David Gryn, London

Your story since the childhood, the family, where you were born   Well, I was born in NY in the 1960s and then soon after my family moved to London, where I have always lived in the centre of the city – somehow it has been the centre of my universe. My father was the senior rabbi of the biggest reform synagogue in Great Britain, called the West London Synagogue. My mother was his supporter and a mother of four children. As a teenager I was going out to gigs, cycling around and having girlfriends. It was a very uncomplicated life.   I guess, in the back of my mind, I always felt that I was not struggling like my father did. He survived to Auschwitz. As a teenager it was always a sort of conflict, I was having this easy childhood in the middle of London and my father at the same age had to struggle to stay alive and all is family died. So, I guess at around my early teens, I was starting to make artworks that were connected to his experience and my understanding of that. He was a very public figure, he was not around too much, because he was always very busy. I also have three older sisters and my father was a feminist, considering men and women as equal. Somehow I was not getting much attention, which is fine, but I was always searching for a way to go out of there, and this was via my grandfather who was used to take me to watch football, which was Arsenal (that I still go to see quite often).   As an artist, my artworks were often connected to thinking how to position myself vis-à-vis my father, and his experience with the Holocaust; I made lots of works connected to his experiences in Auschwitz and how the human is, in the scene of atrocity and icon styled works, based on his role as rabbi. Over a period of making art and attending art school (I went to Saint Martins, staying in Central London), my work evolved over the next ten years from very figurative icons, playing with the idea of the beauty, of the religious, and of the figure of playing music, progressing more to abstraction, starting from blank, bleak, black paintings thinking around the gas chambers. Effectively they were all series of works describing how that world looked like to me.   Black paintings then became white ones. In the same period I met my wife, the artist Jane Bustin, who is a painter too, and it was a combination that I was more interested in seeing her than making art (we had the studio in East London at that time). And she was more interested in making artworks than seeing me! So I knew I had to be the person who might find another way, in order this relationship could work, and to have a more regular income, in order to consider raising a family. Being alone in an artist’s studio is a tough thing, solitary, it is very difficult to know how you are going to make the work, how you are going to show it, who’s going to be looking it, who’s going to buy it…How do you sustain yourself ???. All these questions were always at the top of my head – they meant how I can be. Then I was always more social as a being, more interested in audience, and in engaging an audience and seeing artworks. I supposed that those ten years of artist’s activity ended with those white paintings, where I was unsure what to do with them anymore. They were not sustaining me enough. How do I have a family?, how I do go forward in my future ?…I guess I got to a point where I wanted to have a family and maybe often was the case when in previous times, that women felt compelled or were coerced to stop working to have a family… I felt it was my duty and have continually encouraged Jane to maintain her art making.   I got work in a gallery located in Cork Street, at that time it was the premiere street for the best art galleries in town. There was not yet the big East End scene at this point.   Soon after, I started work in a new digital start up company working in the business information distribution and content production and I soon evolved into a more senior role, everything was moving very fast in those years: from proof-reader to European content director.   It was a gold rush, and suddenly having floppy disks turning into internet content, email was just emerging….There was a proliferation of investors into companies therefore a new wealth creation business was emerging: as an artist I was earning a fairly decent salary to start having a family. And after that job ended, I moved to another job, as content marketing director for an online company working with football clubs, televisions and musicians. It was again another weird year working in a company where I did not actually have any training in this skill. I was doing these things at a quite high level, earning decent money compared to artists…   Companies are difficult beasts to work in, full of bureaucracies and of political power play: people standing on each others heads trying to earn more money…. showing off to their bosses how amazing they are … Usually the people driving the company have a wiser vision, but those below them in the company pecking order often wanted to appear more important… It was not necessarily work for work sake – and I am not critical of the people, but of the fact that it was more about how to raise more money from the investors, about wealth creation. And I still see that as a common trend.   That work ended with a combination of what my wife, my head and my young child told me worked for me. She would often say that I was not suited for these things, as I was too sensitive and needed to do something I was really passionate about.   