In 2012, the Scottish-born art dealer James Gardner opened his gallery, Frutta, in Rome, and “on almost a daily basis over the past six years” people have asked him why he picked the Italian capital, he said recently in an email. “I’ve never got beyond the naive answer that I like the city, and ‘why not?’ I was 24, and at that age spontaneity takes over any form of reasoning—well, it did for me, anyway.”
Now Gardner is being asked a new question—why Glasgow?—since, on Thursday, he opened a space in Scotland’s most populous city, at 9 Duke Street, with a solo show by Santo Tolone. The answer he gives: “It’s my hometown and it is, in part, due to growing up there I am interested in art.” In addition, the city has a rich history of contributing to the arts, he continued, and it has remarkable collections of art and artifacts.
“It’s also interesting in terms of geography,” Gardner said. “Both Roma and Glasgow are somewhat on the geographical edge of Europe—that is, they parenthesize Central Europe and in that sense their independence makes [it] interesting. Yet they are linked via the openness to exchange ideas and their welcoming ethos. Both are cities have a constant influx of artists. Yet, the frames in which they provide to view art works and for artists themselves to produce work is very different.” (It’s also an ideal moment to open a space there, he noted, since the well-regarded Glasgow International just opened.)
The Tolone exhibition runs through May 26, and Gardner has shows on tap at the freshly inaugurated location later this year with two artists who are new to the gallery, Cornelia Baltes and Holly Hendry. (His current roster includes Gabriele De Santis, Stephen Felton, Lauren Keeley, and a handful of others.)
Gardner admitted that hasn’t decided exactly how he’ll divide his time between the two cities. (Nonstop flights are about three and a half hours). But, he said, “I think as a gallerist you end up spending so much of your time traveling, following and spending time with your artists that your time division is very much governed by them. Ultimately, it will allow me to spend more time in two cities that I enjoy! And artists enjoy!”