To celebrate its 20th birthday, and to recognise Alan Cristea
s significant contribution to print publishing, the gallery is staging a special Anniversary Exhibition. Unbeknownst to Alan himself, they asked twenty-one of their artists to make a print in an edition of 40 for an anniversary portfolio.
The prints cover a wide range of techniques including woodcut, etching, screenprinting, lithography and carborundum relief. They gave the artists no specific brief beyond a size limitation, and whereas some, such as Jim Dine and Julian Opie, chose to refer specifically to Alan, others were slightly more oblique in their reference, such as Michael Craig-Martins Ashtray, 2014. All profits from the sale of the portfolios will be donated to the Greenhouse Charity and to Cancer Research UK. Portfolios have also been given to the British Museum, London, and an, as yet, unnamed American Museum.
Alongside the 20th Anniversary Portfolio, the gallery presents an exhibition surveying its highlights from the past 20 years by late artists, both from the gallerys collection and Alans personal collection, including Patrick Caulfield, Richard Hamilton, Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso and Dieter Roth, as well as prints by Josef Albers, Henri Matisse and Georges Braque. These works have been selected by Alan who worked with many of these artists over the past few decades, some before he established his gallery on Cork Street in 1995. Artist Sir Howard Hodgkin, who first collaborated with Alan in 1986, reflects, I first worked with Alan when he was part of Waddington Graphics. That was in 1986/87 for Red Palm and Black Palm. There were solo print exhibitions in 1991 and 1998 but the first time I worked with Alan as an independent publisher was with Venetian Views in 1995. They were made with Jack Shirreff at 107 Workshop in Wiltshire. Alan made it easy for me to work with Jack, mostly by keeping out of the way. That may sound a negative but its not always so easy. Printing, unlike painting, is a collaborative process and the less people meddle, the better. Alan never intruded or queried what I wanted to do, even when I made a print that was 20 ft. long
Over the years we have grown and grown old together. He has built up a formidable team and inspired them to match his standards as a professional. Hes now a global force, with a major presence at all the worlds important art fairs. Visitors report back, dazzled by the impact his stands have in Basel, Hong Kong, New York etc. I owe him a lot.
I said hed grown and the fruit of that was the exhibition in the summer of 2014, Green Thoughts, the best prepared, best documented, best presented and received show Ive ever had, thanks to the care that Alan and his team lavished on it.
Another long standing partnership is with Julian Opie, who exclusively publishes his limited editions with Alan and has featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions at the gallery. Opie comments, I have been making editions with Alan Cristea Gallery on an exclusive basis for over 15 years. With his quiet enthusiasm and appreciation of art Alan's studio visits, which are regular, always leave me with a buoyant feeling of energy and productivity. Alan is well known for his complete honesty and straightforwardness. He works with a fine mix of military efficiency and 60's laid-backness and if anything ever goes wrong he simply deals with it himself without further discussion.
Making a print or edition is a collaboration where I retain complete control over the edition while Alan keeps the ball rolling with production and then deals faultlessly with the complexities of storage, sales, cataloguing, pricing, marketing and exhibiting.
It's an honour to be part of the artist driven programme of serious historical and contemporary shows in the gallery and at art fairs worldwide. This is particularly rare in the confusing world of editions galleries. Wherever I travel I find admiration and respect for the gallery.
I have come across a strange snobbery that makes a hierarchy of editioned and unique works. Alan champions and enables the creation of art. Multiples allow greater dispersal of art and offer artists another way to work. There is a democracy in this which Alan has championed for 20 years. It's fun, productive, efficient and rewarding to work with Alan. I am betting that most of his represented artists feel the same and like me, are also happy to consider him a friend.