In a new series of interviews, we’re focusing on South African art world professionals. Our first interview is with Candace Marshall-Smith, Director at SMITH in Cape Town.
ArtThrob: In February 2015 SMITH opened it’s doors with a solo exhibition by Kurt Pio, congratulations on your first birthday by the way! Tell us, how did you and Amy Ellenbogen meet for all this to have happened?
Candace Marshall-Smith: Amy and I have known each other for a long time – her brother and my husband are close friends from school. My love for art led me to the idea to open a gallery here in Cape Town and I approached Amy to come on board as Curator. She was keen and so we began the journey together which entailed renovating our beautiful space here in Church Street. Celebrating our first anniversary was very special, I feel that we have achieved a lot in a very short time. I am proud of what we have done.
AT: Tell us more about the challenges and opportunities you’re excited about, from this position now, just over a year on.
C M-S: I’m excited that we have been given the opportunity to work with some incredible talent from South Africa and will hopefully have a hand in developing their careers. We are starting to consolidate our stable and are holding second solo exhibitions for a few artists this year. I guess the challenge is breaking in to a small market like Cape Town with a relatively small pool of buyers and many galleries all showing work of a high standard, but we are making progress every day and are working hard to increase our international presence, which we feel will sustain our business and the artists we work with in the long term.
AT: You were at the FNB Joburg Art Fair in 2015, the Cape Town Art Fair this year. What else have you got in store art fair-wise, and what are you aspiring towards in the long term?
C M-S: Aside from FNB Joburg Art Fair and the Cape Town Art Fair we will also be attending the Turbine Art Fair in Jo’burg and Also Known as Africa (AKAA) in Paris in November of this year, which is very exciting. In the long term we hope to enter the international market and present our artists to international buyers. Taking part in international fairs is a way to do this. We also hope to partner with an international gallery at some point which will give some of our artists more exposure to international markets.
AT: Can you tell us more about your own experiences as a photographer? I see on your website you attended the 2012 Magnum Workshop as part of the Brighton Photo Biennial, and one of the photographers involved was Mikhael Subotzky.
C M-S: To be perfectly honest my career as a fine art photographer was in a fledgling state before opening the gallery and is now pretty much dormant, but I hope to focus on it sometime in the future with renewed knowledge of the industry. I don’t have any formal photography training so its been a slow process but I guess I’ve always been drawn to photography in one way or another. I am just one of those people that feels the need to document things and I love the process of doing exactly that. Attending the Magnum workshop in Brighton with Mikhael was incredibly interesting, a real privilege, he is most inspiring and a patient teacher. My love for photography has also had a huge part to play in steering me toward opening a gallery, so I’m grateful for that.
AT: Tell us more about yourself, what makes you tick and what’s on your mind at the moment.
C M-S: I am inspired by all things visual of course and I love how we as humans all engage differently with works of art. Who can explain why I love a certain work that you may not? I spend a lot of time pondering this thought. Otherwise I need a good run outdoors every now and again, and I feel most happy being around my husband and three children. Life is pretty full at the moment. Right now what’s on my mind is our next show which opens on the 6th April – a solo exhibition of linocut prints and paintings by Dale Lawrence. It’s going to be very special.
AT: What art-related business would you like to see develop or grow in South Africa?
C M-S: I would love to open a separate project space related to SMITH. It would be a great way to give young emerging artists a platform to enter the industry while at the same time elevating developed artists who have moved on from there to the formal gallery setting. I think the distinction between the two types of exhibition spaces gives more structure to the business, and gives buyers confidence in what they are buying. It would also give artists freedom to experiment in a less critical environment which would hopefully bring fresh and new ideas. As a commercial entity there is pressure to make sales not only to keep the business afloat but also to support the artists and their careers. Having a separate project space is a good way to encourage creativity while at the same time supporting the business and the artists in the formal gallery space.