Cultured Magazine

April/May 2016

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154 QUIET STORM T With three galleries and a roster of talent spanning the biggest names in contemporary art, Sadie Coles is poised to celebrate 20 years as an art world powerhouse. BY CAROLINE ROUX PORTRAIT BY JUSTIN BUELL he London gallerist Sadie Coles is one of the art world's more subtle players. But while she quietly stands apart from the scene's more flamboyant protagonists, she sure knows how to put on a good show. In 2014, her booth at Art Basel Miami Beach was hung with 3,300 individually suspended pastel- colored raindrops, courtesy of artist Urs Fischer. In February, the American Darren Bader installed a 15 x 15-foot ceramic chessboard in her West End space (once home to the Studio Valbonne nightclub) and staged radical games involving shoes and sounds. "Each time I work with an artist on an exhibition, I want to push the work and the conversation around the work forward," she says. Next year, Coles will celebrate 20 years of having her name above the door, though the door in question has changed often. She has hopped all over Central London, frequently taking on new spaces. "It keeps us all on our toes—me, the artists and the collectors," she says. Currently she has three: the former nightclub; a converted garage in a Mayfair mews "for smaller, funkier projects," she says; and a chic new space, also in Mayfair near Berkeley Square, designed by the architects 6a. (Her husband, the German photographer Juergen Teller, also commissioned them to design his new studio in West London.) "The latest space is Mama Bear," she says. "It has a touch more glamour. I want to offer artists the opportunity to show all aspects of their work, and for that you need different scales and tones." The new gallery opened in November with a standout show by Rudolf Stingel, and the packed private view was followed by a dinner at the art world-favored restaurant 34. Though guests included many from Coles' notable circle—choreographer Michael Clark, London chefs Fergus and Margot Henderson, Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick and artists including Steven Claydon and Simon Periton—it felt not like a grand gesture, but a cozy catch-up supper. Coles started out in the art world working for Anthony d'Offay in the early 1990s, when he was London's most groundbreaking gallerist. Shows included one where performer Leigh Bowery spent a week in the gallery window posing in his different avant-garde outfits; another introduced Jeff Koons to the U.K. But by 1997, the YBAs had taken London by storm and Coles decided to harness the energy in the city by going it alone and showing not only local talent, but also emerging names from the U.S. and Europe—such as Ugo Rondinone and Urs Fischer—who didn't have British representation. Her first show balanced Londoner Sarah Lucas' bawdy sculptures with New York-based John Currin's overwrought portrait paintings. Both are still with the gallery. "It's enormously satisfying to work with an artist over a long period," she says. Her relationship with Lucas is one of her most significant; the artist's career reached a peak when she represented Britain at the Venice Biennale last year. "I first met her in 1990 and didn't know her work at all, but she had so much power and charisma, humor and ambition, I knew I had to work with her," says Coles. Lucas is just as complimentary. "She's extraordinarily conscientious," she says of Coles. "She came to New Zealand for an opening I had and then went straight back to London afterwards—24 hours each way!" Coles also does about eight fairs a year: "I like them all because their true function is making contact with new clients, plus they allow condensed research into the zeitgeist." She lives in West London and owns a beautiful home in the Suffolk countryside she rarely sees. "Juergen and I are often traveling on the weekends, and if you add Ed's hectic social calendar to the mix, Suffolk happens rather sporadically," she says, referring to her young son's busy schedule. Though her enthusiasm for the art world remains undimmed (she's currently very excited by younger artists like Helen Marten and Jordan Wolfson—she sold two of his films to the Whitney in March), she admits to the occasional escapist dream: "Who doesn't? But I want to keep my fantasy alternative career a secret for now, just in case I do get to pursue it in the end." PHOTOS BY MATS NORMAN; CRISTIANO CORTE/BRITISH COUNCIL, COURTESY SADIE COLES

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