Victoria Miro Gallery
The Victoria Miro Gallery is a leading British contemporary art gallery in London, with an international reputation, run by Victoria Miro, one of the "grandes dames of the Britart scene", who first exhibited Chris Ofili and the Chapman Brothers. She opened her first gallery in 1985 in Cork Street, where she became one of the principal dealers, then moved to much larger premises adjacent to Hoxton in 2000. Her sale of Ofili's work, The Upper Room, to the Tate gallery in 2005 caused a media furore, as Ofili was a serving trustee of the Tate, which was censured by the Charity Commission. The gallery represents Turner Prize winners, Ofili and Grayson Perry.
Victoria Miro opened her first gallery in Cork Street, West London, in 1985, where she became one of the principal dealers, although the premises at 750 square feet (70 m2) were little larger than a studio apartment. In the late 1980s, she opened a second gallery in Florence in Italy, but shut it in 1991 after the art market slump.
She was responsible for starting the careers of some of the most sought-after and controversial artists in the world. Miro discovered Chris Ofili, whose work The Holy Virgin Mary displayed in 1999 in the Brooklyn Museum of Art angered the mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, who said, "There’s nothing in the First Amendment that supports horrible and disgusting projects!" Another discovery, in 1992, was German photographer, Andreas Gursky, one of whose photographs, eight years later, made $250,000 at auction; a major retrospective was held in 2001 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. A work by Cecily Brown, another artist represented by Miro, also sold for a surprisingly high price at auction in 2000.
Long waiting lists of collectors and museums developed to buy work from her successful artists, and Miro reported that even Charles Saatchi, when he bought a Cecily Brown painting from her, "seemed pleased to get one."
In November 2000, the gallery moved to its present location in 16 Wharf Road, Islington, adjacent to the cutting-edge art area of Hoxton, where it is housed in a two floor, 10,000-square-foot (930 m2), converted Victorian furniture factory, ten times the size of the Cork Street gallery. Miro's co-director, Glenn Scott Wright, attributed the move to the "buzz" in the area, where Jay Jopling's White Cube gallery had also moved, and saw other galleries following suit, since rents in the West End of London were quadrupling. She was described by Christie's curator, Gerard Goodrow, as "a leading figure in making the East End the center of contemporary art in London."
A group show prior to the conversion of the building brought 4,000 visitors, which it would have taken the Cork Street gallery six months to attract. The conversion architect, Trevor Horne retained some of the original features of the building, such as the worn staircase and rough roof beams, while the waste ground at the rear next to Regent's Canal was left to artist Ian Hamilton Finlay to regenerate. The opening show by Thomas Demand was of paper and card reconstructions of photographs of interiors.
The gallery's yearly turnover is in the tens of millions of pounds.
The gallery represents Turner Prize winners, Chris Ofili and Grayson Perry; and former Turner Prize nominees Peter Doig (a former Tate trustee), Ian Hamilton Finlay, and Isaac Julien. Other artists, as of 2008, are Doug Aitken, Hernan Bas, Varda Caivano, Verne Dawson, Stan Douglas, Elmgreen and Dragset, William Eggleston, Inka Essenhigh, Barnaby Furnas, David Harrison, Alex Hartley, NS Harsha, Christian Holstad, Chantal Joffe, Idris Khan, Udomsak Krisanamis, Yayoi Kusama, John Korner, Tracey Moffatt, Wangechi Mutu, Alice Neel, Jacco Olivier, Tal R, Conrad Shawcross, Sarah Sze, Adriana Varejão, Suling Wang, Stephen Willats, and Francesca Woodman.
St George Street
In September 2002, the gallery was one of the eighteen cutting edge, art galleries with international reputations to be selected for The Galleries Show at the Royal Academy, an exhibition curated by Norman Rosenthal and Max Wigram to highlight the role played by galleries in an artist's creative progress, as well as putting work on sale and realigning the Academy with a greater involvement in current art.
In March 2004, at New York's Armory Show, the gallery sold everything on the opening day; this included work by a new artist to the gallery and recent graduate, Raqib Shaw, whose first solo show in London of eighteen drawings and five paintings, stemming from the work of Hieronymous Bosch and priced up to $20,000, had previously sold out.
