IN THE GALLERY: Rebecca Simpson

Familiarise yourself with Rebecca, our Gallery Assistant, the person behind the camera and frequently seen by the coffee machine. 

It's time for you to get acquainted with our Gallery Assistant, Rebecca Simpson. Leveraging her background in photography and curating, Rebecca brings a wealth of expertise to our gallery. She enhances our collection with her keen eye behind the camera and her meticulous approach to cataloguing artwork.

Could you share some background about yourself and what led you to your current position at Hancock Gallery?

Art has always been my passion, influenced by a creatively vibrant upbringing. While traditional academic subjects never quite resonated with me, the art world did. After earning a Bachelor's degree in photography, video, and digital imaging, followed by a Master's degree in curating, I embarked on a career managing a printing lab. Unfortunately, with the shift to self-service and declining demand for film printing, the lab closed, leaving me disheartened. I cherished every aspect of maintaining the lab, from colour grading to tailoring products for clients.

This setback led me to freelance commercial photography, where I struggled with the business side, finding joy in creating but frustration in administrative tasks. Balancing my neurodiverse brain between business administration and creative photography proved challenging.

Despite my love for photography, I'm equally drawn to gallery life. While seeking gallery positions, I occasionally assisted Professor Beryl Graham at Sunderland University, who had overseen my curating master's program. Alongside sporadic photography client work, I secured a role as an art consultant for a renowned naïve pastel artist in North Yorkshire.

Discovering my strength as an art consultant, I quickly advanced to the role of gallery assistant manager for two galleries simultaneously, eventually becoming a gallery manager. I cherished the rural lifestyle and professional growth but felt a longing to return to my coastal roots in Sunderland. This led me to Newcastle, where I aimed to engage with a broader spectrum of artists.

Could you share a particularly memorable or impactful exhibition that you've been involved in curating, and what made it stand out to you?

Looking back, I'm really digging into the past here, but during my time working on my Masters, I was also running a non-profit cooperative. It was a small group of us, all passionate creatives – graphic designers, photographers, curators – with a shared goal: giving emerging and established artists a platform for solo exhibitions. Despite our limited resources, we were determined and supported each other, and somehow we managed to turn a basic basement into a lively showcase space. Every month, we'd celebrate new artists with successful exhibitions, showing just how powerful collaboration and passion can be. It's still something I'm incredibly proud of. One standout memory for me was the exhibition with Muro Buro. He gave each of us a limited edition piece from the show, and it's become one of my most treasured items in my art collection.

What aspect of your role brings you the most joy or fulfilment?

I absolutely love it when a client shares a photo of their newly acquired artwork displayed in their home. It's a simple thing, but it brings me immense joy to hear how thrilled my clients are with their new piece. Connecting with people through art sales is what truly drives me! I'm always eager to notify an artist when their work has been sold. For me, it's all about the interaction between people and the circulation of art in and out of private collections. I particularly enjoy when clients are open to refreshing their collections by swapping pieces. And let's not forget discussing art in general...I could talk about it endlessly! Oh, and frames! I have a bit of a nerdy fascination with frames, mats, and paper quality.

Can you highlight one of your personal favourite artworks currently on display in the gallery?

I'm relieved you mentioned "artworks" because choosing just one would be impossible for me. Let me share a few favourites! Firstly, there's 'Quayside Sunlight' by Norman Long, a piece I've adored for quite some time—I might just cave in and buy it. Then there's Vincent Kamp's 'Poker Night At Thy Barber'—if you haven't seen it in person, you absolutely must. And lastly, there's Olga Krimon's 'Portrait Sketch', a beautiful study that always draws me in.

How do you balance your personal artistic tastes with the need to cater to a diverse range of visitors and collectors?

I have a keenly open mind, which seems to be a common trait among those immersed in the art world. I thrive on learning and am always curious, valuing the exposure to new ideas and perspectives. My personal tastes don't hinder my work or present a challenge when consulting on art or curating. I approach these tasks with a pragmatic mindset, finding enjoyment in understanding what a client desires or, when it comes to gallery arrangements, considering what flows harmoniously, what pieces complement or contrast each other. Art is inherently personal, and I believe it's essential to remain receptive, absorbing everything like a sponge. I'm not afraid to ask probing questions, although always in a respectful manner, to perhaps spark a new idea or suggest something unconventional. However, I'm also aware that my suggestions may not resonate with everyone, so it's truly a collaborative effort between myself and the client.

What's one valuable lesson you've learned from your experience working in the art gallery industry?

A valuable lesson that has resonated with me throughout my career is the importance of authenticity. Remaining genuine in my interactions with clients and artists fosters trust and mutual respect, ultimately enhancing the gallery experience for everyone involved. By staying true to myself and prioritising honest communication, I can forge meaningful connections and facilitate meaningful artistic exchanges. 

Baltic Sea, Rügen, 1996 by Hiroshi Sugimoto

If you could own one piece of artwork from history what would it be?

Selecting just one piece is impossible. Wouldn’t it be incredible to have a collection of pieces, each representing different movements or masters of particular mediums?! I could give you a top 5?

1) Rembrandt's 'Self-Portrait with Two Circles, 1660'

2) Hiroshi Sugimoto's 'Baltic Sea, Rügen, 1996'

3) Henri Matisse's 'The Parakeet and the Mermaid, 1952'

4) Edgar Degas's 'The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer'

5) The entirety of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks

Henri Matisse's 'The Parakeet and the Mermaid, 1952'

Are there any upcoming exhibitions or projects that you're particularly excited about, and why?

I'm absolutely thrilled that our gallery is now thee place for displaying and acquiring original works by Vincent Kamp. They're currently on display and available for purchase, by the way! Additionally, I'm on the edge of my seat with excitement about the upcoming collaborations with Prefab77 and Mul Draws. Furthermore, we're assisting a valued client in finding new homes for some remarkable original pieces by blue-chip artists like Degas, Henry Moore and Alfred Sisley. Photographing and cataloging these pieces was an absolute joy. I can hardly contain my anticipation for all these incredible opportunities this year! And that's just a glimpse of what's in store.

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