Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Interesting Or Not So Interesting With Famous When Dead's JD


This months interview is with JD Mittmann from Melbourne's Famous When Dead Gallery, giving an insight into Melbourne street art, running a gallery, what a gallery expects of an artist and how to keep up to date with the inspiring exhibitions that are held in this new contemporary art space in, which officially opened in March 2008.

Q. You run Famous When Dead Gallery in Melbourne, hence JD you must be interesting but I need to ask, do you think you are either interesting or not so interesting, reasoning?
A. Of course I am interesting, am I not? ;) But really, the gallery is not about me - hence it is not called JD Mittmann Gallery - my art or my preferences. However, to some degree it reflects who I am or what kind of art/artists I like to present.

Q. In Melbourne what is the one thing you would recommend anyone visiting who is interested in street art goes and sees, besides Famous When Dead?
A. There are many places, public and commercial, and these make Melbourne undoubtedly a hot spot for street art. A good start is Hosier Lane, because of its central location and the diversity of street art and graffiti there. It nicely sums up all positive and negative aspects of this artform if you like - stay long enough to witness.

Q. What was your intial drive to start up Famous When Dead?
A. A long and winding road, which started with prehistoric crude stencils on an old Ford Falcon and several road signs around Australia in the 1990s, then took shape in the staging of the Melbourne Stencil Festival for five years, and became more formalised in the gallery space and respective exhibitions now.

Q. In relation to styles or art, what style does your gallery most cater for?
A. The majority is stencil art or aerosol based work, however not exclusively, but I do specialise in these forms or what I call Street Art, to describe a new art-form, a new generation of artists, new origins which yet have to be named properly or more accurately.

Q. You’ve been open for over a year now, as a gallery owner (without giving too much away) what have been some of the more difficult hurdles to get over and how did you manage?
A. There are plenty. It is has been a steep learning curve for someone who had to learn a lot of things without formal training and while being a one-man band: artists liaison, business management, GFC etc. Typical start-up business issues plus art industry related and specific issues.

Q. From a gallery point of view what are some key things that an artist should do or present when approching a gallery to either have an exhibition or be in their catalogue?
A. To be prepared, appear professional, show just your best work, show up in person, be prepared to say something about your work, your approach, yourself. Don't let the gallery do the (guess) work. Sign and label your work.

Q. In New York during the 60’s there was a lot of politics in art. Such as it was tabu to have work at more than gallery at any one time. Do you think that there is much politics going on in the current Melbourne art scene?
A. Even as a novice to the industry I can see that. It is even on street art level competitive, to some degree cliquey. People are trying to protect and increase their turf. Street art has become collectible and it has become commercial, which it tried not to be when it started. That's the natural progression and not uncharacteristically or unusual for a new 'industry'. However, it seems to me that artists sometime forget that galleries do have a function (indeed several functions). An artist-gallery relationship has to be give and take. It is typical for street artists (or artists of that generation) to utilise the internet to their benefit for promotion and distribution. Like within the music industry that is a development which I welcome. It is democratising and liberating. However, it also means that it cuts out the middle-man, like for example galleries. Consequently that creates some complex issues artists and galleries need to be aware of.

Q. What’s instore for Famous When Dead for the rest 2009?
A. Starting on 21 May was a large group show of works on vinyl records, which will be followed by Richter-esque abstract art by Leons Samulis in June, an all-female group show called The Essence of Pleasure in June/July and a solo show of new screens by Ralf Kemkpen in July; one of the highlights this year.

Q.Where online can people go to see what is happening at your gallery?
A. www.famouswhendead.com.au

Q. Thank you JD, hope you’ve enjoyed answering these few questions.
A. I did, thanks for the opportunity.

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