Hannah Barry on the steps of Simon Whybray’s hi boo i love you (2016) at the entrance to Bold Tendencies main staircase © Bold Tendencies, courtesy Bold Tendencies.

PHILLIPS: Was it always your goal to be a gallerist? What led you to where you are now?

HANNAH BARRY: Not a goal at all. I’d say a fair amount of intuition has led me to the here and now of 2019, together with a good helping of courage, risk, commitment and most importantly support and generosity from so many people in so many places.

Richard Wentworth Agora, commissioned as a permanent work for the site in 2015 © Bold Tendencies, courtesy Bold Tendencies. Photography: Quintin Lake

P: You founded Bold Tendencies in 2007, and then your eponymous gallery in 2008. To what extent are your business and your non-profit endeavors intertwined, and how have they developed in tandem over time?

HB: The two projects are separate and different - Bold Tendencies being a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, which is first and foremost a commissioning organization working in a specific environment. The gallery is a commercial business committed to emerging practice and focused on realizing ambitious solo exhibitions by represented artists, both in the gallery and internationally.

That said, both endeavors are committed to artists and projects that value experimentation and risk, discussion and debate as well as to audiences and to the workforce. Certainly there is something the commercial world has to learn from the benevolence of the not-for-profit world, and conversely, the not-for-profit world can significantly benefit from an enterprise driven approach.

Bold Tendencies from above at night including Richard Wentworth's Agora, commissioned as a permanent work across the whole roof in 2015 © Bold Tendencies, courtesy Bold Tendencies. Photography: Pete Landers

P: Tell us a little bit more about what we can expect to see this summer at Bold Tendencies. What are your personal highlights?

HB: This year marks our 13th summer program in the rooftop spaces at Peckham Multi-Story Car Park, traversing art, orchestral music, dance, opera, literature and architecture and is our most ambitious project to date. We are presenting new site-specific work for the rooftop by Matt Copson, Liz Glynn, Lawrence Lek, Momtaza Mehri, Konrad Smoleński and Jenny Holzer. There are 12 permanent works on site including Richard Wentworth, Agora (2015) and Adel Abdessemed, Bristow (2016), the Derek Jarman Garden and Simon Whybray’s monumental pink entrance staircase.

The award-winning Multi-Story Orchestra returns for a 9th cycle of performances including Max Richter’s beautiful and moving Vivaldi, The Four Seasons (coming up September 14 and 15). Sharon Eyal and her L-E-V Dance Company will undertake their first ever London residency to make a new site-specific work which will be premiered on-site alongside works from her repertoire and the monumental work Used to Be Blonde for some 41 dancers, for which we will be joined by alumni from the National Youth Dance Company (performances between 22 July and 18 August).

Our commitment to opera continues with new productions directed by Polly Graham of Francis Poulenc, The Breasts of Tiresias and Viktor Ullmann, The Emperor of Atlantis. Es Devlin’s vast act of mediated reading The Order of Time, a collaboration with Carlo Rovelli and Benedict Cumberbatch, was a new approach to using the site which will continue this year. Utilizing the scale and reach of our Peckham Observatory, Es Devlin will install a 33 m wide projection on the car park roof to create a new work later in the season.

Adel Abdessemed Bristow, commissioned as a permanent work for the site in 2017 © Bold Tendencies, courtesy Bold Tendencies. Photography: Damian Griffiths

P: Is there a specific theme that ties together this year’s commissions? And how did you arrive on that idea?

HB: Whether we consider past, future or present, fiction has a critical role. It provides ways of knowing, understanding and questioning ourselves and our histories; of analyzing our cultures and dreaming of new futures. Fiction is the catalyst for its contestation, and counterpart to prevailing notions of fact, truth and perception.

In the last decade our reality has permuted. It is more common now to ask, ‘Is this real or not?’ rather than, ‘Is this right or not?’ Truth, reality and fiction are at the fore of our cultural landscape and it would seem that fiction at times outperforms reality. Used to beguile, confuse and alienate, fiction is also form of hyperstition: conjuring into existence whole new worlds through the process of its own narration. Fiction is an urgent and multifaceted theme for the here and now, and following from a precedent set last year with our theme of ‘Ecology’, seemed entirely right for the moment.

Siphoning from unearthed sewer networks to global FinTech skyscrapers, gothic carnival facades to suspicious and auditory happenings, our six new commissions (Matt Copson (UK) Agape (Infernal Cityscape), Liz Glynn (USA) Unearthed Underground, Jenny Holzer (USA) Inflammatory Wall, Lawrence Lek (UK) FTSE (Farsight Stock Exchange), Momtaza Mehri (UK) Towards A Quantifiable Measure of Longing, Konrad Smoleński (PL) B) together create a wealth of speculative visions that haunt and excite our imagination, representing the diverse and tumultuous landscape of our media, politics, social environments and culture: here the confluence of appearance, fiction and reality is all to play for.

Bold Tendencies Live Programme with the Multi-Story Orchestra © Bold Tendencies, courtesy Bold Tendencies. Photography: Mirea Bosch Roca

P: How does the Art Trainee Programme further Bold Tendencies’ overall goals? In what way would you say this is different from an internship at other prominent London institutions?

