How to run a West London art gallery: Emma Moir, owner, Box Galleries

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There are many factors that determine the value of art. The artist, the provenance of the artwork and how much it has commanded in auction are some of them. However, central to the success of a piece of art – and its creator – is the support of a prominent gallery in the market.

Emma Moir, owner of Box Galleries, told Private Art Investor her views on what makes a gallery tick financially and how engaging artists with global exposure can be mutually beneficial.

Moir opened the London-based Box Galleries in 2012, having worked previously as a gallery manager at Whitewall Galleries. She studied law but has always had a creative side, which led her to set up a gallery. “I felt I understood both sides of the fence – business and creative,” she says. “I wanted to set up a gallery that was in between a commercial-print-orientated chain and the very high-end intimidating galleries, where you have to ring a bell to enter.”

Her aim was to be able to showcase emerging artists alongside investment artwork in a welcoming environment, where clients buying their first original crossed over with collectors building an investment collection.

Private Art Investor: How do you pick your artists and works best suited to the gallery?

Emma Moir: I’ve always had quite a decisive vision over the works that I think would suit the ethos and style of the gallery. Quality and variety are important, as is being fluid and keeping up with market patterns and trends. It’s quite an instinctive process but I also have to think commercially while choosing works or artists that I am passionate about.

PAI: What is the most difficult part of acquiring work to be displayed at Box Galleries?

EM: Predicting what is going to sell seasonally and trying to ensure the gallery remains bespoke and exclusive.

PAI: To what extent and how do you analyse the finances of the art you purchase?

EM: I mostly work on consignment, but when I do purchase art, I follow the auction results, art fairs and the position and trajectory of the artist’s work to date. It’s also important to determine whether they have previously had work in museums and exhibitions worldwide.

PAI: Who finances the art displayed at your gallery?

EM: I tend to work on a sale-or-return basis with primary artists. Otherwise, I finance secondary market purchases myself. We also take on secondary market work from clients on a consignment basis.

PAI: What is your view of art fairs?

EM: I think art fairs are a great place to see a huge amount of variety, especially if you are just beginning to collect. Unfortunately, I think certain art fairs have become slightly saturated and their numbers growing annually, making it trickier to separate the wheat from the chaff.  

PAI: Many in the industry take a negative view of those who look at art as an investment. What is your view?

EM: I understand this point of view, but I have never felt this way. I believe a lot of these collectors also buy to enjoy their investment. There are tangible financial results of art being an investment, so it is an advantage to diversify assets as well as buy for passion.

PAI: From the work displayed at Box Galleries, which forms of art tend to be most popular commercially?

EM: The emerging contemporary artists such as Lauren Baker, The Connor Brothers and Harland Miller always sell well. We have also diversified into photography in the last two years representing Terry O Neill, Douglas Kirkland and Helmut Newton and this has been extremely successful commercially.

PAI: What kind of risks does owning a gallery involve?

EM: There are so many! But I think the most important thing is to stay relevant, act sensibly – financially – and build loyalty with artists. It certainly helps to be dynamic with events and focus on your vision, rather than that of your competitors.