Interview with Drawing Room’s Kate Macfarlane (Co-director)

Kate Macfarlane, courtesy of the Drawing Room.

How did you pick the name of your gallery?

We wanted to create a space to explore ideas around contemporary drawing and the name suggests a physical space

Tell us about your background and how did you become appointed to your current position?

I’m a curator and I co-founded Drawing Room with curators Mary Doyle and Katharine Stout

What does it take to make a critically acclaimed gallery?

A lot of hard work, knowledge of the recent history of art and of contemporary practice, an open mind, good connections with artists and other art professionals

Has your gallery vision and mission changed since you opened?

Drawing Room was initiated in 1999 to establish a space for contemporary drawing; at this time drawing was not as visible in galleries and we wanted to bring attention to a medium that plays such a crucial role in very diverse artistic practices. At first we included only contemporary drawing. Our programme is informed by artists’ practice and as they are interested in looking at historical work this has become important for our programme.

We have been referencing work from the 1960s and 1970s for some years — this was an incendiary period for catapulting drawing from a secondary to a primary medium. Lately we have included work from as far back as the early 20th century by Egon Schiele and by Hilma af Klint.

How do you select artists/works for exhibitions?

We make many studio visits, visit exhibitions, biennials and some art fairs in this country and abroad — and learn about artists through word of mouth — from other artists and art professionals

How has the art landscape changed since you opened the gallery?

There are many more exhibition opportunities for artists with certain large commercial galleries dominating the scene. So there is a lot of competition for audiences — Tate Modern, Saatchi gallery and others attract many visitors but audiences are still reticent to visit more out-of-the-way venues. There are many online opportunities to profile exhibitions and for artists to present their work. But visiting Drawing Room and seeing the work in the flesh is crucial; nothing can beat coming face to face with drawings, the most intimate and revealing art form.

These are the human stories behind the cold and seemingly closed London art scene, and you can read them in the upcoming book Gallery Guide London.