Maureen Paley (born 1953) is the American owner of a contemporary art gallery in Bethnal Green, London, where she lives. It was founded in 1984, called Interim Art during the 1990s, and renamed Maureen Paley in 2004. She exhibited Young British Artists at an early stage. Artists represented include Turner Prize winners, Gillian Wearing and Wolfgang Tillmans. One thing in common with many of the artists represented is their interest in addressing social issues.
Maureen Paley was born in New York, the daughter of Alfred Paley and Sylvia Paley; she attended Sarah Lawrence College, and graduated from Brown University in 1975. Her artwork appears on the cover of the Summer 1973 edition of Sarah Lawrence Magazine.
She received Russian training as a ballet dancer. She emigrated to England in 1977, attending The Royal College of Art, where she gained an MA in photography. In 1978, she met and became one of the first London friends of Helen Chadwick, who, like Paley, lived in Beck Road, Bethnal Green. Paley and other friends took part in Chadwick's first London show, a feminist performance titled In the Kitchen, by strapping themselves in a canvas model of a cooker. Chadwick guided Paley in the conversion of her home into a space for art exhibitions. Paley said, "Helen was always talking about craftsmanship—a constant fount of information".
In 1984, Paley began a gallery programme in her Victorian terraced house. During the late 1980s, she exhibited examples of contemporary art by Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Sarah Charlesworth, Charles Ray, Mike Kelley, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Rosemarie Trockel and Günther Förg. The first artists that Paley exhibited as "represented" artists were Langlands and Bell, Hannah Collins, Angela Bulloch and Helen Chadwick.
In the early 1990s, the gallery presented several exhibitions made by the burgeoning group of artists that were to become known as the YBAs—including, Henry Bond, Angela Bulloch and Liam Gillick. For years she developed the careers of Gillian Wearing and Wolfgang Tillmans. During the 1990s, Paley represented artist and designer Toby Mott. At this time, she was an associate of Joshua Compston.
In 2000, Matthew Collings said, "everybody knows who the good YBAs are: the ones Maureen and the unrealist colleagues have signed up!" She was called by Time Out "a true pioneer of the East End", having presented work there before it was fashionable. She said of London, "There is tremendous talent here, indeed much more talent than there is a market," and that "the problem lies with the limited interest of the audience. Change and newness has always been very dubious in Britain." The gallery ran at a loss for almost a decade, and was supported by Arts Council grants and other patronage. Paley herself served for many years on advisory committees to the Arts Council and the London Arts Board, and received travel grants from the Arts Council during her tenure.
In 1994, she was one of 35 art world signatories to a letter in the Evening Standard demanding that its art critic, Brian Sewell should be sacked for his "artistic prejudice". A letter in response from 20 other art world signatories accused the writers of attempted censorship to promote "a relentless programme of neo-conceptual art in all the main London venues".
In September 1999, the gallery moved to Herald Street in Bethnal Green, occupying "a chic new industrial space." Paley's base in the area was a precedent for leading galleries such as White Cube and Victoria Miro to also locate in the East End."
In 1994, Paley curated a show at Camden Arts Centre of work by Joseph Kosuth, Ad Reinhardt and Félix González-Torres. In 1995, she presented Wall to Wall featuring wall drawings by artists including Daniel Buren, Michael Craig-Martin, Douglas Gordon, Barbara Kruger, Sol LeWitt, and Lawrence Weiner. The National Touring Exhibitions show went to the Serpentine Gallery, London, Southampton City Art Gallery, and Leeds City Art Gallery. In 1996, for the Henry Moore Sculpture Trust, Paley curated The Cauldron, an exhibition of work by Young British Artists—Christine Borland, Angela Bulloch, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Steven Pippin, Georgina Starr and Gillian Wearing. It was installed in the Trust's studio space in Dean Clough, Halifax.
She said in 2001, "Being a tastemaker—someone who invents the future—requires a delicate balance. You need to be of your time—if you're too far ahead you'll be misunderstood."
In 2004, the gallery's name was changed from Interim Art to Maureen Paley. In 2006, when asked why many women have been successful in contemporary art dealing, Paley said,
Art is one of the last unregulated markets. There are no male gatekeepers and you are not confined to traditional alpha-male values. That makes it very attractive to a certain type of woman with a strong personality, who wouldn't fit into a cookie-cutter working environment [...].
In 2007, the artist Gillian Wearing was elected to a lifetime membership of the Royal Academy of Art in London (an institution founded by royal warrant by King George III, in 1768), that is, she became a "Royal Academician."
Paley was one of the judges of New Sensations, a competition for art students promoted by Channel 4 and the Saatchi Gallery. Jo Craven said in The Daily Telegraph that Paley was one of only five female gallery owners of note in London. The Evening Standard included her in London's 50 most influential people in art and design in 2008 and 2009.
In 2009, she was placed at 87 (from 70 the previous year) in ArtReview's art world Power 100 list. The citation drew attention to the presence of gallery artists at major events, such as Michael Landy at Tate Liverpool, Rebecca Warren at the Serpentine Gallery and Wolfgang Tillmans at the Venice Biennale. Her own gallery programme had an unpredictable agenda, ranging from abstract paintings by David Ratcliff, a new Los Angeles artist, to a long film by Lars Laumann about a prisoner on death-row. With a grant of £25,862 from The Art Fund and as a partial gift from the artist and Paley, the Arts Council purchased nine framed photographic prints by Tillmans for a total of £51,724.
In August 2009, reflecting on the legacy of the YBA art scene, Paley said, "The thing that came out of the YBA generation was boldness, a belief that you can do anything."
She supports the programmes of Artists Space, Creative Industries Federation, Open School East, Serpentine Gallery, The Showroom, Studio Voltaire, and White Columns. Paley is also a patron of Camden Arts Centre, Chisenhale Gallery, ICA, London, Michael Clark Company, South London Gallery, Tate, and the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Maureen Paley gallery also takes part in Condo an exhibition series where host galleries collaborate and share their spaces with visiting galleries.
- Lawrence Abu Hamdan
- Felipe Baeza
- Lucy Beech and Edward Thomasson
- AA Bronson
- Tom Burr
- Kaye Donachie
- Thomas Eggerer
- Michaela Eichwald
- Gardar Eide Einarsson
- Morgan Fisher
- Maureen Gallace
- General Idea
- Liam Gillick
- Andrew Grassie
- Anne Hardy
- Peter Hujar
- Sarah Jones
- Michael Krebber
- Lars Laumann
- Erik Van Lieshout
- Alastair Mackinven
- Daria Martin
- Deimantas Narkevičius
- Saskia Olde Wolbers
- Paulo Nimer Pjota
- Paul P.
- Olivia Plender
- Stephen Prina
- James Pyman
- Michael Queenland
- Tim Rollins and K.O.S
- David Salle
- Maaike Schoorel
- Dirk Stewen
- David Thorpe
- Wolfgang Tillmans
- Oscar Tuazon
- Donald Urquhart
- Banks Violette
- Rebecca Warren
- Esther Pearl Watson
- Gillian Wearing
- James Welling
- Sleeman, Elizabeth (ed.) The International Who's Who of Women (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), p. 431. Entry on Paley available as snippet view here
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