Juliana Cavaliero, half of Cavaliero Finn, discusses taking art out of austere white cube spaces and staging shows in unusual settings
When did you launch Cavaliero Finn, and why? Debra and I have been friends since meeting at Warwick University in the late eighties but we didn’t form Cavaliero Finn until 2004. Before that we both pursued separate careers – I was working in the commercial art world for a variety of art galleries and consultants including the Anthony d’Offay Gallery and Debra was in the world of PR on the board of Consolidated Communications, with one of the most successful independently owned firms of the time, working with a range of consumer clients within the Virgin Group.
Before setting up the company, we frequently talked about curating a space where everything was handmade and for sale, from paintings and sculpture to the lights, tableware, even the wallpaper and blinds. For our first show, we selected work from studios and degree shows we visited, creating a salon space where art, design and craft came together. We have never seen art and craft as separate.
People had come to me asking where they could buy art saying they found galleries intimidating so our aim was to take the art out of the austere white cube gallery spaces and show it in a more relaxed familiar space, where people could imagine how the work would look in their own homes. We showed in my home in South London for over 15 years, making sure to hang works that had a synergy in spaces that we all have; above a mantelpiece, over a radiator on a piano even in the loo. We have always been inspired by Kettles Yard House and the ethos of Jim Ede and we always seek to hang objects with wall work taking time to select pieces that go together, whether it’s weaving alongside ceramics or metal. We look at harmonies in tone and form, just as interior designers do.
We have curated shows in a variety of interesting and unusual spaces including manor houses, chapels, old factories, private members clubs and even an ambassador’s residence. We look for spaces where we can show work in new and innovative ways and have exhibited in London, The South West, Hampshire and Suffolk.
How do you choose the artists you represent? Initially we visited artists’ studios, degree shows and group shows, selecting works that spoke to both of us. Narrative is important to us and we are particularly interested in the story behind the work, looking for a unique voice that comes through in the pieces. We have to have an emotional response to the work and wouldn’t want to sell anything we wouldn’t want to own ourselves. We aren’t interested in trends, just great quality work that provokes an emotional response and stands the test of time. The emphasis is on originality and craftsmanship of the highest standard and we seek out heirloom pieces that have a lasting, stand-alone aesthetic beauty.
We have enjoyed seeing the success of so many artists that we showed in my home many years ago and are looking forward to re-uniting again with some of these artists to mark our twenty-year anniversary show next year. Slowly, as the business grew through word of mouth, we were put in touch with new fabulous artists and clients and now we are regularly approached for representation. We select work that we feel fits our portfolio and provenance is important to us. Many of our artists have pieces in museums. We aren’t focused on specialising in one material, we show paintings, sculpture, textiles, metal work, ceramics, glass and wood. All our artists are masters of their craft and push the boundaries of their material in new and innovative ways.
Where can interior designers see your collection? We are excited to have just become a member of the cooperative art space Cromwell Place and look forward to curating regular shows there. Cromwell Place has beautiful grade II listed spaces to exhibit in as well as a member’s bar and viewing rooms for our clients. We are confident that it will challenge us to put on some ambitious group shows.
We have always put on shows alongside our online gallery, in my home and in a variety of interesting spaces and have participated in art fairs since we started Cavaliero Finn. We have shown at the London Art Fair, Collect Art Fair, Artefact Contemporary Craft Fair, The Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair, Homo Faber in Venice and the Royal Society of Sculptors.
During lockdown we collaborated and formed a new umbrella called Crafting a Difference, in which a small group of galleries came together to navigate uncertain times. As a group we had strength in numbers with a wide access to an engaged and dedicated Instagram and social media following. We had different backgrounds and expertise that covered an in-depth knowledge of the art and craft market, networks, media, trends and much more. Hanging at different times we staged a physical exhibition over four floors of Soshiro Townhouse in Marylebone and used a 3D film company to film the show for our worldwide clients.
This was so successful that we went on to do another show between lockdowns in the Argentine Ambassador’s Residence in Belgravia. We had over 80 artists exhibiting at each, curating the show to complement the interiors of the house, contrasting old with new, antique with contemporary. Our online sales soared during this time as people looked to the internet to buy collectable works of the highest quality.
What can interior designers expect from Cavaliero Finn? Having been in the business for 20 years, interior designers come to us knowing that we can help them offer a range of high quality statement pieces for their client’s interiors. We regularly collaborate with interior designers on commissions and bespoke work.
We are planning some exciting group shows at Cromwell Place, including an exhibition on Pattern Seekers and Language in Art.
What is your favourite possession? My Dad died five years ago now and we had to sell the family house that we had lived in for over fifty years. He travelled the world with the British Council and had accumulated some wild and wonderful objects and artworks including a panel of stained glass that lived at the top of the stairs in front of the bannisters that we all used to slide down as children. It was a familiar fixture that all my friends remember fondly.
Unfortunately, it was very bashed in by the time he died and some of the glass and leadwork had been lost but it has been lovingly and laboriously restored by Jonathan Hunt at Leading Lights of London Ltd. I am not sure it has any monetary value but it’s very peaceful and meditative. Throughout the course of the day the piece becomes animated by the changing light flooding in from behind and it holds a special, nostalgic place in my heart worth more than money. The craftsmanship involved in stained glass is mind-blowing, dating back to the middle ages, incorporating colouring, staining and painting, each one requiring the application of so many skills, fused together through the use of lead which is both flexible and strong.
(Image at the top shows paintings by Rebecca McLynn ceramics by Sophie Cook)