All along that period of my life, I was constantly working in art projects for charities (in terms of giving my time for free), trying to advise them on how to market themselves or to try to get a better audience, or more donors. I was also constantly going to exhibitions and meeting people of the sector. So I set up Artprojx that was really to empower new philanthropists, new collectors, new people who maybe are able to use their money and wealth to support the art world that so needs it. Going to the galleries, by supporting with art purchasing but also by supporting art venues by becoming patrons of galleries. That’s sounded unusual, but I was always interested in how wealthy people feel they can have a place in the art world, even if they are not artists. I was issuing another model, not the necessarily the best, but a new one, aiming to bring people, let’s say, to the Tate Gallery, to the ICA, at Camden Art Centre and say: here there is a new audience, make what you will from them to support you …This was prior to Frieze Art Fair, around 15-16 years ago.   After the company ended, and I started what I do now, I came across a friend, who owned the Prince Charles Cinema in London (located in West End is the best independent cinema in London and a has a very different approach). They wanted to develop their audience and I started to show artists’ moving image in the context of the cinema. I had several successful events – lots of attention from the press and the public and so galleries, institutions and artists’ were coming to me to ask me to help to show their works. Ever since, I have worked on the empowerment of artists’ moving image, often in the context of the cinema, but also in galleries, museums, art fairs – really pushing this forward to make sure that it is perceived as a true and real art form.     Quite often galleries treat the artists’ moving images with less importance than other forms, and often they complement the collectors with these works. Is it so quite difficult to develop a kind of empowerment in this field…   I’m mainly interested in developing audience, not just an audience of collectors. Audience is paramount for an artist (I come from being an artist) and then after that the added value is the production of the piece. A true artist is probably going to be more interested in art making than in revenue making.   The need and desire to make money to live sometimes is opposite to the need and desire to make art, they’re confused. What I have been trying to do, is to make the event happen as best possible, the outcomes are there for the gallery to maximize their true potential. There is not so much box office demand for this kind of art form – like there is for opera, ballet, musical theatre, pop music. The art world is still a very small niche when you come at the point of looking at an artwork. Now people go to the art fairs where in few days 50.000/60.000 are in a same building, to watch others and to be seen instead of watching artworks. It’s a confused time in the art world, as much as in other worlds, it is ostensibly social.     Daata, why?   I like the word Daata and it felt like a natural fusion of the words Art and Data. It was at the end of a long long period of considering names and we had almost 1000 to consider, and we just settled on a name to make sure we could start the company operating. It is really how you deliver that is paramount and if we do it well the name will be synonymous with greatness. It also sounded Finnish and there are Finnish connections to our company and I have always liked two a’s next to each other.     Anyone can collect the artworks on Daata, it is also a community (you can exchange works among collectors)…How Daata exactly works?   Not quite so, collectors often acquire artworks as a gift from somebody else more than to exchange them with other Daata collectors (anyway, for any exchange we do not take commissions). How Daata operates? We first commission (and pay) the artists to create artworks for the platform (so far there is around 60 artists). So often within the internet world you listen to stories like ‘can you give me your work, I will put it on a website…’. I do not work with content providers but with artists. We think the artists are the one to be respected the most, we approach artists we already value, otherwise we do not want to approach them. The marketplace is still evolving. We love when mass media are interested in us, because it potentially opens up a wider audience, but art is not entertainment, is not something that can easily go on Amazon. The rarefaction and the uniqueness are fairly important. The fact that we start from a price of $100 is so that anyone can buy (this does not mean that anyone wants to buy). We wanna treat art better than $1. Sometimes I buy music online for 0.99 cents; but we developed our business model and price points in order to pay the artists. There is a business model in the music industry where there are thousands or millions of purchases. We cannot anticipate thousands of purchases. So we have to have a price point that reflects the art world: I hope it will change somehow but not necessarily fully.   The artworks we sell are not to be put on a shelf, or necessarily hanging on your wall. You can have it always with you, on your monitor, on your Ipad, on your phone and show them when and where you like. We also offer our collection to institutions, we have had talks and screenings in many of them, especially in America because there is a somewhat more mature market and audience, in terms of appreciating video and digital works. We donate one edition of ours to an institution, so 108 works of our Season One has been gifted to the Hammer Museum. Digital and technological worlds are not ‘emerging’ – indeed they are already ‘emerged’ but for art museums it is still a new world.   Many institutions are not yet comfortable with digital files, they do not know what to do with digital files, they get nervous…We try to do everything easy for them, a quite straightforward process.   