Is it better for an art collector to buy through a dealer or a gallery or direct from the artists studio ?


This is a complex and painful issue for me to discuss, but after many years of gallery, dealer and arts advisor collaborations, in 2019 I decided to withdraw from all external representation; Instead electing to regain control of my schedule, pricing, inventory, consignments, press, projects and generally how my work is seen by the outside world.

where to start collecting art not a gallery direct with the artists studio
Morpho Amathonto 0220’ from the 'Swarm' series, dated 2011.
Edition of 10,  63 x 63 inches / 160 x 160 cms - SOLD OUT.
exhibition 'The house of the Nobleman' 2011, London.
exhibition 'A beautiful announcement of death' 2012. PA & G Gallery, London.
exhibition 'Death of the dream' 2017 Dellasposa Gallery, London.


This is my personal view of course, so take it with a pinch of salt please.

‘  I no longer have respect for the gallery collector, they are too heavily enthused with the intellectual prostitution and the circle of institutions feeding upon it. The big gallery system has clearly become dysfunctional, the only worthy provenance for a collector is that of direct contact with the artist and their studio.  ’

For any collector just starting out or those with an already well structured collection, visiting gallery exhibitions & art fairs has always been said to be an important avenue to tune your eye discovering what is good and what is not and to see trends rising and falling. But in a digital age we are able to do that in private, surely. It is important to remember that the artist behind these glossy gallery spaces is and always should be the central dialogue, regardless of their presence in the room when you encounter the work.

Most true artists are exploring their process through a lifelong journey, a cruel obsession of love, fear and torment. For me I am an artist not because I failed at something else, I do this because there is nothing else. All of the great artists I admire, either written in history or those of today suffer greatly for their creations, working long and solitary hours, often negating food, forsaking even basic healthcare so that all their energy, emotion and every single cent of revenue available is continually directed onto the canvas, whatever form it takes. Please remember this when you see the well choreographed and candelabra lit ‘Sale Room’.

Over 90% of gallery represented artists receive 50% of sales revenue in a best case scenario, so the price you pay is more than double what could ever hope to reach the artist to support them.

If you are buying an artwork I would hope the artists journey and message has meaning to you, that it adds emotional value to your acquisition, to know about the story behind its creation. I believe this is something of true importance, that the collector feels involved and a part of that continuing legacy.

For any artist in whatever medium, the concept of a gallery for me would be to support and nurture their chosen practice, one that I hope they would fervently believe in. This support while bringing the artists work to the attention of a wider audience, their client base and over time broadening that scope through exhibitions, art fairs and consistent dialogue with the media and outside world.

Over the years for me this unfortunately has not been the case. There are so many instance of broken promises, deals done in a shady place or without consent, shameful use of works being used in the media without even my basic moral rights being recognised. To one of the most common place and heartbreaking events of having works returned to the studio in a terrible condition after being loaned to gallery inventory or consignment hangs.

Large format museum framed photographic works are incredibly expensive for me to produce at my own cost, remembering that this is on top of the production of the photographic series in the first instance which in an analogue studio dedicated to not using post production is considerable; with everything having to exist physically in front of the lens before the canvas can be started. These works in sizes up to 200cms can weigh in excess of 80 kilos and with a protective museum face they are prone to scratching especially with my extensive use of deep blacks where they are more visible. So you can understand my feelings when works arrive back at the studio after bouncing around in the back of a rented van without proper care or protection, to me is sheer disrespectful madness, especially when considering they left the studio with perfectly prepared & cut to size wrapping protection using non adhesive bindings so everything could be re-used upon the artworks return or sale. 

During the period 2010 to 2016, I invested all of my earnings aside of basic studio costs into creating a broad ranging inventory from the previous 20 years work. The printing, mounting and framing costs were staggering, but I built a physical archive of my work in museum standard frames that was second to none. To see this investment so poorly cared for by those responsible for representing me was at the time, and still is today unforgivable.

