One of the few London galleries solely dedicated to photography, Michael Hoppen Gallery has been at the cutting edge of photographic print sales in the UK since it opened in 1992. Its list of international artists is eclectic and diverse, representing the old and the young, the incredibly famous and the lesser known, and it accommodating a wide range of tastes and genres for prospective collectors.
But now, in an attempt to make print sales more accessible and diversify its audience still further, the gallery has launched an online venture which will allow visitors to buy prints at a range of affordable prices.
“The online shop will allow us to not only showcase new and emerging talent, that otherwise might not have made its way into the main gallery space, but will also aim to expose some fascinating projects and one off pieces from within the collection,” says Hoppen. “I think our programme of online shows will have something for everyone.”
Each artist will be highlighted with an ‘online exhibition’, which will remain on the site for a couple of weeks before the next takes place. “The exciting new aspect of the site is the ability to host online exhibitions… curated content all available to purchase at the click of a button,” says Hoppen.
“Alongside these prints is an extraordinary collection of publications and miscellaneous items that we plan to expand on over the coming months. What matters most is that all the works we ‘hang’ online will be of an extremely high standard and accessibly priced, hopefully providing budding collectors and art lovers with a new destination for purchasing art online.”
The first artist to feature is Matt Henry, whose work exudes 1960s and 70s Americana through staged images which reflect the underlying psychology of the time – think Elvis, lounge singers, diners and wood-panelled motel rooms. The images are very covetable; in a nice twist, Hoppen discovered Henry’s work after seeing it featured on another site.
“I had a headline feature on It’s Nice That, the internet magazine,” says Henry. “I was invited in, I met Michael, he bought a print, and I’ve been in conversation with the gallery over the year or so since. I was told about the website relaunch and invited to participate as the first exhibitor, and was delighted to be involved. The finished product looks better than I could have hoped.
“I think that anyone who makes work is interested in sharing it, and it’s naïve to think that somehow your work can permeate the wider world by the simple virtue of its merit,” he continues.
“Even in the internet age, the role of the gallery is fundamental – perhaps even more so. Amidst the barrage of imagery that we receive, we need those arbiters of taste to elevate certain artists. The Michael Hoppen Gallery has a track record not only of showing the photographic greats, but also of helping to shape photographic history, and indeed art history, by making brave decisions about work that has yet to have been given a major platform.”
For Hoppen, the decision to move online was obvious, he says. “Online art sales is a rapidly developing area and allows us the freedom to explore and exhibit more artists’ work than we could ever hope to physically in the gallery,” he says.
“With more and more galleries making strides in the area, we thought it was the right time to enter into this dynamic market and to stamp our mark as a trusted source of high quality photographic art. The goal is to discover and encourage a new group of collector, whether that is directly through the online shop or via enquiries on the artists’ pages.”
Even so, he maintains that his relationship with his collectors remains critical. “We love engaging with new collectors – discussing and understanding their taste over time and presenting them with a tailored selection of prints here in the gallery,” he says. “The website is designed to fuel this conversation – in some cases even start it. People can now see our artists and their work like never before, flicking through their work in a seamless and intuitive way.”
All of Henry’s prints are available in editions of six, with prices starting at £600; one particularly striking image, showing Elvis’s face partially constructed as a jigsaw puzzle on a green carpet, is already sold out – and this is Henry’s first attempt at selling prints. “There is this slight embarrassment sometimes about issues of money because of the natural tension between art and commerce,” he says.
“But let’s not pretend that we can make work without some form of financial support. There is no fundamental difference between responding to price enquiries in the gallery and putting the work for sale online, except that perhaps it might attract investment from those who aren’t experienced gallery goers, and that can only be a good thing.”
The next online exhibition will be Joseph Szabo’s Rolling Stones fans series, followed by Karl Blossfeldt’s vintage floral work. It will be interesting to see how these shows fare, compared to Henry’s reasonably-priced but relatively unknown work but, however it goes, Hoppen insists that in an important sense, it’s still business as usual.
“Selling online is an important step for us and something we take seriously,” he says Hoppen. “We can’t wait to share our forthcoming lineup of online shows, unique publications and products. However, the human element of buying art is hugely important and we think it will remain so.”
More information available here.