We have both freshly graduated artists and well known artists. Already very established collections purchased our editions from the platform, such as the Julia Stoschek Collection, Germany; KIASMA, Finland and the Zabludowicz Collection, UK. Collectors, including Robert and Renee Drake, The Netherlands; as well as galleries, including Elizabeth Dee, New York and Marc Foxx, Los Angeles. In this way, the artworks have a life outside the platform.   The aim since we started is to make everything easy with the download – and in doing so we managed all the legal ‘nightmares’ for that: contracts with artists, the distribution (the online distribution has a different and much more complicated set of rules than the offline one, a physical store).     Daata Editions produces, promotes (and sell) artworks designed for the web – and also poetry, with the upcoming second edition (i.e. Season Two) that will launch more than 40 new artworks. From 100$ anyone can become collector and of course it could further exchange the artworks among other Daata collectors. How did you get the idea and which kind of actions are behind? Can you tell us more about the poetry a passionate or a collector can buy next via Daata? The Season Two will host also poetry….   Already with the Season One we were aware that many artists were providing us works that were text based, that felt very poetical in the use of language and in the conception. But what we do is essential display artists’ video and sound: so we do not have poetry art, but only artists’ poetry. It is always made by artists. Most artist we work with use different medias, from painting to sculpture and also work digitally. So the poetical work has to be provided to us as well as a sound file or a video file, because currently this is how our platform works – or other forms that have to be yet to be shown (of which I’m not sure of), maybe it could be a website.   The first artist who was in the commissioning of this cycle was Tracey Emin, who created very brief poems of her reading them. The image on the website is her holding notes and reading them. I was very touched when I received them, they are very short and powerful. Sometimes you recognize a great artist from how easy the process is to work with them. Of course, buying an artwork from Tracey Emin for a few hundreds dollars is very unusual. I already know of few collectors buying them.   All artists have the same price when they start an edition with us, in the different sections. A freshly graduated artist has the same price and gets paid the same as a more famous artist. Keeping the price flat is not about how much money we are going to raise. It is about making affordable to pay an artist for the next round of commissioned productions. Artists can get paid because we have purchases, and so we can grow. When you get huge profits you need a larger staff to handle the business, it then usually ends up becoming a company and no longer an artists’ platform. The sadness in art world is that the more successful companies have – the less they have to show for themselves, they might employ creatives but they generally do not pay artists very much money. 50, 100 staff all around the world get paid, investors put in money, but the artists are offered to produce, to show for free. It is a corporate crime all of us are part of. Online where we are used to being able to read the news for free, we also presume art should be available for free.     When we met in Venice you told me how is crucial to change the aptitude of art teachers toward their scholars. Can you make an example of virtuous teaching behavior and/or method to better promote students’ skills? I often go to talk to major art schools, even to some regional ones. Recently we’ve been working with Royal College of Art, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Goldsmiths, Saint Martins. I get feedbacks from students all the time. They do not have a good exposure with real practitioners in the art world. Lots of the teachers are very good in teaching craft and arts and that’s what they are there to do. Sometimes they are there because their success in the art world as artists is not strong and they need to be paid to make a living and this is very real and very healthy, very understandable. There is the need for a greater exposure and understanding not just of market forces but on how people can communicate and how do you encourage them, how do you nurture them. That’s my work: working with people and not with oil paint or with digital mega pixel. It is all about human interaction, not about how brilliant I am, but how brilliant they are. Usually when I go to lecture students, I often research them before-hand: who they are before I meet them. I think this is important, it is vital. The skill you need to have in the art world to survive to it is to know who is the other person, how do you fit in with each other. Sometimes the chemistry and collaboration are there and I’m very passionate about that. To be a student artist is the most expensive studentship: you pay huge fees to become this thing where there may be no revenue ever to be an artist. Often I lecture to very young students – the foundation ones – and say: you’ve to stop now if you are not going be the very best. There is no point.   What is your most important milestone as professional and the one, more intimate, about your inner self? To have been true to myself in all my work life. I do pretty much my work on my own and I am a deliverer. So I guess my own milestone is that I deliver what I’m saying I will do. I aim to be a good guy on how I operate with people. It is not always possible if based on chemistry. My personal milestone is to be having created my own family and to be together, and married, with my wife for more than twenty two years and together from more than twenty five. By maintaining a relationship, by nurturing my sons, somehow keeping a roof on their heads I do not know how…Yes, this is my inner self milestone!   