Where's the frame
June 30, 2022 4:48 PM
Having graduated Goldsmiths, University of London only a year ago, London based Curator, Art Writer, and Public Relations Specialist Bella Bonner-Evans is beginning to make her mark on the London art scene. She writes for publications such as FAD Magazine, Art Plugged, and Bricks Magazine where she spotlights the best exhibitions to see each month. In her curatorial work, she seeks to champion the next generation of artists through interesting and unusual projects. Her curatorial approach puts the quality, inventiveness, and ingenuity of the work first, spotlighting artists of all identities and experiences with consideration.Her current exhibition, in collaboration with Kensington + Chelsea Art Week and Sloane Stanley, sees the work of London’s most exciting emerging talent appear in shop windows and inside stores along the iconic King’s Road. We caught up on a walk with her dog, Squid, to hear more about her journey into an arts career, and took a trip to her Dalston flat to take a look at some of the works in the show ahead of the install and find out more about the artists she has her eye on.
You currently work in Art and Culture PR, write for a selection of art magazines and have a curatorial practice. What’s your journey been like up to this point, as you have been building your career?
Before studying at Goldsmiths, I had worked in Fashion PR and I knew I had a passion for storytelling. I really enjoyed the fast-paced environment of the industry. However, my degree had further affirmed to me that a career in art rather than fashion was the right fit. I began working at Lisa Baker Ltd straight out of university and it has been a really great experience. We have wonderful clients and Lisa is an incredible mentor and a true PR genius – I have learnt so much from working so closely with her.
The writing was a natural progression from the PR work. I was engaging directly with journalists every day, and writing press releases and other materials constantly. Lisa noticed I was really passionate about this aspect of the job and encouraged me to pursue it. It’s something I really love, and I think it’s important to write informative but accessible content which demystifies the art world and also feels inclusive and welcoming. Plus, it’s always hard to know what to go and see as there are so many incredible shows on all the time in London – I am always visiting exhibitions and telling my friends and colleagues about them anyway.
Curation was something I had engaged with at university, putting on shows and bringing out the connections between the work of my peers. Over the past year I have had the privilege to work with and become friends with so many talented artists across all aspects of my work and I really wanted to support them by showing their work. The early stages of a career as an artist are obviously very difficult; many of the necessary skills, aside from creating the work, are not taught at art school. I seek to help young creatives develop their careers in aspects beyond the work itself through putting on shows and facilitating the creation of sustained relationships with venues, other artists, collectors and platforms like Kensington + Chelsea Art Week.
You come into contact with many different London-based galleries, artists, curators and projects across the different facets of your work. How would you describe the London art scene today?
I think there are many different elements to it and the boundaries between them are quite hard to traverse. There are the blue-chip Mayfair galleries, the newer galleries that I find really interesting like Guts Gallery, Collective Ending, Hannah Barry Gallery, Moarain House, Soft Opening and Studio West, then there are also the smaller more commercial spaces. Not to mention the online platforms, art fairs, auction houses, international events, artist studio projects, and more.
I think, for artists, it can be really hard to work out how to position yourself in relation to all these different aspects. Also, social media has become a prevalent way in which curators and gallerists find out about artists which means there is less emphasis on spotting talent by going to degree shows or exhibitions exclusively. In turn, this puts pressure on the artist to be their own social media and PR manager. So overall, I would say it remains quite a tough scene to break into but also there are really exciting younger galleries seeking to do things a different way.
Also, there really is so much going on at any one time in the city. This is wonderful in the sense that there is something for everyone and there are always a number of noteworthy exhibitions to go and see. But it makes it harder to draw attention to a specific project or make something stand out from the crowd. I think galleries, art fairs, and artists are having to be really innovative and present truly exceptional shows in order to create a buzz.
One of the best Private Views I’ve been to recently was Bad Art Presents Let Them Eat Fake at The Bomb Factory – there was such genuine excitement and the work was put together in a really playful manner. It’s the feeling I imagine The YBA’s Sensation shows created – a sense of freedom, experimentation, and inclusivity.
Your most recently project, Kensington + Chelsea Art Week X Chelsea Windows sees the work of over 10 emerging London-based artist take up temporary residence in shop windows and inside stores on the King’s Road. How did you go about selecting artists for this?
I had my eye on a number of emerging artists, some who I had come to know over the past few years at art school, met at gallery openings or worked with on other projects, and others I had found via Instagram or articles online. I reached out to a selection of practitioners who I felt were working in a way that could be suitable for an exhibition of this nature. When curating for public and commercial spaces rather than art galleries, there is a lot to take into consideration in terms of how the artwork will function in the space and how it will be received by the audiences there who may not already be engaging with art.