Each gallery, art advisor or dealer works in their own unique and particular way, that is for certain, and I am not suggesting they all behave like this, but it is fair for me to share a few of these verifiable (not libellous) experiences. You must expect that each connection you work with comes with their own set of unique problems for the artist to manage whilst trying to stay sane. For me however managing these glitches in the system were continually materialising into a darkness hanging over me, even anger that I chose to do business with these people in the first instance, was it my ego in wanting to be recognised finally driving me into total madness? It was a time where these troubles constantly clouded my mind in the studio, to the point where it was preventing new works from moving forward. For allowing it to happen over decades I only have myself to blame. It is not enough for artists to suffer mentally as they must, and materially as they do, in the end they suffer physically in the very act of creation. Life being what it is one dreams of revenge.


poorly wrapped artworks returned to the studio after a consignment with the house of nobleman
Wrapped works returned to the studio after a long consignment with 'The house of nobleman'
of the 9 works loaned, 5 came back with serious damage with the gallery forgetting to mentioning it.


One instance in particular I recall in 2015 when out of the blue Halcyon Gallery asked for a selection of key works to hang in their flagship Bond Street Gallery in London, they were considering signing me as their 8th represented artist. For me it was flattering that a big gallery was at the door, had I finally made it to the point where my finances could stabilise so that I could get on with the work. I have always stated that I do not strive every day so that I can have a Ferrari parked outside the studio, I work day and night 7 days a week so that I have time for all the projects in my mind to be realised before my physical ability fails me. I made this clear during our very first conversations. A week later when their team arrived to collect the works, something was different, it was the first time a professional looking crew arrived to collect works from the studio, not 'a man in a van'. Was I already starting to feel the glow and big gallery vibe. The large works they collected were already well wrapped; something I have always prided myself on, the works selected were all very large and heavy needing special handling, care and attention to transport and hang. All of my works leaving the studio are made to the highest standards, and they still are. When these works came back some months later to my surprise they were wrapped with the same if not better protection; I was really impressed.

Everything way starting to feel wonderful with meetings over many months taking place, with works being selected and matched to the gallery floor-plans for an opening exhibition. Then for one reason or another over a year had passed by, these constant delays to our first exhibition together and the contract terms presented to me during that time were starting to worry me. At the time as a professional courtesy, I had blocked all other gallery and exhibition discussions out of respect for those ongoing with the much larger Halcyon Gallery. The paperwork I was asked to sign stated I would receive 35% as a percentage on sales and everything I created was theirs to accept or reject. I was also asked me to stop all licensing deals including those already under contract and close down my back catalogue and direct sales website. After all the time that had passed, I walked away from the discussions. Not their fault I am sure, they have a large machine to move things around and lots of expensive gallery spaces and staff to pay for, but after all this time, planning in fact 2 or 3 separate exhibitions all never reaching any further than the planning stage; always a bridesmaid never a bride it seemed; but you get the picture whilst I was feeling flattered by the galleries interest I was piece by piece destroying everything I had worked for just by being at the table, so I walked away. A few months later they signed Bob Dylan, I should be flattered I guess, but i do wonder if they offered him the same 35% on sales. 

I am only mentioning the tip of the iceberg on this journal entry of exactly how I ended up making this decision. Under normal circumstances an artist would have to grin and bear these things, but after nearly 40 years I was not prepared to do that any more so I made the decision to sever all gallery and dealer ties. Internally this was a violent decision to make, to tear myself away from what is known; to what is possible. Five years have past since that time and the studio & I are still here, continually producing new bodies of work with more time on my hands to plan my own trajectory undeterred by outside influences. If you do not believe how far I went in actually cutting the distractions out of my life and the disruptions they cause in the studio; I relocated the entire studio at the very same time to a tiny and very remote mountain location set at an altitude of 1200 metres in the middle of nowhere; and did not tell anybody of its location just to be certain nobody could come knocking at my door as so often happened with gallerists in the past.

Sales are of course thinner on the ground as to be expected, but I see that as a bonus, there have always been very few of my works out there, and that will help ensure my legacy and the investment of those who have supported my work over the years. Scarcity of works adds greatly to their collectable value, now and in the future. My collectors know that I am involved in every element of the production of my works adding rarity to a monastic dedication to craftsmanship and provenance.

