I have always admired Mary Corrigall for her ability to reinvent herself from critic, to journalist, to consultant, and sometimes all three at the same time. However, her essay "The Bigger Picture" (Cover Story, May 7-13), does your readers and the art market a disservice and is, frankly, laughable.

I cannot speak for the other galleries she writes about, but with respect to our group of galleries, her glib opinion of which galleries will survive Covid-19 because "they are less reliant on art fairs to reach European collectors" is in direct contradiction to her own supposedly authoritative "SA Art Market Report", released in December 2019. In that report she acknowledges the very same galleries as regularly participating in international fairs, a trait she thought elevated them to the top of the pile, while it was a black mark in her book that Everard Read did not participate in enough major international fairs.

How, then, three months later, does she arrive at the assertion that we "depend on art fairs to reach collectors beyond our borders"?

Her other assertion — that these galleries will fare better because they have "spaces in Europe" — ignores the fact that one only opened in October, while the other doesn’t even call its "space" in Europe a gallery, but more honestly "an office".

We, by contrast, have had a gallery in London since 2016, which has not only been financially independent since year one but has also broadened our collector base materially internationally, despite the challenges of Brexit, a weakened pound and now the global pandemic.

In fact, if you take Corrigall’s two criteria for "surviving" (not being reliant on art fairs, and having an exhibition space in Europe) then Everard Read is apparently the only gallery that has a shot at enduring.

The economic fallout from Covid-19 will no doubt be brutal and the art market will not be spared. For what it’s worth, though, we mounted two very strong digital exhibitions over lockdown that did extremely well with local and international collectors, sustaining many of our artists readily, and raising R2m for the Solidarity Fund to boot.

Furthermore, Lionel Smit’s digital exhibition in May sold out in a day, primarily to international collectors, so it’s not all doom and gloom. I hope this is true for all our fellow galleries, and that Corrigall’s opinion piece will be consigned to the rubbish heap of Covid-19 predictions where it belongs.

FM readers deserve better.

Charles Shields
Director, Everard Read, Cape Town

The FM welcomes concise letters from readers. They can be sent to fmmail@fm.co.za

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