At Kensington & Chelsea’s Newest Gallery “Studio West”
Already an illustrious member of London’s Arts’ Scene, art historian Caroline Boseley sits on the Advisory Board of Kensington + Chelsea Art Week as Curator of Special Projects, which brings contemporary art to shop windows on the Kings Road. Knowing a thing or two about emerging artists, she retrained to become a Gallerist, and November saw the opening of Studio West, her first gallery in the capital.
Promising to be more than another gallery in Notting Hill, Studio West will have a revolving roster of artists and shows, focussing on up and coming artists that celebrate the cultural heritage and vibrant arts ecology of the local community. Rather than a stuffy space, Caroline wants Studio West to appeal, not only to collectors and art enthusiasts, but also passers-by whose interest is piqued enough to come in. “I want my space to be welcoming and accessible, and not in the slightest bit snooty,” says Boseley. “I’d like people to come into the gallery and see a friendly face; someone who can answer their questions, whether or not they are looking to buy or just browsing.”
The first joint show, consisting of works by Victoria Cantons and Xu Yang, is entitled “Tomorrow Will Be the Most Beautiful Day of Your Life” and is a unique insight into the shared intimacy in which this female couple exists. The artworks are both cohesive and playful, as these artists work so closely together.
“Victoria is a transgender female artist; she very much works with identity of the female gaze, and how life interacts with who you are,” explains Boseley. “Although she is transgender, and although this is a fact that makes up her identity, it is not the sole focus of her work – rather, it informs it.” As such, each piece provides a personal context of her character which is both truthful and honest.
Victoria’s text-based pieces are complemented by Xu’s work, which is much more performance led, focussing on themes of baroque, performance, identity, and what lies behind the facade. Brought up as an only child in conservative China, where she was not allowed to wear colours, her bright, flamboyant, art-persona demonstrates the person she has actually always wanted to be, and she will be in the gallery at times, drifting around so people can engage with her - as is part of her practice.
With the community being very much a focus for Caroline, the gallery is going to offer seating, Saturday cakes and a social space, complemented by playlists composed by her DJ daughter. Caroline’s enthusiasm is contagious: she is a big believer in the importance of following your dream, and passionate about how contemporary art and sculpture can engage and benefit a wider community without soullessly investing or profiting. “I’ve never believed you should buy an artwork speculatively, or as an investment,” she says. “I think you should buy it because you love it and it speaks to you. You’re actually supporting an artist - and when a client buys an artist’s work, and I would love them to meet the artist they are buying that artwork from.”
We also talked about BitCoin, digital art and NFTs which, as older art-appreciators, seems rather alien to both of us, especially in the age of Instagram, where you can easily follow someone’s progress in real life. “I sit for hours researching on Instagram,” admits Boseley. “I check out young artists and find out who they follow and who their friends are: it is inspiring and keeps me relevant. For me, the artist the priority: I want to know them as individuals as well as talented artists.” She believes that formulised investing and owning a bit of code stored on a server without knowing the artist takes the soul out of art. “Art should be accessible to all,” she says. “If a painting is too expensive, we’re going to try and offer prints or smaller works so it’s available to everyone.”
Determined only to showcase the work of artists that she enjoys personally, Caroline is proud of her ethics and is confident her programme will show talented artists who create quality work. “I’ve got to be true to myself- I don’t want the gallery to be all about profit, so not everyone is going to like it,” she says. It is a brave move - but the main goal is to engage with the community as well as art collectors. “Art reviews are just personal taste and at every show, artists are putting themselves out there to be judged,” she says. “I always try to be constructive. But honestly - you can’t love the work of every artist on show in a gallery.”
With a jam-packed calendar already in place for the coming twelve months, a group show is scheduled for January, followed by a solo female abstract painter who has never sculpted before. There’s also talk of creating a space to celebrate Carnival in August.
“I have this crazy idea of working with four artists and muralling the inside of the gallery, with visitors able to add to it,” she says. “There’s something alluring and mischievous about drawing in a space you’re not really meant to.”
216 Kensington Park Rd, London W11 1NR
Phone: 020 7229 6394
By Sara Darling