Since 2019 when all of these profound decisions were being made and implemented, you would think it would all go quiet for me in the studio, but since that time I have been able to focus more on my projects without deviation, and the pace has quickened. During this short time the studio has broken ground on new sites & curated public exhibitions of exceptional standard. Most recently I can mention 'Dark Vat' in Siberia a three month artist residency fostering 15 young artists in a disused photographic paper factory working towards an exhibition opening that still to this day is having a seismic effect on the regions art landscape. In 2020 I planned and hosted 'Renaciendo', re-opening the abandoned Convent de los Carmelitas just north of Madrid after being closed to the public for 150 years for a spectacular open air exhibition of recycle inspired artworks. 

the 'Dark Vat' black water holographic reflection pool installation.
resident artist Inna Schestakova inside the 'Dark Vat' black water holographic reflection pool installation.


installation view of 'Renaciendo'


In 2021 I was able to open the first carbon neutral plastic and aluminium recycling studio in the Maldives called ‘Makers Place’ to recycle single use waste from the drinks industry, a problem that is blighting small island nations around the world. The facility has now field tested the machinery and systems that were designed from the ground up by me in the studio, specifically to suit the difficulties of island based operations. The facility conserves water and energy during every part of the process, with no fumes or other pollution ever leaving the facility. Currently there are plans to open further sites in 2024.


the organic mushrom architecture of Makers Place recycling studio opened by Alexander James Hamilton with the Soneva Foundation
the organic mushroom designed architecture of the Makers Place recycling studio


In 2021 I was able to design and implement a unique system for artwork authentication using NFC technology that is now attached to all my works. This encrypted tag allows any mobile phone to scan and verify the authenticity and provenance history of the artwork being scanned. The electronic tag is tamper proof and unique to the studio, no app is required on your mobile before scanning which bears no loading on the blockchain system with its horrifying carbon footprint. The system records each scanning event & then re-writes its own encryption to evade copying, scanning displays the artworks full history including signature biometrics, all recorded & displayed on your mobile through my archived & future proof Catalogue Raisonné.

nfc authentication for art without the need for an app to download


All of these projects were handled internally with no gallery or institutional support of any kind. Despite being self represented they all received solid media coverage with well attended public exhibitions from an incredible level of public support despite being in remote & unconnected locations. I truly believe that there was a time when people did great things, now all they do is sit around talking about great things, I will not be a part of that apathy and reluctance to take risks.

Of course every artist out there has to find their own path, this was my rather strange decision to extricate myself from the art world, so that I could get on with the work held within my mind. I am not saying that the gallery support I did in fact receive was not of great importance, far from it. As an unknown artist continually moving studio locations, they were invaluable in building early client awareness and sales, but it stayed there, stagnant, nothing new and exciting whatsoever was coming from those outside conversations. I had bigger plans, it was as simple as that.

Of course there are many factors that can influence anyones decision either for or against the gallery path and of course the same goes for my clients, so this is all based purely on my experiences. I bear no malice towards any of the past commercial relationships that I have been associated with; although clearly I should. This is about setting an example for choosing your own path, and not to have it dictated to you.

For one thing exhibiting independently is a monumental undertaking, but I am lucky that over the years I have developed my own 'Bullet' lighting system that I make by recycling aluminium cans into specialist artwork lighting systems. I have developed and refined the design many times over the years working on a lot of lighting installation projects, such as the one designed for long term outdoor use used on the 'Renaciendo' project, or for the exhibition 'Intersection' where I created a surreal vanitas room in a completely bare concrete floor plate of a new building in west London.


lighting a raw and bare floor plate in a building for an art exhibition bullet lighting
installing a 'zero screw' lighting rig at Iset Tower, Yeketerinburg in collaboration with the British Trade Council


This helps me install easily on site without the need for electricians or specialists, transforming the most baron and unforgiving of spaces into spectacular installations in themselves. This important tool makes my exhibition schedule independent of the gallery or institutional framework. Now I am not limited by the architectural confines of the art world, engaging the broader public sphere through interventions within natural landscapes and civic spaces alike. This has allowed me to concentrate on my practice and to expand on an arts education program that has a proven track record of positively affecting policy-making on issues of sustainability whilst engaging at a community level on projects of value and merit; at least to me and that is reason enough.

I would welcome hearing from collectors and artists about your own experiences, was I alone at wishing to go it alone ? do you prefer the gallery path for acquisitions? 

' The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion. '


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