Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Poor Manners, Flared Jeans and A City of Culture

May 11, 2010 · 1 Comment

I had hoped that my interview experience with Mandell’s Gallery on Elm Hill would make up for Mr. Mandell’s poor email correspondence… it didn’t. I began to email and call the gallery after another art dealer that I should go and ask a few questions about the gallery suggested it to me. The first time I went into the gallery (around March), I told Mr. Mandell my name and about my research paper. He seemed interested enough, but said he didn’t have time for an interview at the moment. I told him that was fine (I know his business comes first) and that I would email him the questionnaire so he could fill things out at his earliest convenience. After a few weeks I began to email again, no response. I called to make sure I had the right email address. The woman on the line told me the Gallery was about to open a show of John Kiki’s works and that Mr. Mandell would be more available after the opening…. OK, so I wouldn’t have the interview until after the first draft of my paper was due. OK, not going to panic. After a week and still no response (email or otherwise) I decided to go into the gallery to see if I could get some answers. The way I was raised, this kind of behavior is unacceptable. If you receive email or a call, at least have the decency to respond…even if it’s just to say you’re too busy and to give a date when you WILL be available. Well, after I reintroduced myself to Mr. Mandell he kind of gave me the ‘I think I remember you, but I’m just not quite sure’ kind of look and then searched his inbox for my email. “Ah, yes” he said, “yes, I don’t really feel comfortable answering some of these questions…I think they are a bit leading” Alright, how does one respond to that? I’m sorry? I didn’t think my questions were that leading….just enquiring about the general policies of the gallery and what kind of people buy their art. Apparently Mr. Mandell’s competition is hot for him right now and they will do ANYTHING to learn his secrets. I was a bit taken aback, and although I assured him my research was purely academic, he was still unwilling to answer any questions about how he prices his art or what kind of client he markets for. Mr. Mandell, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry, but I really don’t think you have any reason to worry…I am NOT going to spill any sort of insider gallery dealer secrets. I think you are probably a nice guy, especially after you told me you used to vent your jeans in the 60s to make them flare out…it’s cool, it was the 60s after all. Anyway…back to the point. While this interview was not as helpful on the specifics of buying art in Norwich, he did have some opinions on the general culture in Norwich. Essentially, Norwich has always been a bit of a hot spot for the arts…the only problem? Geographical isolation. However, this isolation made the arts in Norwich a priority as the people would have hardly been able to travel to London to see a play or a painting. Norwich has always had a thriving theatre (the first being the Maddermarket Theatre) and the Norwich School artists are probably the area’s most famous visual artists. Even today, the Norfolk and Norwich Contemporary Art Circle, the Playhouse Theatre and the city’s recent bid to become a UK ‘City of Culture’ keep this arts-rich area a cultural meeting place. Despite the provincial setting, the isolation has kept the art world in Norwich centered on Norwich. And with so many galleries opening in the last fifteen years, the people in this area still don’t have to travel down to London to acquire great art. Right now, I’d say the traditional subject matter of landscape and portraiture are still outselling the more abstract contemporary pieces, but the contemporary arts are on the rise. The trends in art (and other areas) will come and go, but Norwich will always remain a city of the arts.

Categories: Grace
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1 response so far ↓

  •   buonacos // May 12th 2010 at 02:06

    I think it’s a shame that it was so difficult to get in touch with Mr. Mandell and that he was so distrusting of your research. If he was that uncomfortable with meeting with you, I feel like he should have simply declined your request for an interview. However, I suspect that this kind of wariness would be common in the art world. It is a competitive and rather elite business, so I assume it might not be difficult for a person to sabotage another’s business if he really wanted to. I’m glad he could offer you other information, though.

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