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Curation and catwalks – an interview with Sascha Bailey

August 2, 2017

Arts | by Courtney Blackman


“I found myself at art events a lot growing up and I always didn’t quite get it. I suddenly realised that there is nothing to get, if you like it, you like it. It’s really as simple as that. The most important thing is the emotional response it gives you.”

Sascha Bailey by Jody at Image Media

Crowned as one of Dolce & Gabbana’s autumn/winter 2017 army of stars and donning a shimmering forest green silk suit paired with a white T-shirt and leather slip-ons, Sascha Bailey joined the likes of Cameron Dallas, Lucky Blue Smith, Presley Gerber, Rafferty Law, Tinie Tempah, former Candid feature story: Josh Cuthbert and two previous Candid cover stars: Oliver Cheshire and Jim Chapman on the catwalk show that topped all catwalk shows – in regards to digital influence.

But it’s off the runway where Sascha is really in the spotlight. The rising star of the art world is forging a name for himself as a curator. After curating ‘Bailey’s Icons’ – a collection of his father’s (David Bailey) most renowned photographic work stretched across five decades – at the Paul Smith Space Gallery in Tokyo, Sascha has turned his adroit eye to The Benbai Expo by Gamma, where he will be curating the twelve hundred-square-metre show featuring sixteen emerging artists and never-before-seen works from David Bailey and Brian Clarke. Sascha tells us about his new company, Quite Useless; blockchain’s new role in art and his self-described ‘used car salesman’ style.

Hi Sascha, thanks for speaking with us. The landscape of art and how it is presented to new markets and embracing new artists is changing dramatically. What will be different about the The Benbai Expo by Gamma?

In the current world it’s important to be forward thinking, a lot of people focus on the social media aspect but I think what’s more important is to build up the trust in the art world by going some way to self-regulate in an unregulated industry. We also want to give all artists a chance based on the quality of their work not whether they can afford to rent a space, and to take a fair commission.

Olmo Party Animal House- part of the Benbai Expo by Gamma

You’re curating the exhibition under Quite Useless, which is a big undertaking, what kind of demographic are you aiming to attract?

Everyone who enjoys art. We have a wide range of clients from all demographics. But what we really want to happen is to inspire people who previously believed that art is a load of nonsense – mainly because of how repetitive it has become.

You’ve curated quite a lot of exhibitions in your career thus far. What attracts you to it?

I’m not sure I was attracted to it, more it was to me. I found myself at art events a lot growing up and I always didn’t quite get it. Then I was about fourteen or so and I saw a show by Damien Hirst. I suddenly realised that there is nothing to get, if you like it, you like it. It’s really as simple as that. The most important thing is the emotional response it gives you. If it leaves you cold, it’s not really art.

The name of your company comes from a famed Oscar Wilde quote. Can you tell us a bit about it?

The idea came from a few different things, one was that I always loved Oscar Wilde and I thought that the quote was nice as in ‘inaccurate’, as it has become since the time of Oscar Wilde. I mean that in the sense that art can create political unrest, change people’s points of view, etc. When Wilde was alive it was mostly (if not all) realism oil paintings. Even aboriginal art is the creation of maps via songs, so there has never been a time that art’s really been quite useless.

I guess that makes our name a misnomer. It’s meant to be a bit ironic. The second reason is that me and the first person I founded the company with, Jack Daniels are dyslexic and got called useless a lot in school for not being able to spell properly.

Photograph by Fenton Bailey

You started Quite Useless with Jack Daniel Thompson and Ronald Briceno. We feel like there’s a name missing in there. You work with your brother, Fenton a lot. Was he not keen to get formally involved with it?

Oh no, that’s not the case at all. Fenton is an artist and we work together more in that capacity. He helps out a lot and has been a great support to the company. The other name that’s missing is my wife, Mimi who is an integral part of the company since the beginning.

Queen of Hearts by Benjamin Lee – part of the Benbai Expo by Gamma

For the The Benbai Expo, alongside David Bailey and Brian Clarke, you’re pulling in work from international artists. Who should we be looking out for?

Benjamin Lee is a definite to look for. It’s kind of his debut in the UK, but in Japan he works extensively. He created, with her blessing, a series of works on the artist Yayoi Kusama while he documented her, which was turned into a book about her over a three-year period. The others to look out for are emerging talents. Sarah Martin from South Africa is a fantastic new addition to the art world – creating her abstract works via a new process she calls chemical composition.

Introspective Function 2017 by Sarah Martin – part of the Benbai Expo by Gamma
Squibble-Dribble by Ollie Sylvester – part of the Benbai Expo by Gamma

Do you have any favourites?

There are so many fantastic artists in the show; I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite. We have a few, but if I told you, that wouldn’t be a surprise. I can say we will be having live-painting in the space for the whole expo.

We’re members of Lights of Soho and are so pleased to hear that they’ll have a space. Will their room have illuminated work only?

Funny enough that’s one of the surprises I was talking about.

Drinking with some of the world’s greats is a brilliant idea. Can you tell us about The Classics Bar? What works will be in there? Any unique cocktails on offer?

The works are nothing special just some simple Picasso, Dalí and Miró lithographs and photochemical prints. We will have some other greats mixed in, some from the modern world. On the subject of cocktails our mixologist is working up a few interesting concoctions for the night.

Will Keep Us Together by Harney Bonds- part of the Benbai Expo by Gamma

We love that the art world is opening up and becoming more accessible to everyone. One of your missions is ‘a total overhaul of the art world’. Where do you want to see art in the next five years or even ten years?

I think the landscape of the whole business world is changing. The really interesting thing that’s happened that affects everyone is blockchain (the distributed database that powers Bitcoin). It allowed us in short to keep track of everything. I don’t see why this won’t become part of the way art is sold. Imagine if you could keep track of every Andy Warhol and there was never an issue of authenticity. It would change everything. But it can only work on new artists. It would be too hard to implement it after the fact, say with Picasso.

Sascha Bailey photographed by Fenton Bailey

Can we ask you a few fashion questions? We loved seeing you on the catwalk at Dolce & Gabbana over Milan Fashion Week. What do you prefer more? Curating or modelling?

Thank you so much. Curating. Modelling for me is just a bit of fun and has brought me some great memories, but curating is where my passion is.

Sascha Bailey photographed by Fenton Bailey

How would you describe your style?

Simple, slick – kinda like a used car salesmen, but with a touch of class.

Sascha Bailey photographed by Fenton Bailey

Who are your go-to labels?

Dolce & Gabbana, Manolo, Ray-Ban, Bally and a pair of jeans.

Will we be seeing more of you on the runway?

Depends if they will have me back. I would love to, but as a rule I’m a bit short for runway.

In Search of Truth by John Luce Lockett – part of the Benbai Expo by Gamma

What’s next for you and Quite Useless? 

We are planning a massive show with one of our artists John Luce Lockett, based on the art works he hid in his family home and weren’t discovered until he passed away. It’s really an amazing story and the classic English oil painting style in which it’s painted, it’s just not seen anymore.

The Benbai Expo by Gamma will take place at The Bargehouse, Oxo Tower, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London SE1 9PH, 28 September – 2 October 2017 from 12:00pm until 8:00pm daily.

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