I am delighted to have interviewed Curator, Consultant, Arts Speaker and Director of the Ingram collection, Jo Baring!
I have admired Baring and her career for years. We have a lot in common through our values and beliefs for the art world.
" I am also passionate about championing women artists and curated an exhibition this summer at The Lightbox Museum & Gallery (@thelightboxwoking) called ‘Redressing the Balance’ which put contemporary women artists alongside historical well known names. "
Enjoy our interview below!
Jo, how would you describe what you do TO PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW?
Very hard to describe in a few words! I am Director of the Ingram Collection, a not for profit which is about access to art, education, and celebrating Modern British Art, I set up and run the Ingram Prize which supports artists with a group show, solo show and residency, I work with galleries and museums across the UK curating shows, I do a podcast on Sculpture called Sculpting Lives, and lots of other things art related!
If you could have a meal with any artist from any time:
a) what would the meal be and
b) who would it be with
I’d love to have had a meal with the sculptor Elisabeth Frink. She a famous hostess, and the author Michael Morpurgo described her tables as being like a medieval banquet - laden with good food and good wine. She also frequently interspersed her day with a glass of champagne. I sit on the authentication committee for Elisabeth Frink and am frequently asked to lecture on the artist - one of my favourite topics to discuss!
Tell me about your earliest memory surrounding art, and when did you decide to pursue a career in art? What was your first job?
My earliest memory surrounding art is the art in Chichester Cathedral and Pallant House Gallery Chichester. I went to school in Chichester, and most of my school assemblies were in the cathedral, so I spent many an hour looking at all the treasures by artists such as Chagall, John Piper and Graham Sutherland. I also love the Pallant House collection, and am delighted that at the Ingram Collection I have been able to loan works to their exhibition programme, which is, under director Simon Martin, varied, forward thinking and highly engaging.
Do you have a top tip for someone starting out in the art world?
Be the best you can be at the job you are currently doing - that is the way to stand out, get noticed and get that promotion. Also, relationships are key! Go to events, introduce yourself and make those connections.
What was the first piece of artwork you bought/ collected jo?
‘Handle Bird’ which is a sculpture by the artist Breon O’Casey (1928-2011). I used to go and visit him down in Cornwall and I have many happy memories of those conversations with him. He was a fascinating and thoughtful man, son of the famed Irish playwright Sean O’Casey, and had been studio assistant to Barbara Hepworth. He actually ended up doing a sculpture of me called ‘Johanna’ which is also in my collection.
And what is the jewel in your art collection Jo?
My favourite pieces are those with which I have a personal collection to the artist and love a print I own by Anna Liber Lewis. Anna won our Ingram Prize and she has since became a good friend of mine. My current favourite painting is by Sophie Vallance Cantor, another artist who has been involved in the Ingram Prize. I recently curated a show of her work for Aleph Contemporary called ‘Even Tigers Need a Rest’ and have got two paintings from that show! I love looking at them as they are full of meaning for me. I have also been gifted some works by artists, such as the work ‘Queen of Hearts’ by the British pop artist Clive Barker which I love!
This is a tricky one I know! - If you could own any piece of artwork, what would that work be, and where would you hang it?
I would have Barbara Hepworth’s Family of Man sculptures. It is made up of 9 upright figures titled Young Girl, Youth, Bride, Bridegroom, Parent I, Parent II, Ancestor I, Ancestor II and Ultimate Form. In the current climate this idea of us all as a metaphorical universal family seems particularly potent and comforting.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I am fiercely competitive at sport! I rowed at Oxford and my Sculpting Lives podcast co-host Dr Sarah Victoria Turner rowed at Cambridge. We keep threatening to go out in a double scull but I imagine it would end in tears..
What has been your experience of the creative world so far?
So rewarding and fulfilling. I feel incredibly lucky to do what I do. The relationships I have built up with artists make me so happy - for me there is nothing better than going to an artists studio and hearing them talk about their work. I’m going to do an ‘In Conversation’ soon with the artist David Murphy (@_davidmurphystudio) and I am really looking forward to delving into his practice. What a privilege. And with the creative world - as with anything - you get out what you put in.
How would you reframe the conversation around art to get more people involved?
It needs to be less intimidating. There are still some galleries who seem to get a kick out of making it hard to knock on the door, go in and ask questions - I don’t understand that at all. I am passionate about art and want others to share my passion. That’s why I think art fairs are great - for example somewhere like Masterpiece (@masterpiecefair) there is everything under one roof and they encourage conversations and questions.
What are some things you’re committed to fulfilling in your career?
I don’t really set myself goals in my career. As long as I am fulfilled and challenged in the projects I do I am happy! The major thing I can do is listen, and I think recent conversations have been really helpful in terms of what I can do, in my role, to help in order to encourage inclusivity and accessibility in the arts, both for the art going public and artists. I am on the board of the charity Women of the Year (@womenofyear) which has recognised, inspired and celebrated the achievements of women of all background since 1955.
Tell me about the Ingram collection Jo, including the Ingram prize?
The Ingram Collection (@ingramcollectionuk) works in partnership with galleries, innovative spaces and emerging artistic talent to bring art to the widest possible audience. The Ingram Prize was set up in 2016. We had been buying from degree shows for a long time and wanted to formalise the process. Previous winners have gone on to great things - Alvin Ong (@alvinonglj)was one of last year’s winners and he has two of his paintings projected onto the facade of the National Gallery of Singapore and had a solo show in Sydney earlier this year.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
I need to indulge myself more I think as I found this question hard to answer!
What would be your dream project Jo?
I am so lucky in that I have able to make my dream projects happen. I had wanted to do a podcast for a while, and series 1 of Sculpting Lives was released earlier this year. We got great reviews, including Podcast of the Week in The Guardian. I have now got a great friend in my collaborator Dr Sarah Victoria Turner (@sculptinglives, @sarahvictoriaturner). We didn’t know one another well beforehand but went through a lot together during the time we were researching and recording. I value her opinions and energy so much, and can’t wait to get back in the studio with her.
Jo, who is your favourite historical female artist?
I can’t pick between sculptors Barbara Hepworth, Elisabeth Frink and Kim Lim (each of whom we profiled in Sculpting Lives. They each had different career narratives and faced personal and professional problems and I found their stories and courage inspiring.
And who are your favourite current practicing women artists?
Anna Liber Lewis (annalogue18)
Emma Prempeh (reclus_e)
Emma Cousin (emmacousin)
Rana Belgium (ranabegumstudio)
Tahmina Negmat (tahmina.negmat)
Sophie Vallance Cantor (im_na_naina)
Lucy Gregory (lucygreg0ry)
Cathie Pilkington (cathiepilkington)
Clare Burnett (clareeburnett)
Madinah Thompson (saras_story_mft)
Susie Olczak (susieolczak)