Jensen Gallery: Fighting the newness - Art Collector

Issue 57, July - September 2011

New Zealand gallerist Andrew Jensen, who recently opened a second gallery in Sydney, is unimpressed with the faddishness of the current art world. In his view newness is a contaminating force. He talks to Carrie Miller about why good art should slow vision down.

When you walk into Jensen Gallery’s impressive warehouse space in Sydney’s high-end art precinct of Paddington, the first hint that this may not be just another contemporary art gallery is the price list, which includes Euros and US dollars. Unlike the conventional commercial gallery, director Andrew Jensen works almost exclusively with artists from Europe and North America. This internationalist impulse was first apparent when he began showing overseas artists in New Zealand in the 1990s, and has been carried across to his recently opened second gallery in Sydney. His international approach is driven by the belief that provincialism is “a state of mind, not a place,” as he puts it.

“I was becoming increasingly wary of the confines, the limitations that it brings to the understanding of artists’ work,” Jensen explains, and so he saw the value in “being able to mediate this work to an audience who was increasingly international in its outlook too”.

Jensen has established long-standing professional relationships with a number of important overseas artists, in particular Callum Innes, the acclaimed British abstract painter who Jensen has helped to gain a committed audience locally. His stable also includes Eric Fischl, Tony Oursler and Fred Sandback.

While Jensen established a reputation for showing major abstract painters, recently he has shifted towards seeking “connections which have little to do with style and everything to do with a sensibility”. This was reflected in the Sydney gallery’s opening exhibition earlier this year, which included work by Lucian Freud, Tracey Emin, Robert Mapplethorpe and emerging sculptor Sam Harrison.

When questioned about why, if his focus is on the international nature of art, he is currently not representing any regional artists besides Jude Rae, Jensen says he’s actively looking at artists here for his stable and believes there is certainly the talent.

Speak with Jensen and it’s clear he has an intellectually considered approach to art that underpins everything he does as a gallerist. As he describes his outlook: “I am deeply uninterested in fashion or newness, such as it exists in the art world and believe it to be a contaminating force that has grown exponentially alongside the growth in the art market. The restlessness and brevity of attention span that popular culture encourages needs to be challenged. Good art for me has always offered the chance to slow vision down and in so doing to encourage an awareness that is both sensate and thoughtful. Whatever part of the audience one falls into ­– be it collector, artist or student – I hope that the exhibitions we make offer an experience that is seen and felt beyond the retina.”