In this interview I talk with gallerist and curator Ed Cross. He is owner of Ed Cross Gallery near Barbican, London, and he also represents some of the most exciting artists, sculptors, and photographers on display.
Ed Crosss inaugural Summer show 14 July – 17 August 2022 featured some of the artists, photographers, sculptors he represents.
It included PABI DANIEL, ERMIAS EKUBE, LEAH GORDON, MÁRIO MACILAU, ABE ODEDINA, SOLA OLULODE, ERIC PINA.
Above image is by Abe Odedina
Second image is portrait photo of Ed Cross next to work by Ceser Cornejo
website for Ed Cross
You lived in Kenya for 20 years. Describe this time and how Art made an impression on you?
I was drawn to go and live in Kenya partly because of the sheer beauty of the pristine natural world there – the intensity of the colours and the light, the way people improvised so creatively to make their livings, with an environment like that – art can struggle to compete with life. Over the years you could see humanity encroaching on that natural world in inevitable ways.
You have been involved in collecting since 1988. How did you become a collector?
I am not really the collector “type” I am an incidental collector really – it is a shame not to acquire some of the art that passes through your hands as a gallerist – if you possibly can.. otherwise I am generally more interested in the artists as people and often friends as much as their art – which of course I love too.
You yourself are an artist and sculptor. You focused on this mainly between 2000 – 2007. I want to know how you as an artist labored over your art?
My interest in people fuelled the portraiture side of my art practice but in the end the “loneliness” of the artist’s path was one of the reasons I didn’t continue with it. My driver was intuition and that remans my driver which is why I found it so easy to transition to being a gallerist.
In 2005 you begin curating and exhibiting. You established Ed Cross Fine Art to promote and sell contemporary art from Africa and diasporas in 2009. Alongside this you co founded with Richard Branson and his partner at Virgin Robert Devereux the Daraja collection. In your own words describe these stages and functions?
I had never been comfortable about selling my own work – the last thing I wanted to do was to commercialise my practice – so it was a relief to me to step back in the world of commerce but driven by a passion for something beyond business. Daraja gave me the opportunity to travel and seek out new artists and get to know Senegal, Benin and Zimbabwe in particular in addition to countries like Ethiopia and Tanzania that I had visited in my earlier life in book publishing. In the end it boiled down to my passion for what I was doing which kept me on track through difficult times when art from Africa was often just a curiosity for many.
I visited your gallery today to see the current exhibition, inaugural Annual Summer Show (14th Jul – 17th Aug). The combination of artists and photographers like Leah Gordon is amazing. I’ve been trying to see a Leah Gordon piece for a long time so to see a Mário Macilau Photographic print on archival paper at the same time next to incredible works of art by artists I mentioned in the introduction is really something special. Speak to me about your interest in photography?
I am interested in photography partly because it has the ability to bring the experiences of unsung anonymous people to the world. Leah’s Haiti work celebrates the creativity and determination of people leaving under near impossible conditions – largely the result of centuries of colonial exploitation – to find trenchant voices to challenge abuses of power. Her work about British folk traditions tells the story of cultural threads that have survived over centuries in the face of ruthless economic interests. Mario Macilau himself has lived experience of destitution whilst growing up and a deep empathy informs all his work, taking the trouble to capture the essence of people and situations on the edges of mainstream society. Deep empathy informs all his work, taking the trouble to capture the essence of people and situations on the edges of mainstream society.