Gallery Profiles: Black Rat Press

Update: Part Two is now online here.

This is the first in a series of interviews with directors/curators/whatever-they-wish-to-be-called of art galleries.

To start it all off, I’ve got Mike Snelle, the owner of The Black Rat Press. BRP is one of London’s premier galleries specializing in street art. In the past year, the gallery has shown work from Swoon, Blek le Rat, Nick Walker, D*face, and many others. Located in Shoreditch, behind Cargo and next two a few Banksy pieces, BRP is a must-visit gallery for any street art fan.

On a personal note, BRP was the first gallery I ever visited that sold street art, and I did a work experience there this summer. They are some of the most fun people I know in the art world, and I certainly wouldn’t have started Vandalog without their willingness to let me spend far too much time admiring their shows.

This is part one of a two part interview. I’ll post part two tomorrow.

RJ: What sets The Black Rat Press apart from other galleries?

Mike Snelle: I think galleries are similar to artists in that those that are most interesting have their own unique voice and do not imitate others. I feel that we are developing that here at Black Rat and hope to continue to do so next year. It’s partly a matter of not being dictated to by the marketplace and what’s hot at the moment. It is more valuable and interesting to work with artists that you believe in even when sometimes other people don’t get it. You hope as a gallery that over time people will come to share your belief in an artists work.

RJ: Your print releases get a huge amount of attention, which is probably great, but the attention leads to a lot of flipping. What are your thoughts on flipping prints? Does BRP do anything to limit flipping?

MS: We are from a printmaking background and started as print publishers before opening the gallery and it is still something we find really exciting (geeky though that may be). We like taking on more and more challenging print projects and introducing different print processes to artists who have not had the opportunity to explore them before and seeing what they come up with. We consider printmaking to be a valuable medium in its own right and not a poor relation of painting – there are things you can achieve in printmaking that are impossible in any other medium. We are fortunate that collectors seem to respond well to the way we make prints and so they do get a lot of attention and recently our prints have found their way into the permanent collections of both the V and A museum and the Tate. A downside to this is the number of works immediately resold – the simple fact is that with more people wanting an edition than there are prints available the opportunity is there for people to resell at a profit immediately on certain prints. Whilst we don’t particularly like this aspect of publishing and do try and address the most blatant of flippers I think while the demand for print editions is there it will always be a problem. Flipping artwork is not helpful to the gallery nor the artists’ career nor to genuine collectors and is not something we encourage. However we do sometimes sell to other galleries in the knowledge that they will resell them at a higher price. This is because these galleries have their own audiences, which we can introduce artists to, and they tend to be galleries who support us on less commercial but interesting print projects by buying those works too.

RJ: D*face’s aPOPcalypse Now show, which is up in the gallery right now, is very much a departure from his previous work. What has the reaction been?

MS: The response to the show has been really positive. I personally think is his strongest body of work to date and was really pleased to have the opportunity to be involved in the show. It is a departure from his previous work but still recognizably D*Face – I think the way the work has developed both in terms of the imagery and the attention to detail in the execution is very exciting and I am looking forward to see where he goes next with it. I see him as one of a new generation of pop artists with something relevant to say about popular culture.

Update: Read part two here.