An Interview with Benedict Sullivan, Founder of the Bernard Raphael Gallery, London.
Benedict and I met outside the Victoria & Albert museum on an Autumnal afternoon to discuss both the development of his nomadic Bernard Raphael Gallery and our shared passion for arts education and public engagement with culture. Introduced by a talented painter and mutual friend, we soon found that as art journalist and curator our paths were already entwined. Having studied History of Art at Edinburgh, Benedict set up the Bernard Raphael Gallery to combine his passion for art and supporting young British artists. The gallery is known for cultivating the next generation of talented, emerging artists on a more global scale than his contemporaries. Bernard Raphael's second Parisian show L'Afrique opens at Creative Door in Le Marais this weekend, exhibiting the work of the revered graffiti artist Moussa Sanogo.
Sullivan's first group show Dawn was met with critical acclaim as he exhibited a diverse array of London's most interesting young artists like Charlie Wetherill, Ivo Morrison and Storm Athill. His first solo show, Moussa Sanogo's kaleidoscopic L'Afrique exhibition tackles contentious issues from immigration to slavery and racism. Appearing in both London and Paris, Sanogo and Sullivan hope to raise questions as to where society is with regards to these important social issues. With more shows planned in London, Paris and around the world next year, the future looks bright for this young curator. His unique balance of creative ambition and a strong social conscience make him one to watch as the leaves begin to fall.
Moussa Sanogo's L'Afrique exhibition will be appearing at Creative Door, Paris, 6-8th November; and Crypt on the Green, London, 10-11th November
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion?
I wouldn’t say I had a “eureka” moment but I just followed the pretty bog-standard advice which most people will at some point receive which is to “do what you love” and History of Art had always been my favourite subject. My passion developed at school and then I studied it at the University of Edinburgh. I always knew I had to be my own boss, so post-university I set-up Bernard Raphael to begin my way in the art world.
What piece of your work would you like to be remembered for?
Aside from the gallery work, eventually I would like to set-up a foundation which helps everyone engage with culture and the arts, perhaps going into impoverished areas around the country and around the world so that art can reach everyone. Maybe I can branch out from that to solve the world’s problems, but I’ll start one step at a time.
If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?
This is perhaps the toughest question you could ask me. As a keen aestheticist, fantasist and day-dreamer, there are so many I periods from around the world I would love to choose. Either a Roman Gladiator or a French count from the 18th century. Probably one of those two.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
Something that makes your heart gasp and go “crikey”.
Do you have a favourite book, film or painting, which inspires you?
I’m more inspired by the general idea and pursuit of creating something wonderful. I watch a movie and just sit there and think “how amazing that someone has made this, I want to make something too.”
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Sorry to sound soppy, but my friends are. I’d indulge myself further if they let me. I think they’d probably tell you snacks though.
What fictional character from literature or film would you like to meet?
I think me, Gandalf and James Bond would make a pretty good crew.
Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?
Of course, it would be narrow-minded and Luddite to suggest that it couldn’t.
What do you wish every child were taught?
Good manners, respect, a musical instrument, another language, and to follow their dreams.
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
I don’t tend to question whether I should be doing what I’m doing. I’m very fortunate in so many ways. I tend to question why everyone else isn’t doing what I’m doing.
What is your favourite museum or art gallery and why?
Call me old-fashioned, but I can’t look past the Old Masters that reside in the National Gallery. I like to go and sit in there every so often, find a room, and soak it all in. I like to surround myself with their works. I feel like I absorb history when I do.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
I’d like to be the driving force behind getting major artists to collaborate with each other. Imagine Marina Abramovic and Damien Hirst in a staring competition, being photographed by Mario Testino and you’ll know what I mean. Why? Because I like to think big and who wouldn’t want to see that.
What is your daily routine when working?
The luxury of this job is that every day is a little bit different and there’s not so much a tedious routine. I make a checklist of the things I have to do that day, whether they be inside or outside my office, and I get them done; and with e-mails straight to my phone, I can work on the move.
What has been your most inspiring travel experience?
I have so many magical moments from my travels. As you can tell, I find it hard to whittle down to one experience. One that has to be near the top though is driving across the plains of Africa - mind-bogglingly beautiful.
What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps?
Just do it. Make a plan, and do it.
Why do you love what you do?
It’s interactive and creative - I get to work with beautiful art and beautiful people. It’s fun, but keeps you on your toes too.
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com