An eye for detail

Behind Pontone Gallery’s Victorian frontage and you’ll find a friendly contemporary gallery. It represents international artists who work in a variety of mediums including painting, photography, video, sculpture and installation. Domenic Pontone, the gallery’s founding director answers our questions. Lorna Davies meets him.

How did you get into the art industry?
My father started a gallery up in the North East of England in 1979 and has been in the business ever since, so I have been around art since I was a child. We even had a framing workshop in our cellar at home with lots of interesting machines and tools that a child probably shouldn’t have been playing with, but I did anyway and learned how to assemble frames aged 9. I started the first incarnation of my gallery in 2011 and we opened here in Chelsea in 2016.

How has it changed since you began?
It has changed significantly in many ways. In particular, I have seen the rise and proliferation of art fairs in the last 20 years. I think also we are going through a period of change right now with more and more galleries finding their feet online. It will be interesting to see where this leads.

You opened in Chelsea in 2016, how has it been since you opened?
We were in Mayfair prior to opening in Chelsea, so it was a very smooth transition for us. A lot of our clients live in the Chelsea area, so the new gallery is more accessible to many of our regulars. I love the new bigger space we have in Chelsea and am always excited to see how a new show looks on the wall.

What kind of clientele do you have?
It is a very diverse clientele. We have as many international clients as domestic and they are from all walks of life. I can’t really divulge any celebrities.

How do you find the artists you feature in the gallery?
Most of the artists I find are from studio visits, exhibitions and art fairs around the world. We have a lot of homegrown talent, but we also specialise in Korean Contemporary art. I fell in love with the Korean art scene about 10 years ago, and I have since spent a lot of time visiting art colleges, artist studios and exhibitions in Korea as well as exhibiting at the Korean International Art Fair and fairs in Busan and Gwangju.

For you, what makes a great work of art?
A great work of art can be many things, but when I think about it I think of works that have Imagination and depth, that have originality (as much as possible) and a quality of technique that stands out from others. A great art work for me engages with you emotionally or intellectually or both.

Are you ever tempted to buy pieces from artists on your books?
Actually, I only really buy from artists I work with…. I suppose that’s shows that I really do believe in the artists I represent.

Do you have a large art collection?
At present I have around 20 pieces, but I don’t have any wall space left at home.

What’s your advice for a budding collector?
Buy what you like, regardless of investment. Buy works that say something to you, that intrigue you or enchant you. There is a painting I have by Matteo Massagrande, of the interior of a derelict room looking out to a terrace. This piece enchants me and every day I look at it I see something new that makes me happy… a detail or a brushstroke or the light painted on a doorframe.

Can you tell us about your next show what you’ve got coming up at the gallery?
We have an exciting programme for the summer and autumn. In August we will be exhibiting incredible new works by the Pakistani master painter Jamil Naqsh. This exhibition is titled Echoes: The Indus Valley Civilisation 2600-1900 BC. In September we are introducing the Korean video artist Lee Leenam and mounting a new show by the lenticular photographer Jeff Robb entitled Aria. Jeff’s new show is the result of a year-long project working with ballet dancers from the ENB, Royal Ballet and Sadlers Wells.

What’s the best thing about your job?
I work very closely with my artists and am very involved as they develop new work. Watching a body of work develop to be ready for exhibition and being part of this process is my favourite part of the job. Also, as we exhibit regularly at international fairs and represent so many international artists travel is a big part of my job. I feel very privileged to be able see and experience so much of the world.

And the most challenging?
I think it’s time. I am always looking to expand and have new ideas, but we have quite a full programme with 10-12 exhibitions a year in London, six in Taiwan and up to 10 art fairs internationally.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Buy Apple shares.

Where are your favourite places in Chelsea?
I have coffee every day from Poilane next door to us. I love the Royal Court Theatre and lunch at Colbert or the Chelsea Arts club.

What do you like about the area?
I really like to walk or cycle around the area. The streets are so beautiful.

How do you relax?
I play the piano, I watch a lot of films and go to see theatre or comedy.