An interview with Brian Paul Clamp
Life before the gallery
As the founder of the ClampArt Gallery, you are very successful in the business. Of course, I am especially interested in your life and how you managed to develop a gallery in New York. Everybody starts building up their professional career at some point, but first of all I'm quite interested in your personal journey until you founded the gallery in 2000. You went to high school in Colorado, Bear Ceek High School. Are you also born and grew up in Colorado?
Yes, I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado.
Do you have any siblings and if so, how old are they?
I do not have any siblings.
Did you have any special career goals as a child and how different are they from your current career?
As a young person, I excelled in mathematics, and I always thought my career would head in that direction.
After graduating from high school, you studied art history, at the University of Colorado Boulder. Was there anyone in your life, maybe from school or family, who influenced you to pursue this field of study?
I attended the University of Colorado in Boulder as a mathematics major, but because of a wonderful darkroom course my senior year of high school, I took several electives in photography and art history in college. Eventually, by my junior year, I changed my major. I have to credit the young, energetic teacher who taught my first photography course in high school. She was excellent and got me excited about the medium. I wish I remembered her name!
Did you already have experience with the art scene in high school? In your first semester, did you already enjoy the subject or did you have any doubts? Have you ever considered changing your field of study? How long did you study for your Bachelor's degree and did you move out to study?
As I mentioned, by my junior year of college I changed my major from mathematics to a double degree in advertising and art history. It took me 4.5 years to earn my BS in Advertising and my BA in Art History.
Art history is a very broad field, did you have any particular focus during your bachelor's degree, perhaps on modern or contemporary art?
My undergraduate degree in art history covered the whole spectrum, but my personal interest was in photography with an emphasis on modern and contemporary art.
I also study art history and we only have theoretical learning elements. Can you tell me what that was like during your studies?
I am not sure what you mean by theoretical learning elements. My art history program was fairly typical in terms of slide lectures, seminars, and extensive writing.
Did you had a job in the art field alongside your studies or did you do internships to discover the world of work?
In undergraduate I worked at a one-hour photo lab in order to pay for my studies. Not exactly the “art world”!
Did you start your Master's degree directly after your Bachelor's degree, or did you have another job in the meanwhile?
Immediately after finishing my undergraduate degrees in Boulder, I moved to New York City and soon began working for a gallery on the Upper East Side. I remained there for nearly eight years. During the last two years, I pursued my Master’s degree in art history at Columbia University.
Afterwards you started studying Critical Studies in Modern Art at the University of Columbia. That's where you started to specialise. What made you decide on this specialisation?
I attended Columbia University in order to study with Rosalind E. Krauss—one of the preeminent scholars in the history of photography. Perhaps due to my interest in also shooting photographs, I always found myself drawn to contemporary work in particular.
For the Master's you moved to Columbia, across America to the East Coast. Did you move because the Master's programme was only offered at Columbia or were there other reasons?
As I said, I moved to New York many years before I started my Master’s program there.
Did you have any especially important and influencing contacts in your Master's degree? Was there maybe a professor who helped you? During the whole time of your studies, did you go abroad once?
I traveled abroad many times while pursuing my Master’s degree, mostly to Europe.
What did you do after your Master's degree, what profession did you pursue?
Once I finished my Master’s degree, I took the summer off to weigh my options, and by that fall I opened my gallery, ClampArt.
Important moments in your life and personal information
When was your first encounter with art? Well, when did you start to make your first contacts in the art world?
My first contacts in the art world were during my first job at the gallery on the Upper East Side.
Do you have any particularly important contacts that have had a significant influence on you or were there specific moments with art that influenced you personally?
The owners of the gallery (Owen Gallery) really taught me everything I know in terms of the business. I am very grateful to them for sharing their knowledge and offering me the opportunities they did.
Could you always count
on the support of your family in your career? What is your current family situation, are you married or do you have children?
I have a partner of ten years and no children.
How often have you moved and how often with the gallery?
Since coming to New York, I have not moved many times over the past twenty-eight years. The gallery has had four locations—all in Chelsea—since 2000.
Do you have plans to establish more galleries?
I have no plans to establish more galleries at this time.
Gallery ClampArt Beginnings
Now we will take a closer look at your gallery ClampArt in New York. At which point in your life did the idea of opening an own gallery first occur to you?
I never considered opening a gallery until graduate school in my late twenties.
Was a dream of your own gallery a dream that you realised in New York? How old were you at the time of establishing the gallery?
I was 30 years old when I opened my gallery.
The gallery represents emerging and mid-career artists in all media, with a focus on photography. But also, media such as contemporary paintings and prints from the early 20th century to the present. At the time of the gallery's foundation in 2000, did you already have multiple media or did you only have photographs?
When I opened the gallery, we concentrated exclusively on photography.
Has the focus of the gallery changed in the last 21 years?
Yes, as artists on the gallery’s roster began producing work in more than one medium, the gallery’s focus broadened.
Does the photography have a personal meaning for you? Have you tried your own luck in the area of art?
I used to shoot my own photographs, but that all came to an abrupt end when I opened my own gallery. I no longer had time for the darkroom, and was humbled by the wonderful artists I began to represent.
Artists and competition
ClampArt has artworks in many public collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City or the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in California. What exactly are the tasks of a gallery? Sell artworks to museums?
The gallery’s task is not only to sell artworks to private clients, corporate clients, and public collections, but also to provide whatever sort of support our represented artists might require.
What does your typical working routine look like?
Answering too many emails!
How many employees does the gallery have?
Right now, the gallery has just two employees and an intern, which is quite different from before the pandemic.
Regarding to the artists in your gallery, are there only national American artists or international as well?
We represent several international artists including Olaf Otto Becker, Michal Chelbin, and Robert Voit.
Is there an artist who is able to catch your intention in a special way with his art? Do you still have artists under contract with who you started in 2000?
We still work with some of the artists from 2000 including Robert Vizzini.
Which artist have you supported the longest and which the shortest?
I have probably worked longest and most actively with artists Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber.
Which artist was the very first in your gallery?
Our first exhibition was a group show with four artists—Brian Arnold, Alexandra Rowley, Robert Vizzini, and Serena Wellen.
Are the artists from a certain generation? How does the gallery attract new artists and what is the benefit for them to be in the gallery? Are there some specific support programs for artists? The art market is constantly evolving and how do you keep yourself informed about current market developments?
The best way to keep informed is to see as many shows as possible and to listen to artists, curators, and clients about what exciting art they have seen recently.
New York is a hot spot in the art scene and there are many other galleries or museums. How do you keep up with the other competing galleries? Is there any competition at all, because each gallery is unique?
There is a great deal of competition between galleries despite each one being unique.
Brian Paul Clamp
247 West 29th Street, Ground Floor
New York, NY 10001
United States of America
Pierre Etieve, born on january 22nd 2001 in Orléans
Bachelor European business communication
Internship 2022 at studio Thomas Kellner