Georgia Spray has taken the art world by storm with her expertly curated digital gallery Partnership Editions, which connects emerging artists with would-be collectors looking for covetable, contemporary – and above all accessible – art works. She talks about her artistic journey, the importance of demystifying art and how to build an affordable art collection for your home.
“I wanted to create a platform for collectors who weren’t already answered for,” Spray tells me over the phone from her Stoke Newington home. “Collectors, like me and my peers, who are buying or renting their first flat and love art — but don’t want just an Ikea poster.”
The business quickly went from sitting room start-up to art world power player, gathering a host of stylish fans along the way, including Laura Jackson, Pandora Sykes and London-based fashion designer Rejina Pyo, who in 2018 asked Spray to curate her pop-up store in Covent Garden’s Floral Street. “It was a very organic growth,” Sprays says of the brand’s rapid rise. “The response was very positive from the start.”
It’s no surprise – Spray knows her stuff. Before setting up on her own, she cut her teeth at London’s most lauded institutions, including White Cube and Christie’s, honing her skills in the commercial art market. But something was missing. “I craved more contact with living artists, as well as collectors with budgets more like mine – and something a little less corporate,” she admits. So she joined the Auction Room, a digital auction house with a more creative, entrepreneurial atmosphere. “I was thrown into the deep end and had to think on my feet. It gave me a real thirst for autonomy.” Then came a stint with the rock’n’roll art dealer Ivor Braka, the number one man in London for collectors of Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. “I remember him having such a clear sense of what he liked and disliked,” says Spray. “Being headstrong in trusting your instincts is very important in this business.”
It’s an ethos Spray subscribes to at Partnership Editions, where she only features artists that resonate with her. When I press for details, she laughs. “It’s difficult to talk about your own taste, but I’ve always been drawn to colour and works on paper – I think that is reflected in the work of our artists.” The heart of the business is making remarkable art accessible to all and, most importantly, breaking down the elitism that surrounds it. Unlike most galleries, every artwork on the site comes with a price tag, ranging from £200 to £1,000. “Transparency around price is very important to us,” she says. “Collectors should be able to talk about their budget without feeling intimidated.”
Partnership Editions has made its name by collaborating with some of the most exciting emerging artists working today, among them Venetia Berry, Alexandria Coe and Hester Finch. There’s a heavier weighting towards women artists on the site, but that’s only because “there’s so much female talent out there at the moment,” says Spray. “Partnership Editions will always be about artists that are brilliant.” And sourcing new talent, it turns out, follows no set formula. “My house is basically a Partnership Editions gallery,” she muses. “I often get in touch with a new artist because I want to buy their work for my home.”
by Chica Seal
In addition to limited-edition print runs, Partnership Editions releases six ‘drops’ of original artworks a year. The ‘drop’ was introduced at the beginning of 2020 as a way of streamlining activity, both online and off, as the business expanded. “Focusing on a ‘drop’ allows the artists to curate the theme of their own collections and evolve in a way that suits their practice – and not feel like they are on a treadmill,” says Spray. Ten new artists have joined the Partnership Editions family this year. Among them are Haitian-born artist Nathalie Jolivert, who draws inspiration from her childhood island life, Lisbon-based Tiffanie Delune, whose technicolour works focus on heritage, identity and spirituality, and Londoner Laxmi Hussain, whose elegant organic forms, often executed in bold blue ink, fuse elements of abstraction and figuration. “I’m really drawn to her celebratory depictions of the female form and clever use of positive and negative space,” says Spray.
by Hester Finch
Collaborating with like-minded brands is another way of reaching new audiences. The platform’s collection of exclusive limited-edition prints and original artworks for design and homeware brand MADE.com was a great success, as was their first artist-designed fashion line. Created in collaboration with BIAS, The Artist’s Slip Dress featured three designs by a trio of the capital’s most talked-about female artists: Venetia Berry, sought-after muralist Julianna Byrne and Peckham-based print-maker Rose Electra Harris. “It’s about exploring collaborations that feel right – there must be a synergy between artist and brand,” says Spray. For their first fashion line, “it wasn’t so much about the cut or the shape of the dress, but the design. With each artist’s dress limited to an edition of 100, they’re artworks in their own right.”
