“Everyone was saying that the concept of the white cube was dead and that galleries would become obsolete. They said an independent gallery would struggle to survive in north London. So we opened a white cube in north London.”
Our interview with J HAMMOND PROJECTS, an independent exhibition space established by Jennie and Justin Hammond.
Interview by: Natalia Gonzalez Martin
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I run J HAMMOND PROJECTS with my partner, Jennie. We opened three years ago in Archway. Before that we produced the Catlin Art Prize, which was an annual showcase for outstanding new artists. It ran for ten years in various large venues around Shoreditch. During that time we also launched a series of books called 'The Catlin Guide: New Artists in the UK', focusing on recent graduates like Rachel Maclean, Simeon Barclay and Juno Calypso. Each January, we published a new edition with forty new names. It quickly became recognised as an essential reference for collectors.
What incentivized the change to a permanent exhibition space?
A decade is long enough for any creative project. We wanted to start something new, be totally independent and embrace everything that encompasses: the excitement of building from scratch, the highs and lows. We're proud of what we achieved with the prize, but the idea of repeating the same format year after year wasn't appealing. Everyone was saying that the concept of the white cube was dead and that galleries would become obsolete. They said an independent gallery would struggle to survive in north London. So we opened a white cube in north London.
The gallery exhibits the work of established artists with emerging ones, almost casually - what is the process behind selecting a group of artists for an exhibition?
We like to throw in the odd big name and show a well known work next to something we've just commissioned. It gives the familiar work a fresh context and can be a nice surprise for the viewer. During last year's World Cup, we turned the gallery into a nasty football boozer, complete with sticky carpet and moody barman, and screened Mark Leckey's 'Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore' on the pub telly when there wasn't a match on. People came in for a beer and to watch the football and were confronted by this amazing piece of art at the end of the game. For The Beta Band archive exhibition, artists like Jeremy Deller and Peter Doig were already big fans of the group and didn't need much convincing to get involved. But it was still a bit mad when a brand spanking new Peter Doig painting turned up at the gallery. It was still wet.
Your Magazine project OOF mixes Football with art, these have not always come hand in hand and the audiences are, sometimes, alien to each other, what inspired the connection?
We publish OOF with the art writer, Eddy Frankel. We met in a pub and three pints later we'd agreed to put out the first issue, which sold out pretty much immediately. It convinced us that OOF could be way more than a niche publication. There's a whole wealth of fascinating artists using football as inspiration for their work: Chris Ofili, Rose Wylie, Juergen Teller, Rhys Coren, Sarah Lucas, Maria Lassnig... the list goes on and on. We'll discover something new almost every day. Since launching, OOF has expanded into a curatorial project and we've held two exhibitions with big plans for more. Our most recent show, 'ULTRA: Art for the Women's World Cup', coincided with this summer's tournament and included fantastic artists like Emma Cousin and Gray Wielebinski.
Both the art world and football are fields mainly dominated by men, this exhibition challenges this idea - what do you think are the main reasons these fields are still gender-based and how could we change that?
I think women's football is in an amazing place right now and, for the first time, there's an infrastructure to capitalise on that. The women's game can be a brilliant antidote to the dull, corporate side of football. Look at Megan Rapione - uncensored, sharp as fuck, kicking off with Trump. It's punk football. Male footballers are rarely that candid because their advisors would freak out. In the art world, a lot of institutions are finally saying the right things and pledging support for under represented artists, but segregation isn't the way forward. 'ULTRA' wasn't actually an exclusively female show and we didn't promote it as such. We were adamant about that right from the start. So many artists I speak to say they're sick of being asked to take part in hastily arranged all-women group shows.
What advice would you give a young artist?
Put on your own shows, collaborate with your mates. Go with your gut and don't say 'yes' to every offer that comes along.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
So far, we've put on a maximum of four shows each year at JHP and we'll stick to that for now. It's a diabolical business model, it really is, but fewer exhibitions means the standard stays sky high. Our recent solo shows with Betty Tompkins and Shadi Al-Atallah were phenomenal. There are plenty of exciting projects on the horizon for OOF, including issue four, out later this year. In 2020, we'll host the second instalment of The OOF Cup, our art world five-a-side tournament. Oscar Murillo Studio are the current champions and they're gonna take some beating.
All images courtsey of J Hammond Projects and OOF Magazine
Publish date: 21/08/19