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Ed Sykes

Just Who Is Zavier Ellis?

The star of Shoreditch based dealer, Zavier Ellis, continues to shine following a series of knock-out curatorial events throughout 2012.

Text: Mike von Joel | Images: (c) Zavier Ellis

One of the hot tickets in 2012 was the double show of new talent at the B1, Bloomsbury Square. The mighty Saatchi empire staged their New Sensations exhibition in association with Channel Four in this expansive subterranean space, a guarantee itself of maximum artland exposure. But alongside this major lift for emerging young talent – now a key part of Charles Saatchi’s programming – another initiative was given equal billing – The Future Can Wait (1).

Zavier Ellis recollects how it all began: ‘Simon Rumley called a meeting of dealers with similar artists and we all talked through the possibilities. Simon and I ended up the only two left standing and we devised a large scale event, essentially London centric. We launched The Future Can Wait (TFCW) at the Old Truman Brewery in 2007. Rebecca Wilson was then premiering New Sensations also at the Truman. Same place, same time. Three years ago Rebecca suggested we talk and whilst they focus on graduates, we are concerned with emerging to mid-career artists. Our first collaboration with Saatchi was in 2011 at B1, Victoria House. It was mobbed. Of course, I already had my own showcase for graduates called Young Gods. In 2013 this exhibition will now be in collaboration with COLART, who own Winsor & Newton.’

Young Gods has already had noteworthy successes, introducing embryonic talents to major collections (example: Tessa Farmer to Saatchi, David Roberts and Spencer Brownstone; Nika Neelova, Slade graduate, Russian actress and diplomat’s daughter, to an international museum audience and savvy UK based collectors). Whilst Charles Saatchi acquired six works by Eric Manigaud.

Zavier Ellis’ uses his own art as a release from the relentless pressures of curating and presenting other artists and his work features in the Peter Nobel collection, Zurich, alongside Giacometti and Rauschenberg. But although a practising artist, Ellis has a burgeoning public profile through his Old Street gallery, Charlie Smith London Ltd., founded in 2007. And his drive and devotion to spotting new talent has forced Charlie Smith London into the vanguard of trending London spaces and its founder and director into similar prominence.

He is serious about his time in the studio although he is equally serious about the benefits of being engaged in the educational and intellectual aspects of creating survey shows about the never ending flow of ‘emerging talent’ that so exercises the contemporary art business. Ellis religiously visits all the BA and MA student shows in search of artists who fit his clearly defined criteria. ‘I have close personal relationships with the artists that I work with, so that’s something that’s very important to me and a benefit from curating and gallery running,’ he notes.

Zavier Ellis was born in Windsor and graduated from Manchester University (1993-96) although he now lives, newly married, in East Dulwich. He puts his passion for art at his mother’s feet, she is a talented draughtswoman, and early on he was a keen organiser of creative events – his first curatorial effort was in nearby Henley. Whilst doing his MA he exhibited at art fairs in the guise of Charlie Smith London, finally settling in Shoreditch, above The Reliance pub. ‘Old pubs mostly have a disused function room above,’ he says, ‘artists like it, it has the atmosphere of a pop up and it’s certainly not the White Cube [located just minutes away].

‘I rely on my own instinct about the work. I look for authenticity. It is important to meet the artist. In a way it’s a traditional model, but perhaps I do a lot more off-site than is usual. I’m quite a romantic – although art is subjective; the object gives value to the artist and brings value to the audience. Some things are timeless. My own perspective is curatorial – being collaborative with artists and critics, like with Edward Lucie Smith in Lithuania.

‘A lot of art and art galleries are poor quality – my strategy is to have a solid exhibition programme and a consolidated group of relating artists. Also, actually, to establish genuine relationships with like-minded collectors.

I’d like to be in the West End at some point but if I want a big space now I can simply use an off-site location. But to be honest, the West End has become the centre of the British art business and I do want to be a part of that...’


1. The Future Can Wait was devised by Zavier Ellis and Simon Rumley (Ellis is always keen that the latter is given due credit) in 2007.




www.zavierellis.com ï»¿

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