The Third Policeman Gallery Opens in New York
An interview with the founder and curator of most exciting new gallery in New York City right now – started by two Brits
Interview by Teriha Yaegashi
Across the pond, two visionary ladies from the UK have set up shop to create The Third Policeman, one of the most exciting up-and-coming galleries in New York City. Lead by the charismatic founder and director Sinead Breslin, and curated by the razor-sharp Helena Haimes, their program offers a fresh perspective on the contemporary arts scene. Sinead was born in Ireland, spend youth between London and Northern Ireland before eventually moving away to explore the Moscow arts scene. A writer-turned-curator, Helena attended Goldsmiths for Fine Art and Art History, and the two met at the University of the West of England during Helena’s graduate studies in Fine Arts. Now both newly transplanted to New York, the two have kindly sat with us today to share a bit more background on their gallery operations and what’s lies ahead.
Tell us a little bit about each of your backgrounds.
S: My background is primarily in the arts; I am an artist and my practice has always been and continues to be incredibly important to me. Deciding to open a gallery was a very organic transition not only due to the knowledge gained dealing with galleries in the capacity of an artist, but also my experiences participating in artist run spaces, and the organization and curation of exhibitions. The process of exploring talent, visiting studios, investigating the driving force and visual outcomes of other artists is incredibly insightful and rewarding; it’s hugely satisfying then being able to provide a constructive platform.
H: I’ve been writing about art for various publications for a few years now and arts journalism is something I’m still very focused on. Coming to curating after writing a lot of reviews of other shows felt like a natural progression – at some point you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is!
Why did you decide to begin a gallery, particularly in New York (not London or elsewhere in the UK)?
S: The New York art scene is renowned and unbelievably comprehensive, there are an abundance of remarkable galleries and institutions and the marketplace is bigger and more expansive than anywhere else. The major appeal was the seemingly endless possibilities to meet with bright, intriguing artists, enthusiasts and art world professionals from a diversity of destinations and I have not been disappointed.
Aside from this, I have lived abroad for much time now, previous to NYC I was residing in Moscow for a few years. Although I adore the UK I enjoy the process of building communities elsewhere. The sense of being a part of something but not wholly belonging puts me in the position of an observer or researcher, a displaced participant so to speak, giving me a heightened appreciation of my surroundings whilst making it a lot easier to continually transform and develop without preconceived ideas of who and what I am. I will travel to Northern Ireland soon to visit family and I will probably regress back to being a 15 year old.
What intrigues you most about the New York arts scene?
H: I’m really impressed by how tenacious and resourceful New York-based artists are. You have to have such determination to make art here without a lot of financial backing – even more so if you’re making less obviously ‘sellable’ work. Somehow, though, the city’s legendary energy seems to drive practitioners forward – I’ve met more than one artist who holds down two or more jobs and works in the studio at night, surviving on a couple of hours’ sleep.
What do you miss the most from the UK?
H: Insanely good, cheap curry. I gorge myself on it when I go back and then don’t want to eat any more for weeks.
S: Family and friends. The accents. Being in Europe.
Do you intend to represent UK artists?
S: Sure, but not exclusively. The nationality of the artist is secondary, but it is important for me to represent a range of artists from different cultural backgrounds, this opens up intriguing and relevant dialogues surrounding the often-contrasting concerns of a diversity of cultural groups.
What is the goal behind the gallery – that is to say, what sets you apart from any other gallery space?
S: The main goal of The Third Policeman is to be an enabler of compelling art, the priority is the artist and we are fully committed to enriching the practices of those we work with and represent. Being an artist myself and dealing with galleries and institutions has been very insightful, this ensures that I avoid the pitfalls of many creative organizations.
Another major facet that sets us apart is our general attitude towards our audience. Building meaningful relationships with all those engage with The Third Policeman is extremely important, providing a platform where positive experiences can take place is a particularly satisfying venture. I have a space above the gallery that is an integral part of The Third Policeman – here we have a showroom and host dinner parties with artists, art world professionals and enthusiasts. These are opportunities for enjoyment, exchange, connections to be made and relationships to develop.
Define “art”, in your own terms.
H: There’s nothing better than decent, generously made art to enable us to relate (emotionally, culturally, philosophically) to other humans.
S: Whether we are the maker or the spectator, art is an activity we partake in. When one is resonating with the excitement of what they are experiencing their senses are operating at full peak, they are present in the current moment – they are fully alive. Good art reminds us that we are living and allows us to exist in the present. It allows us to interact with our contemporary situation and explore our needs, values and circumstance.
What is it like working together? Tell us something that you knew about each other going into this venture, and something that was unexpected.
H: Sinead is one of the most positive, tirelessly resolute people I’ve ever worked with. Knowing her work ethic and fantastic eye for decent contemporary art, both as an artist and viewer, was one of the main things that made me want to work with her at The Third Policeman. I also never knew it was possible for one woman to put away such an extraordinary quantity of tomatoes. Seriously.
S: Helena and I met whilst studying on the MA at The University of the west of England in 2007, my appreciation for her vast knowledge, insightful and in-depth commentary, passion, intuition and general devotion to the visual arts started there. Last year I invited Helena to Moscow to curate a group show that I participated in and this reaffirmed ideas that a potential long term working relationship would be a successful one. At this point the New York gallery was an abstract idea, so when it became a reality I posed the question. It seems very obvious to say but it is so important to work with those whose company you enjoy. Luckily for us we find each other totally hilarious, and our shared ethos towards the role of the gallery makes for smooth sailing. As for something unexpected, I didn’t realize she was such a bloody amazing chef, especially with tomatoes.
What’s been the most exciting or interesting part about putting exhibitions together?
S: Our mutual appreciation for the artists we work with. The trust and belief we have in each other. The creative freedom that occurs through in-depth discussion and often odd conversation.
H: For me, seeing works from artists I love having new, occasionally unexpected conversations with each other. In our current show, for example, Japanese painter Susumu Kamijo’s pieces are eyeing up Hector Arce Espasas’s ceramic-footed paintings in a way that always makes me smile.
Hanging shows collaboratively has also been really exciting and rewarding – we’ve had some brilliant conversations about the artworks during installs that have made me see them from a completely different angle.
Any plans to bring the gallery back home?
S: Never say never, but if the The Third Policeman were to expand or relocate in a few years, I feel it would be more beneficial and exciting for both artist and audience to show in a place where there is an emerging scene and market. I adore Moscow, I have an affinity with the city and the contemporary art scene is flourishing. Downtown LA, Detroit, Sãu Paulo, Mexico city and Istanbul are also interesting for me.
So… What’s next ?
H and S: As you’ll gather from the gallery name, we have an ongoing fascination with the literary fantastic – our first couple of shows have taken curatorial cues from contemporary and mid-20th Century magic realist novels. The first – The Place Where He Is Meant To Be Lost – was inspired by a line from a Haruki Murakami story called Town of Cats, and our current show by a quote from Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Plans are afoot for more shows in the same vein.
We are half way through this second exhibition – An Intricate Stew of Truths and Mirages – and it’s only the beginning of our journey, chapter one. We will continue to work with phenomenal artists, showcase compelling works of art, engage passionate and intriguing writers, collectors, critics and enthusiasts, explore different possibilities within our means, and deliver an outstanding program of exhibitions.