HB: Alongside the summer program activities Bold Tendencies has nurtured and evolved a holistic System of Opportunity which spans and is connected across every part of the organization - from the projects we commission, to the administrative and logistical support that enables the organization to function, to our varied audiences - each of which we aim to inspire through creating circumstances of creativity, care and innovation.

The Bold Tendencies Art Trainee Programme (ATP) is an immersive working and learning experience that offers its participants a role in the life and work of our organization. Working on site, Trainees experience a fresh perspective into the world of commissioning contemporary art and architecture, running live events, daily logistics and problem-solving.
Aiming to provide working and learning opportunities side by side, this hands-on experience is offered together with an intensive Learning Programme of visits and talks hosted on-site and outside of Bold Tendencies. Art Trainees are involved with all aspects of our summer activities and are integral to the successful delivery of the Bold Tendencies program. 

Founded in 2014 by Diana Córdoba Barrios - Bold Tendencies Managing Director - our Art Trainee Programme was inspired by the internationally recognised Internship Program at The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Diana came to Venice from Mexico to take part in the Program as an intern herself, eventually being promoted to Intern Coordinator and running the prestigious program for the museum and managing a team of 384 interns over a period of 12 months. Since 2014 the program has been completed by 171 Trainees, joining us from all parts of the UK and further afield and we have offered 268 Mentor Talks and Visits. Our Program aims to give participants immersion into a world-class contemporary arts organization and help develop their skills for pursuing a future career in the creative industries, as well as fostering long-term connections between young people and our wider networks.

Bold Tendencies Entrance Staircase: Simon Whybray's hi boo i love you, commissioned as a permanent work across the whole staircase in 2016 © Bold Tendencies, courtesy Bold Tendencies. Photography: Damian Griffiths

P: What has been the biggest challenge in sustaining Bold Tendencies over the years?

HB: As with any nascent organization that starts from the ground up there is a substantial amount of work to be done at the beginning - basic things like letting people know who where you are and how to find you (which in our case, housed on the top four floors of Peckham’s multi-story car park wasn’t always easy ...). That said, the work is always ongoing; the greatest challenge is always ahead!

Our ambition is to make and share, for and with everyone experiences of art, orchestral music, dance, opera and architecture in a civic space that visitors and audiences can find memorable, inspiring and useful. We are consistently improving how we do this. The circumstances of our space afford us the opportunity to realize this aspiration through our ambitious commissioning program. We intend to continue to deliver excellence in our summertime program and further extend the appeal and reach of the project. We always intend to do more with and for the artists and creative people we work with, with and for our varied audiences and with and for our workforce.

Bold Tendencies is an organization which has always had artistic excellence at its heart and is maturing administratively. We want to grow our capacity to compete in this exciting sector, developing ambitious site specific work with artists, bringing that work and the experience of the work to a wide audience, and developing new ways to engage audience curiosity and inspire learning whilst also supporting the progress of the organizational workforce.

Bold Tendencies 2019 Fiction Programme: Jenny Holzer, Inflammatory Wall © Bold Tendencies, courtesy Bold Tendencies. Photography: Oskar Proctor 

P: Does Bold Tendencies’ position as a public space influence the commissions you choose to pursue?

HB: Cultural establishments belong to everyone. This principle has been at the core of Bold Tendencies thinking since its inception and continues to inform our work on site. It is our responsibility to offer the best possible annual program of contemporary art, orchestral music, opera, dance and architecture. It is also equally important that we understand the civic character of our site and the needs and ambitions of all those involved with it, and acknowledge the opportunity this presents us.

Bold Tendencies has a wide, diverse and growing audience. Welcoming more than 1.8m people over 12 summer seasons since 2007 and + 41,000 have come to see it since we opened some five weeks ago. With immersive public spaces and spectacular views across London, the project celebrates the free enjoyment of public space and time in the city.

Bold Tendencies rooftop view © Bold Tendencies, courtesy Bold Tendencies. Photography: Pete Landers

P: The neighborhood of Peckham, where Bold Tendencies is situated, has changed immensely over the last decade or so. How do you see the art world as being involved in that change, and where do you see the area going in the future?

HB: We know our program has broad appeal and we aim to provide a varied offer, attractive and accessible to a full cross-section of the communities to whom we belong and to people of all ages and backgrounds.

For us, ensuring that people feel welcome is crucial. At our site this begins at the threshold. Step across the threshold and you are immersed in hi boo i love you (commissioned in 2016) Simon Whybray’s monumental pink entrance staircase, with its seven flights of stairs taking you to the top of the site. The sense of inclusion and welcome, collective experience and even authorship that the staircase provides is a very good example of how Bold Tendencies aims to encourage public involvement and ownership: in a context of amazement and curiosity, passive modes of consumption are replaced with dynamic and mutual dialogues between audience and works of art.

Beyond this we think of public spirit and public space working and existing together. Over the past 12 years of work at Bold Tendencies we have evolved and intensified our thoughts around ideas of civic opportunity, responsibility and attitude. Why do people gather together? What do they do when they gather together? Why is it important to gather together? And therefore why is it urgent to protect public space where this is possible ? All these kinds of considerations certainly sit around the commissioning project as a whole: there is no substitute for the joy of being welcome!

To find out more about Bold Tendencies and for tickets to their upcoming live events, visit: http://boldtendencies.com/events