by Tiffanie Delune
Though 2020 was a challenging year for the art market, Partnership Editions seems to have emerged unscathed. “We saw really strong sales during lockdown,” says Spray. “I think the psychology around buying has changed: people are now more willing to buy lifetime investments online.” Spending more on ‘sight unseen’ (without viewing the item in person) is another byproduct of quarantine. “A work of art can give back to you on a cultural level,” she says. “It can spark a dialogue and inspire you on a daily basis — we’re in need of this now more than ever.”
by Rose Electra Harris
Lockdown saw Spray splurge herself. She admits to buying quite a few pieces through the #artistsupportpledge, a brilliant initiative launched by Matthew Burrows in March last year, as well as an artwork by British artist Nettle Grellier. More time at home also allowed for more virtual browsing. “For inspiration and vintage gems, my go-tos are @Tat.London, @_ceraudo_ and @vinterior,” she reveals.
by Isabelle Hayman
So, what’s next? “I’m really excited to do more exhibitions again — when the time is right — and relaunch our life drawing classes: they’re such a great way for people to become more familiar with materials and, of course, with the artists themselves. I’d also love to evolve the business to be able to accommodate sculpture and ceramics.” That’s no mean feat while juggling the needs of a newborn. “Running your own business is a daily rollercoaster of the expected and the unexpected,” says Spray. “Perseverance and determination are key. But so is flexibility.” All of which Spray has in abundance. It’s little wonder that Partnership Editions is going from strength to strength.
Buy what you love
It may sound obvious, but I think it’s really important to trust your gut. With Partnership Editions, you’re looking at buying into artists that you want to live with in your home — and into a piece to cherish rather than to flip. Don’t get me wrong, there can be investment value in buying emerging artists — and that can make it very exciting — but I think the starting point should be that you love what that artist is doing. Buy the piece because it stands alone, not because it matches the cushions!
Work out your own style
It’s important to understand what you love before you buy, so it can be really useful to train your eye first. Follow artists you like on Instagram and play with the ‘Insta saves’ tool: it’s a great way of creating a digital portfolio of things you love. If you scroll through your archive, you’ll likely see patterns: certain shapes, colours and textures will reappear again and again. The same applies to visiting exhibitions or permanent collections — take home postcards of the works that you love and then work out what you love about them.
Get behind the artist
It can be so rewarding to invest in emerging living artists and chart their development and style. Thanks to social media, this has never been easier. Many now use Instagram as a way of engaging with collectors and fellow artists — so don’t be afraid to reach out and start a conversation. Now you can tour their studio, browse their works and start a conversation at the click of a button. And, don’t forget that buying art by artists still at art school or recent grads is a brilliant way to start your collection. Not only is their work more affordable, but it’s gratifying to know that you’re helping a young artist to develop their career.
Talk about budget
It comes as a surprise to many that preliminary conversations with art world professionals are often free of charge. I know there is still more work to do here, but I really believe that transparency around pricing and budget is important. There’s often an explanation as to why something costs what it does, so don’t feel embarrassed to ask questions: it might be due to the material it’s made out of, the fact that it’s an original or a print, or even the time it’s taken the artist to complete. Having frank conversations with gallerists or dealers from the outset will guide your search and ensure you look within budget. And remember, no budget is too low.
Factor in framing
A good frame will help preserve the work for longer and make it sing. But it can be hard to know where to start. Look to framers or art world professionals for advice on mounts, colours, types of glass (UV protected or Museum), materials and finishes — it’s never a case of one size fits all. If you go down the ‘off the shelf’ route, opt for glass over perspex. We work with a brilliant and trusted framer called Frmd in Clapton — I’d highly recommend them. Alternatively, you can go back to the artist to see what they suggest. Most importantly, though, avoid matching the frame to the wall. The frame should be in conversation with the artwork not the space, as both you and the artwork are likely to move.
Play with the display
A statement gallery wall is a great way to showcase a mix of works in a small space. Laying out your pieces on the floor or mocking up the hang on the wall using pieces of paper or copies of the pictures will help you see what artworks interact well with each other. Discovering connections between pieces that you didn’t know existed can be the best part of the process! By experimenting with the display, you’re also more likely to alight on a balanced composition. Don’t get too het up about spacing and alignment — I actually think a bit of variation in the gaps between works makes for a more organic display. Mixing sizes, media, textures and colours will also bring your own personality to it. Be brave because you can always change things around.