flashes, September, 2014 at 12 Ossington Ave. Photo: Brinae Bain
EKH: Looking back at those years what was your greatest accomplishment?
JA: My greatest accomplishment is fulfilling my personal and business mandate which I articulated leading up to opening the gallery.
It was most important to Make a Difference in the world, to be part of something greater than myself, to invigorate the visual arts community and the community at large. Looking back, this has been the most fulfilling time of my life.
Vessna Perunovich, Shifting Shelter, site-specific installation, March, 2017. Photo Alexis Moline
EKH: What was your most ambitious dream for the gallery? Have you fulfilled it?
JA: My most ambitious dream was to purchase a building for the gallery and a place to live.
As in most ambitious plans I’ve taken on, it took 10 years to fulfill. I never stopped thinking about it, created a business plan so I can generate higher revenues, lived at my gallery and did whatever it took to move closer to this goal. In 2015 it became a reality.
Installation view of Steve Driscoll, Just a Sliver of the Room with Recovered Shore, May, 2016 at 1444 Dupont Street, Unit 15. Image courtesy of Angell Gallery
EKH: You have been very intuitive when giving emerging artists like Kim Dorland, Steve Driscoll and Gavin Lynch a chance to show their work. They have all become very successful. Your thematic shows like I Love Paint or The Anxious Body, and your participation in international art fairs have made your presence very visible in Toronto’s visual art scene. We will miss you terribly! What made you decide to close the gallery?
Installation view of the The Anxious Body at Angell Gallery, October – November, 2017. Photo Simon Termine
JA: I decided two years ago to close the gallery after I saw the writing on the wall with my mother’s aging. I made a decision back then to ensure her health and well being in her final years. I’m fortunate to be in the position to spend such quality time with her.
EKH: What advice do you have for other gallery owners?
JA: My advice to gallery owners is to take business courses, have a plan (you can always alter it), create an advisory board of people who specialize in business, marketing, public relations, people who you can turn to for advice.
Find yourself a mentor, don’t be afraid to turn to others for advice, especially fellow gallerists.
Angell Group Show, November 28, 2009 – January 2, 2010, in the old gallery on 890 Queen Street West at Crawford. Image courtesy of Angell Gallery
The number of times I’ve turned to fellow gallerists, especially early on, saved me much time. Why reinvent the wheel? Save yourself the time, put your pride aside by turning to others for their expertise. From my experience successful people like to give advice.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, they usually turn out to be immeasurable learning experiences.
EKH: What are your future plans?
JA: I’ve moved into another unit in the complex where the gallery was located and I will use it as a home / private gallery. It’s a great unit with lots of natural light and 20’ ceilings to profile my collection, which includes an 8’ x 10’ painting by Kim Dorland which I acquired from his studio in 2008. I’ve never had a home with a wall large enough to install the piece. Funnily, when I unwrapped the painting after years in storage, I saw that it was never signed. Kim came by a couple weeks ago to sign it.
Kim Dorland’s painting, Dead End in Jamie Angell’s loft at 1444 Dupont St Unit 29
After 25 years in business, I’ve built up a substantial client base in which I will advise.
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Featured image: Jamie Angell at Art Toronto in front of Steve Driscoll’s painting, October, 2019. Photo: Phil Anderson