Print Sales History
A core part of Sue Davies original vision for the gallery when she founded it in 1971 was to provide a platform for photographers to sell their work as well as to exhibit, share and discuss their practice.
From the earliest days, Sue demonstrated an unusual pragmatism – realising that the sale of works, if undertaken in the right way could financially support the public programme – the core exhibitions and learning programmes. To help her meet her initial outgoings for the new gallery space in 1971, Sue agreed to exhibit a set of Portfolios of facsimile photographs from the famous 19th century Gernsheim collection of British photography. Apparently they sold well and enabled her to meet the £2000 pa rent for the gallery.
Around the same time, her new Bookshop Manager who was closely acquainted with Andy Warhol managed to source some polaroids Warhol had taken whilst visiting London and to sell them in a small new part of the bookshop. Both these enterprises encouraged Sue to realize that there was a growing appetite and market for buying photographic prints. Signalling that the birth of the Gallery coincided with the creation of the market for collecting photography in the UK, Sotheby’s announced its first ever Auction of photographs in 1971.
During the latter part of the 70s, Sue appointed a charismatic Croatian Helena Srakocic Kovac to lead on print sales. Helena operated from a very small – almost shoebox sized area in no 8 Gt Newport Street – comprising a small plan chest brimming with contemporary prints. Through a combination of Helena’s energy and Sue’s vision, they pioneered the beginnings of selling contemporary as opposed to historical work, often travelling abroad to art fairssuch as Photokina Cologne (the world’s largest photography trade fair) to promote artist’s work. It was not however until the Gallery expanded its premises by acquiring no 5 Gt Newport St in 1981, that Print Sales had a dedicated space of its own and could fulfill its real commercial potential.
From then on – and through a series of inspired Print Room Managers many of whom went on to establish successful independent careers in photography– such as Zelda Cheatle, Francis Hodgson, Peter Ride, Pippa Oldfield, Liz Smith, Lou Siroy and others – Print Sales began to represent photographers – as many as 40-60 at a time. Reflecting the broader gallery programme, Print Room artists/ photographers always embraced the diversity of the medium – from Fashion and reportage to fine art and conceptual practice.
Hear full interview with Helena Srakocic Kovacs, Zelda Cheatle and Francis Hodgson here.