Letter to Alex Gregory-Hood
1972

104 Latchmere Road,

Kingston-upon-Thames

Surrey.

June 25th

Don’t Panic!

Can be read at your leisure 

– one small point only

requires answer fairly soon.

The rest for discussion when

you feel free.

_________________________

 

Dear Alex,

Earlier in the year I was approached by a small gallery in Manchester – ‘Peterloo Gallery’ – to have a show this year. I discussed it very briefly with Wonky – you were having your eye operation at the time – and made a guarded response and said I would visit the gallery when next in Manchester. I haven’t in fact done so – and the owner is now in touch again. This is in itself a very small matter which we can discuss together perhaps on the phone. However it does provide an opportunity to raise one or two general points with you and as I know you will be very busy with Brigit Riley, Philip to come and V.A.T. – I think it sensible to drop you a line rather than telephone – so that you can think about it in your own time.

Let me say straight away that I’m not writing to say that I want to change our relationship at all or to put forward any difficult or controversial ideas. On the contrary – it is more a question of reviewing my own situation and letting you know my thoughts. Both because Wonky rather dropped out during the last year or so and because of your operation I feel a long time has passed since I had a solid talk with you about shows, work, money, policy etc. The end of my contract in December 1971 which would normally have provided the occasion for such a review passed without discussion between us and now that you have told me that you are taking over both reins of the partnership I think this is a good moment to make up for that.

First – I should like very much to continue showing and selling my work through you. I value your support and judgement and friendship very much. Equally, I must admit that, as yet, I cannot be said to have imposed my work on the mind of the international art public to the point where I am much of a commercial proposition to you! On the other hand eight years is a short time and to have sold 30% of one’s output is not so bad really.

I think that at the moment there is a general tendency to criticize my generation of artists and the galleries who support us and even the idea of selling or showing paintings and sculpture at all. I think this is part of a cycle of action and reaction and that one must be patient and not let one’s anger and frustration with the situation affect one’s work and what one likes to do and believes in. In spite of being a vehement critic of the art establishment and the journalists – I am not closed to the new forms and ideas of artists even younger than myself but I am violently against the attitudes that what ever [sic] is the latest thing in art should be used as a stick to beat everything else in art. I know you agree. If I say that I feel it is very important that you and the few other galleries who support contemporary British art do not loose [sic] heart now  it is not just because I’m thinking of my own skin – just in terms of a living, but because I do think that it Is important to once and for all break the unspoken English tradition that no artist or group or artists should be encouraged too much or for too long! Anyone can get all excited about some new thing for eighteen months – but 5 or 10 years that’s a more worth while [sic] job. Of course I know you know all this – and I know you practice it anyway. But I think it is very important.

With regard to the actual sales/money aspect – my attitude is this. I said a long time ago that the money an artist gets must be related exactly to what he ultimately actually sells and I have conducted my own affairs on that basis. For this reason the specific details of any contract and the sums payable are not crucial and perhaps a contract itself is unnecessary – I’m not sure. During the four years of my last contract (£600 per year for 4 years up to end of 1971) my average nett annual sales income from the Rowan after commission was £1500 – approx and at no time was I in the galleries’ debt for more than about a month or two and for more than about £250 and for quite a lot of the time I had fairly good credits on paper. At the time of writing – without a formal contract – I have continued to receive £150 per quarter since the beginning of the year and by the end of this month will be about £300 approx in the red. I do only two days teaching and am determined to do no more and I require not less than about £1500 from Rowan sales per year nett. As this is the average for the last four years it would be cautious to a fault for me to expect less in the future and realistic to expect more. It would be nice to have your assurance that [----] contract including contract payments payments [---  -----] whatever they are, in the short term – say up to one year at a time, I could be sure of £1500 nett minimum. Of course, in the event of my work hitting a very poor sustained sales patch we could immediately review the situation and together and I could take steps to make up the income in some other way.

No doubt all this is very boring small beer to you, Alex, and I am only spelling it out in detail because over a very long period I have never really discussed these matters with you and I have wanted to. (I am cautious and rather neurotic about money. I sometimes think that my cool in-control air misleads people!)

Frankly – I feel we ought to have a target of increased sales in the next four years which is a  perfectly realistic aim based on the overall year by year pattern since ’63. But not of if too many sold pictures return to base of course!

I don’t know what your policy will be now about one man shows etc. There is such an anti one man show mood about now one almost wonders if it would be worth breaking the present pattern up in some way. Might it be interesting to have gallery shows (say 2 or 3 man) of new work (ie: as opposed to mixed shows of work previously seen in one-man-shows). I’m not presuming to interfere on your territory – just throwing out some ideas. I’m doing sculpture in addition to painting – and it is I think very close to my painting. I suspect you get a bit worried when your painters do sculptures – but there are some pretty good C20th precedents! I should love to show some sometime (and perhaps some of the unseen earlier bits and pieces) if you would be prepared to. But of I suppose you would say that a gallery doesn’t necessarily sell more when it’s putting on varied and continuous shows upstairs? I can imagine this may be the real problem – and sales must come before entertainment and ‘culture-spreading’ I think.

In spite of often running out of ideas and getting depressed – when I’m working well I feel as sure of my self [sic] as ever and I we must all keep going and not loose [sic] patience.

I’ll stop waffling now.

I am writing to the Manchester Gallery for further details – I understand it is pretty small and pokey and not well known. Terry Frost and Austin Wright have shown there – certainly there is no status involved! However – if she can sell it might be silly not to do a show there.

What do you think?

Hope you are not completely bored by this.

Yours ever

Jeremy

 

P.S. I also meant to raise the question of showing outside the UK. What are your thoughts – any offers from anyone?