What is your favourite food and your favourite drink? I’ve lots of exotic foods in mind, but I wake up each morning by preparing the best ever porridge or muesli with fresh fruit for me and for my wife. It’s very good. I have diabetes and I think carefully to what I eat. I do not know if you can call gazpacho a drink but it is my favourite drink!   The music and the books with you now (and on which kind of table are they?) I have a few books by my bedside but I do not really read them. I read more online and a lots of news. My real reading is usually articles in The Guardian or other news website. I have a desire to read books about intimate human experiences (and see many movies about that, sometimes also thrillers for my testosterone moments!). So I’d say, I like a story of two people, about intimacy: about a man and a woman. Two heads talking of something, like also two women meeting at the breakfast table and speaking of their days or of the day to come… I read and read back these two books, having being on my bedside for long time now (he shows the covers: we are having a video interview London-Venice): The Best Intentions by Ingmar Bergman (it has been also a movie by Bille August, written by Bergman himself). And another bible, The Random House Best XX Century French Poetry. I had since so many years and I still think is my bible. When I was dating my wife, I was often buying these books because I liked the outside, while my wife was reading the inside and found them inspiring. I have a knowledge of images of books without having read them… This must seem bizarre, but I fall asleep when I read books and also in theatres. I have a very few things where I stay awake when I focus on or I listen or watch. Usually art, dance and music. Returning to that book, there are few poems I like, especially one on pastoral landscape by Alain Delahaye. To skip to one of your future questions, where I see me in ten years, I was always imagining to live in the islands of Scotland looking after goats. I do not think I will never do it, because it is very hard to make a living and to operate there, but I like to fantasize about it… I live a block away from heaven, an old Roman/Saxon wood Highgate Wood: every morning I walk my dog there. In the between of that block there is the Northern Line Underground which takes you to Central London. So you have the underground station of the urban London and also have a sort of heaven of the luscious green wood. I guess this is the conflict of the worlds I am living in. The central London and the idea of living in the middle of nowhere. Music: I have two pieces that are two sides of the same taste. One is Philip Glass, something I had in my head when I was setting up Daata Editions, I purchased a 0.99 cent track of a piece of piano music from his Orphee Suite two years before it started. That takes me into a new world. The idea of buying something online and own that music felt what I wanted to do with my website. The other thing keeping me going is along the lines of my teenage years, which is quite a long time ago in the mid Seventies: Baby I love you so by Jacob Miller and the dub side King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown by Augustus Pablo. Some music just makes me love.   A talent you have, the one you miss I like nurturing. This goes from my family to the art students. Not to say I have some power, it is something I want to do. It is maybe pertaining to the will to be a mother, to give birth. In a moment of crisis or of emergency my bigger skill is to know what to do and how to find my strength, I’m pretty good. If I have to find something in me that embodies my father’s history maybe is this virtue, because I guess he had to do the same too. Give me a huge car accident and I will run to it instead of running away from it.   Do you also write poems? When I was in the ‘falling in love’ process…Every time and again I wrote poems to my wife. If I still try to do it is not to play with words but communicating to someone how you want to be with her. How I love her. How magical and brilliant she is. Maybe I do not do it as much as I used to in the past, but I do it in other ways. Maybe my porridge is a version of those poems! When people get older is important to venerate, when you start to love each other’s wrinkles and grey hairs…The words and the thoughts you share have different phases in life. The poems I wrote to my wife when I started to propose to her …she actually had embroidered in her wedding dress… Words are very paramount for us. Also in Jane’s wedding ring there was a line I inscribed, it is from the Italian writer/poet, Italo Calvino, taken from his libretto of a Luciano Berio’s opera, Un Re in Ascolto: ‘hidden in remembrance is the silent memory of our future’. I was a student when I saw the opera and I wrote this line on my studio wall. It is really embodying all I’ve said about my childhood past until now. My wife too loved it on the inner side of the ring. Wearing it everyday. Inside the ring are words that I think are much more important than any jewel I could have placed on the outside.   What did you learn about life until now? I think that human coexistence and chemistry is paramount, not technological innovation of things, even if it is very important to make those things happen.     A special Daata show on empty LGBT architectures of entertainment is on until August 24 at BBar, Bauer, on free entrance, Campo San Moisè (Venezia).   To discover David Gryn’s Daata Editions: https://daata-editions.com/

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