Alumni in Profile: Stuart Lochhead, Art Dealer - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Alumni in Profile: Stuart Lochhead, Art Dealer

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Alumni in Profile: Stuart Lochhead, Art Dealer

Alumni in Profile: Stuart Lochhead, Art Dealer

Stuart Lochhead, Alumnus, Photograph by Derek Thompson

Courtauld student Andrew Swait (BA2) meets with Stuart Lochhead (BA 1994) who is Courtauld Association Chairman and director at Daniel Katz Gallery. Here they discuss how to get on the career ladder and the future of dealing in Old Masters.

Could you give us an idea of the path you took after your degree at The Courtauld? Are there any milestones that stand out in particular?

Getting this job! No, really, this is my first job. When I was finishing at The Courtauld I knew I wanted to work for a dealer who was a real ‘individual’ and to develop over time to be an integral part, an important part, of that business (without any particular plan however as to exactly how that would happen). I suppose I met Danny Katz as soon as I finished The Courtauld. It came about because, in September, I got a directory of all the major Old Masters Dealers and I wrote a letter to them. I waited no more than a day for the letter to have arrived and then went out on foot, knocked on doors, and most people were very friendly; I visited about 40 galleries in those two or three days.

The fact is the first gallery I went to said, “Oh you should see this guy who owns a new gallery at the top of Jermyn Street”. The following day, as I walked past it and there were workman everywhere outside and in the doorway stood Danny Katz. I stopped and looked at him standing there on the steps and he said; “Are you a dealer?” I said: “No. Actually I’m looking for a job”. He said “Well then, I guess you should come in!” And that was that!

Great story!

Yes, it was rather a home run. It’s been 21 years from then till now. You of course know the place yourself, as it is now; it’s grown and evolved over time and so have I. It might be 21 years, but there’s such a variety of things to do here all the time; not at all like doing the same thing from year to year or day to day.

Do you find there’s a particular element of your time at The Courtauld that ties into your daily professional life? A methodology or way of approaching art that you think has stood you in particularly good stead?

Yes indeed. It’s pretty basic perhaps, as if it would and should be taught everywhere; it’s really a particular strength of The Courtauld style – rigour – it’s just being really, really rigorous. What you’re looking at comes first. Going to the very source of primary documentation, questioning all the time, not taking at face value what someone says about a work or the first things you read. It’s that constant questioning and pushing to fully understand. It’s the rigorous and structured approach you can apply to any object, which has been the most significant and which I use every day; constantly in fact. It is my framework for ‘looking’.

What have you not yet accomplished for The Courtauld Association that you are still aiming to do during your tenure? Or perhaps something you might want to see realised in the future?

Well it would be great if there was more formal or structured internship programme; things are happening, but a bit ad hoc. I don’t know how achievable it is; you need to get the businesses very much involved, but it is getting so hard for younger people to get a job. An internship is the key way to make contact and network but above all to know if wherever you’re interning represents what you’d like to do in the future. I have pushed to make that happen; I don’t know how successful I’ll be at realising it the way I imagine it before I leave, but it is a work in progress!

The other thing is to promote looking outside of London, in terms of contact with alumni and doing outreach to potential students. You have to know about The Courtauld in the first place to even apply, so only if your background or school has certain connections will you consider applying. Getting the name out there is very important or it will remain very exclusive. To get people interested all over the country is something I’d like to improve.

On the alumni side as well – there is a huge concentration around the South East and London because this is where so many of the jobs are, but it would be nice to keep in contact, engaged, and connected in other regions like the North of England ; and also to engage with schools through our regional alumni networks.

We have regional ambassadors who arrange visits to houses and collections already, which is great, so the alumni in that local area can keep in touch with each other. We also have these regional representatives abroad in Barcelona, Germany, Paris, Greece, Benelux, and the USA. These are centres where local alumni networks are active; not just in London. The key is to be constantly expanding that reach.

What are you exhibiting at Maastricht?

The absolutely prize exhibit for us is Houdon’s Diana, which we bought from a collection in America where it’s been hidden away since the mid ’50s. The artist is one of the greatest eighteenth-century French Sculptors (French artists in general), and the Diana is one of his greatest works without doubt. He has done many sculptures in very large, life-size scale generally, but this is unique, small, very exact and dated 1786. It’s a very precious work. As you know, the artist owned it himself for a long while before selling it. It basically needs to be completely re-presented to the market as it’s been unknown for so long now. It is very exciting to have something like that, of that quality and importance, to show at Maastricht. It is a perfect work for the Fair and people love going to Maastricht for that very reason, because they know there will be major, never-before-seen objects turning up. It’s not really like that at other fairs; Maastricht is all about “the big wow!”

