Don’t you love Twitter? I do! There is something so satisfying about meeting people we follow on Twitter only to discover how much we have in common. I’ve been following Cavaliero Finn for quite some time so was excited to go to one one of their open weekend exhibitions in their home-cum-gallery in South East London just before Christmas.
I loved everything about the house, their approach and styling, their selection of both emerging and internationally recognised artists and designers and foremost meeting the founders of Cavaliero and Finn.
Meet Debra Finn and Juliana Cavaliero.
Hugely talented, with an excellent eye for great art and design, I wanted to know so much more about these ladies, so I probed and asked them a few questions!
How did Cavaliero Finn come about? Juliana and I met at Warwick University many moons ago. It was here that our collective passion for contemporary art and design took hold and grew while we studied art together.
After Warwick Juliana spent ten years working at the high end of the art world with some of the industry’s major players like Joseph Beuys, Ron Mueck and Gerhard Richter at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery and the art consultancy division of Arthur Andersen, an experience that led her to believe that much more could be done to help up-and-coming artists sell their work. We’d talked about this problem many times over the years.
I had been rather disillusioned in my career in PR for a long time and dreamed of having my own shop selling something I was passionate about and could promote with integrity. I remember coming back from holiday and scribbling initial ideas on the back of a tatty old piece of paper on the plane.
Then in the first few months of 2003 my Mum sadly passed away, Juliana’s gallery closed and I fell pregnant with my first child – it was a rollercoaster of time as you might imagine. A new challenge was what was needed and one that would suit motherhood – Juliana fell pregnant with her second child that year too. I left my job as board director and Juliana and I set about creating Cavaliero Finn.
We set up the company initially doing a couple of shows a year at Juliana’s house. The premise was simple: to showcase art and design we loved, that was created by talented artists and designer-makers and to showcase it in a way that was inviting, familiar and informal. After spending many years of seeing art exhibited in sterile, white spaces where people spoke in hushed tones, often for fear of not saying the right thing, this was really important for me in particular.
For us it made perfect sense to exhibit our artists and designers work in a home. After all, this is where the pieces end up and it helps customers envisage how a work might look in their own work or home environment.
After hosting regular exhibitions at our home-cum-gallery in South East London for a number of years, we launched our online shop to give customers access to our products throughout the year. In the last couple of years we’ve also extended our exhibition programme to include art fairs such as the Affordable Art Fair.
Can you share the good, bad and ugly in having a business partner? Having a business partner is for the most part fab! In my case, having a business partner who’s also a friend means that I get to work with someone I like which is such a bonus, believe me. Working with someone you’ve known for a long time means that your working relationship is intuitive which is great.
The partnership also works as we both bring different skill sets to the table. I often have more of a consumer approach to the business and I am more technical than Juliana whereas Juliana’s knowledge of the art world is more in-depth as a result of her background. It just works.
I guess one of the downsides of working with a friend as your business partner for me is that because we work together we actually see each other less socially than we used to but then living three hours away from each other doesn’t help either – my fault as I moved from London to live in South Somerset with my family seven years ago.
What motivates you and how do you find emerging talents? This is a difficult question as we gain inspiration from so many things – from the shows we visit, from the artists and designers we speak to, from magazines and social media, from friends and family…. We are always on the look out for work that has that Cavaliero Finn trade mark. The work will be original, will have provenance, it will have quiet, aesthetical appeal and it will have been created with passion and skill, moreover, it will be a work of art that will stand the test of time and one that will be cherished by its owner for a very long time.
Buying contemporary art and design is not always easy. You make it look seamless. What’s the trick? Thank you. Our advice to anyone embarking on their first few art and design purchases is to do you homework first. By this we mean visit different types of galleries and museums and work out what you like and dislike. No one is expecting you to be able to recount Gombrich’s Story of Art word for word or anything, just go with your gut feel.
Once you feel confident in this you are ready to make your first purchase. This next piece of advice is the most important. Only buy what you love – it’s you that will have to live with it, so this is imperative.
When you see a piece you want to buy find out a bit about the artist or designer. Ask the gallery about the artist’s background, what inspires them and find out how they arrive at the finished piece. This will help you decide if you really want to make the investment in the piece. If you have fallen in love with an artist’s work it’s a much easier purchase if you know that there’s a chance that the work could increase in value if the artist or designer has done well at college or if they have won accolades. You may also find a personal connection with the story behind the work which will further enhance your enjoyment of the piece.
Once you’ve seen something you love and can afford, buy it, you won’t regret it.
You have regular exhibitions at your home-cum-gallery in South East London. That must take much organisation? Over the years we’ve honed the work down. For our first show we spent the afternoon before the private view baking bacon rolls for our guests, something that makes us cry with laughter now. You just don’t need to do that kind of thing. It does take a lot of time and consideration but we know the space so well at this stage that it takes a fraction of the time it used to.
Having now visited one of your exhibitions I noticed how much I trusted your curation of artists and admired your talent in display. Surely that’s a skill? Why thank you Tina. I guess so, we’ve been doing this for a number of years and it is now just second nature to us but you are right, a good hang, as we call it, is quite an art in itself. Juliana learnt a lot from her time with Anthony d’Offay who was a great inspiration. He definitely taught her ‘how to hang’ and she shared that with me. He would leave her to hang a room and then come and comment and change things, he was quite a perfectionist and she learnt to emulate that. Working for a gallery like that you learn a lot. You learn the value of and artists work and how to showcase it to best effect. So when we curate a Cavaliero Finn show careful thought goes into it. We think about what works together tonally, we think about how the variations in height of our pieces affect the way the eye travels around the show. We understand what styles of paintings should go together. We have a good feel for texture and surface and we are always careful not to make the environment look cluttered. Each piece needs its own space, room to breathe. This is especially hard when we exhibit work at art fairs where space is limited but its something we feel we have cracked, after a little trial and error.
Would you say people buy art for investment purpose or for passion or both? Most people buy a piece of art or design because it speaks to them in some way. They like it and want to be able to look at it time and time again, so we’d say for passion. It is then an added bonus if it then becomes an investment. Luckily for many of our customers their passion becomes an investment too.
What would you say is a big runner for 2014? Is there a trend or does it depend on the artists? We don’t really follow trends, we are always on the outlook for work that is fresh and interesting and we just go with what inspires us at the time.
What’s next for Cavaliero Finn? We plan to increase the number of shows we do this year and are planning on doing more external shows in interesting spaces.
Our next show will be held over two weekends on May 10th & 11th and May 17th & 18th. We’ve already planned the line up and are very excited about the show already.
We’ll also be making some improvements to our website this year as the online side of the business continues to grow.
What are your dreams for Cavaliero Finn in 5 years? I guess we’d like to have a more permanent retail space or perhaps two spaces one in London and one in the South West.
We’d also like to take the brand outside the UK by doing international art fairs but we hope to be doing this within the next five years.
Ladies, thank you so much. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and felt totally inspired by my visit to your exhibition. I hope to see you real soon and, if time permits, will pop along in May.
I bought a couple of of these swimmer jugs. LOVE!
Do you collect Art and Design? Will you share your approach to it?