I wanted works that were energetic and inviting to viewers, whilst related closely to the spaces where they were being shown. I selected Layla Andrews, an artist I greatly admire, for 28:50 as it is a beautiful wine merchant and restaurant. I felt Andrews quirky scenes of collective dining experiences shared between anthropomorphic crocodiles and cowboys could function so well in this setting. They are considered and decisive, yet playful and light-hearted.
For Love my Human, a beautifully designed, high-end pet store and dog groomers, I was really pleased to present the work of Henrietta MacPhee and Darcey Murphy. I really love Murphy’s hazy, wistful pastel works depicting animals. She captures such character and charm through her renderings. Meanwhile, MacPhee’s ceramic animals elegantly straddle a life-like uncanniness and a sweet sentimentality.
Other than Layla Andrews, Darcey Murphy and Henrietta MacPhee who you have mentioned, are there any other artists you are particularly excited by in this project?
I think one thing I have noticed about many of these artists is that they are so engaged, professional and ambitious. Anna Choutova, who is showing work in Farm Fetch, is also founder of Bad Art Presents and was in the middle of her Slade Degree show preparations when I reached out to her. Phoebe Boddy, whose foody paintings hang in the windows of Peggy Porschen, founded Palette Dining with James Sharp; a platform hosting curated dining experiences exploring the sensory connections between art and food. They are about to host an event at Protein Studios in July. Georgemma Hunt is a muralist, painter, and also currently studying a Masters in Sustainable Architecture at The Centre for Alternative Technology. Her celebratory and intricate paintings are on show in The Cherry Moon, a lifestyle boutique. What really stands out to me is the drive these individuals bring to their practice and the ways in which they innovate and expand it into other areas.
Also, Sam King is an amazing painter – I came across his work through Jack Trodd of Brushes with Greatness. I fell in love with the sci-fi, cyborgian undertones. I visited Sam’s studio, Koppel Projects in Holborn and found out that many other artists I liked such as Rebecca Hardaker, Phoebe Boddy and Rebecca Gilpin were also working from there. In many ways, the art world is a small world!
How can our readers go and see the works on show? What can they expect from the exhibition?
The best way to visit is to head to the King’s Road prepared to do some shopping. All the locations are very close together so it’s quite easy to follow the trail down the road. I would recommend starting at Peggy Porschen where Phoebe Boddy is showing (also well worth getting a cupcake while you’re there – they sustained me throughout the two days of install) then walking all the way down to the restaurant Nakanojo, to see paintings by Sam King and ceramics by Rose Sevink Johnston, maybe pausing for a spot of dinner. Along the journey, stop at Lavender Green Flowers to see paintings by Niamh Birch and grab a bunch, The Cherry Moon for Georgemma Hunt’s works and Farm Fetch for Anna Choutova’s mini jars, where you can also sample some excellent cheese. At The Designers Guild you can take in Rebecca Hardaker’s dreamy canvases and pick up some luxurious bedsheets, at 28:50 you can make a pitsop for a glass of wine amongst Layla Andrews work, then head to Love My Human to see Darcey Murphy and Henrietta MacPhee’s work, and Peruvian Connection for beautiful cashmere and Karolina Albricht’s energetic compositions. Also, be sure to pass by the windows of Knight Frank to see renderings of London scenes by Luke Adam Hawker.
What are your top tips for getting into the art industry? Perhaps your advice for someone wanting to start a career as a Curator, Art and Culture PR, or a journalist like yourself?
I would say that it isn't easy but it can be done. The fundamental thing you need is determination and self-belief, if you believe you can do something, you can convince someone else to give you the opportunity. I think it's also really important to immersive yourself in the scene, use platforms like Art Rabbit and Seb's Art List to find out what's happening and go along. Almost every week, on Thursday, I head to a couple of Private Views to connect with individuals working across the industry. It can sometimes still feel quite intimidating, but I just tell myself that everyone has been as nervous as I am at some point in their career and I find the confidence to talk to people. Lastly, value your peers. Anyone who you've enjoyed working with learned from or collaborated with should be cherished. Support others and let them support you. The best way to grow in this industry is to be genuine and make real relationships with those you are working with or meeting. I believe a better art world is one where we all lift each other up rather than race to get ahead at others' expense.
KCAW X Chelsea Windows, Layla Andrews at 28_50, Photography by Graham Fudger
Chelsea Windows 03b Lavender Green - Niamh Birch
KCAW X Chelsea Windows, Phoebe Boddy at Peggy Porschen, Photography by Graham Fudger
KCAW X Chelsea Windows, Sam King at Nakanojo, Photography by Graham Fudger