What are your thoughts on art fairs generally? Do you think there’s room for more or do you feel we’re saturated with them now?

I think people like art fairs because it makes life easier for buyers. Everyone is in one place. And you can have a degree of transparency, from stand to stand. There will always be a strong role for fairs, but I think there are certainly enough and I can’t imagine the need to introduce another!

Will the Quentin Metsys currently on exhibition at the gallery’s Old Masters exhibition “30 Years, an Obsession” be travelling to Maastricht?

Yes, it will be for sale; an amazing and truly stunning work. You’ve been researching it so you know that it was found in a small church only recently and represents a major rediscovery for the artist. In a way we don’t want to sell it! But we’re taking it along as it is such a star piece, and perhaps we will find the right buyer and may end up selling it… maybe! It is such an exquisite work.

With so many articles at the moment covering what’s being described as an ongoing downturn in Old Master sales, what are your thoughts on this interpretation of the market? Have you found it affecting business at the gallery?

There is certainly a slight downturn, but this is largely because there is a finite amount of material. As time passes, there’s always going to be less ’new’ material coming to the market. There is still quality material out there, but the problem is, if you don’t have a lot of things in a market, collectors will start looking elsewhere. So it’s a double-sided issue. As far as the Katz Gallery is concerned, we deal with a wide range of works and periods – occasionally an Old Master painting – but essentially it is Old Master sculpture, drawings, and modern sculpture (Rodin, Moore etc), and exceptional objects only. I suppose we are an example of how reactions of collectors can be reflected in the market.  In whatever area you are talking about, the best will always have enormous appeal. So it is the condition, quality, rarity; if you have something that meets those criteria then the market for it is very strong indeed.

If you look only at the best of the Old Master market, it is in fact very strong. Anything that’s not in great condition, or has attribution problems… those objects yes, there are problems. There is not a huge collector base that is just buying a variety of things. They tend to collect high-profile, truly individual and exceptional works. So for us? The market is fine. We specialise in exceptional one-off things. But if you’re dealing only in Dutch seventeenth-century landscapes for instance… well then it would be different!

So it’s diversity and exceptional examples within that diversity that are important?

Yes, ‘going for diversity’ amongst exceptional examples is a good way of putting it.

Besides London, where do you consider are the best centres for sourcing and sales of special or exceptional works for your market?

One of the strongest places for finding things is still France. Paris produces amazing objects and paintings, quite out of the blue. I think it is in part about their inheritance laws, family division amongst other things. So many people have to sell works to divide the monetary value attributed to them, but it is fantastic what comes up. It’s a great source.

There are also still buyers in Europe, but rather spread around. So in terms of sales, there is not one geographic area I find is stronger than another, at least not in our case, but in the rest of the market there has been the drive to develop clients from Russia and China. The big auction houses have pushed into these areas, and have developed many clients with some exceptional results; take the Chinese recently buying a major Modigliani for 170m USD as an example. But now there is a crises with oil and the stock market in China, I feel those people (like the Russians) are shrinking away from the market. You get peaks and troughs with that sort of extreme buying, emerging markets are like that. But with Europe and America it is always pretty steady; it always comes back to those as the strong base, certainly for us.

And finally, what can we expect from the gallery in 2016?

Well, post-Maastricht, there’s the Dobson exhibition which opens on the 24th May. We’ve been collecting his drawings for a number of years now and feel this part of his work has been largely neglected so we’re putting on an exhibition of these and his sculptures, pairing them with works by his contemporary, Eric Gill. There’s also London Art Week, which will be on from the 1st – 8th July; always a great opportunity to visit all the major old master paintings, drawings, and sculpture galleries in Mayfair who will all be putting on special exhibitions for the event.

Andrew is currently studying Art History at The Courtauld Institute and chairs The Courtauld Law Society.  Outside his degree he has a diploma in Intellectual Property and Collections from the Institute of Art & Law and is working towards taking a conversion course in 2017 with a view to combining both his interests professionally.

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