Tate's purchase of The Upper Room
The Upper Room by Chris Ofili was exhibited at the Victoria Miro gallery in 2002: it consists of thirteen paintings, each of a rhesus macaque monkey, installed in a purpose-built room designed by David Adjaye. Adrian Searle, art critic of The Guardian, wrote that it was a work the Tate had to buy. In July 2005, the Tate announced the purchase of the work as the centrepiece of a new hang at Tate Britain.
The Stuckist art group then drew press attention to the fact that Ofili was a serving Tate trustee, and, under the Freedom of Information Act, obtained Tate trustee minutes, as well as the price paid by the Tate for the work—£705,000 (costing the Tate £600,000 as VAT could be reclaimed). This resulted in a media furore, and other details emerged about the transaction.
- There is also extra pressure as Chris is getting married next week and I suspect he may be less willing than previously to wait for an extended period in terms of finance. Evidently, especially as Chris is a trustee, this is a sensitive situation, but if you could give me some indication as to which way to proceed, I will ensure that your decision is handled with discretion. Ideally I would still love the work to go to the Tate.
Serota said Miro would have to find half the cost, and she obtained £300,000 in donations towards the purchase from five anonymous private benefactors, several of whom were also buying their own Ofili work. The revelation of this arrangement caused questions to be raised in the press as to whether the private benefactors knew privileged information, and if they anticipated a profit through the increased value of Ofili's work after the Tate purchase.
Richard Dorment, art critic of The Daily Telegraph, said The Upper Room was "one of the most important works of British art painted in the last 25 years," that the Tate had got "the bargain of the century," and "If you ask me, Miro and Ofili deserve medals for acting not in their own interests but for the public good." The Times said, "Victoria Miro, Mr Ofili’s dealer, appears to have driven a hard bargain with the Tate, which is the job of a clever dealer." Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Stuckists, said, "Sir Nicholas Serota [the Tate director] mentions Victoria Miro's generosity in constructing this deal. Victoria Miro’s 'generosity' would seem to be in attracting benefactors who will give money to the Tate—so that the Tate can then give it back to her."
Notes and references
- "Market news: Howard Rutkowski and the Frieze Art Fair", The Daily Telegraph, 14 April 2003. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- "Not the Summer Exhibition", The Daily Telegraph, 6 April 2002. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- Husband, Stuart. "Go see... the Victoria Miro gallery, The Observer, 3 December 2000. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- "Gilbert & George—true pioneers of East End art, The Daily Telegraph, 31 May 2004, page 2 of 3. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- O'Keeffe, Alice. "How ageing art punks got stuck into Tate's Serota", The Observer, 11 December 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- Reynolds, Nigel. "Tate broke charity laws by buying art from its trustees", The Daily Telegraph, 21 July 2006. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- "Victoria Miro: Artists", Victoria Miro Gallery. Retrieved 29 April 2008.
- Peterson, Thane. "Looking for Tomorrow's Artists? Follow Victoria Miro ", BusinessWeek, 21 February 2001. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- Ayers, Robert. "Red Grooms’s Chris Ofili Drawing", Artinfo, 20 November 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- Duguid, Hannah. "It's show time: Meet the ambitious young 'galleristas' behind Britain's art boom", The Independent, 16 December 2007. Retrieved 23 April 2008.
- Jackie Wullschlager (27 September 2013),  Financial Times.
- Coline Milliard (20 May 2013), East End Grandee Victoria Miro Returns to Mayfair 30 Years After The Opening of Her First Gallery on Cork Street ARTINFO.
- Gleadell, Colin. "Contemporary market", The Daily Telegraph, 29 March 2004. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- Gleadell, Colin. "Art sales: Miami hit by an art hurricane", The Daily Telegraph, 13 December 2004. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- Kennedy, Maev. "Tate buys Ofili's roomful of apostles", The Guardian, 20 July 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- Hastings, Chris. "Tate paid £700,000 for trustee's work 'after being told he needed the money'", The Sunday Telegraph, 22 October 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- Adams, Guy. "Something smells funny at the Tate...", The Independent, 29 November 2005.
- "Dung heap", The Times, 28 October 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- Dorment, Richard. "How Tate got the bargain of the century", 1 November 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
- Alberge, Dalya. "Tate pays its own trustee £600,000 for ape paintings", The Times, 22 September 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2008