Martin Raymond: With MPavilion what do you think – coming out of lockdown – are likely to be the key drivers of activity for artists and designers? Which areas do you think they’re going to be focused on?
Robert: Interestingly, when you talk about the in-between – the people in between the gatekeepers and the people who prevent the connections – and if I look at what I’ve done with Melbourne Fashion Festival, it was a direct-to-consumer event as MPavilion is. It’s a design-focused event activity, but it was never about designers talking to designers or architects talking to architects within that bubble. It was about talking to the users, the users of design and the users of architecture, it wasn’t just talking about the people who were in that (world). So I think this direct-to-consumer attitude, in a way, is a breaking down of the hierarchy, and what we’ve seen from a retail perspective is that wholesale disappears because it’s all about the vertical.
It’s all about how you can go from manufacturing to retail, cutting out the middle person; in a way it’s also, from a customer’s point of view, about how you can go direct to your consumer. I think with businesses we’ve all seen that the process of the Zoom meeting has cut out a lot of the hierarchy, and a lot of the speed humps which allow people in businesses to talk to one another because there are no middle management saying ‘no, you have to talk to me first’ because to some extent, everyone is in it together and that’s interesting.
Chris: Does that make gallerists the speed bumps of the cultural sector?
Robert: Yeah, I think, actually, that’s an interesting point. I think that could conceivably be the case. And really, if you think about highly successful artists or people like Picasso, like Dalí, they spoke direct to their audiences, and it’s interesting to see how something like the Venice Biennale, which was the great event of the past 20 years, broke down the gallery, collector, audience, artist relationship and made it much more porous. That said, it also came with its own hierarchies, but it’ll be interesting to see how it evolves, but also the relationships between artists – I’m sure a lot of artists have gone direct to their customers. Auction houses have already broken that link or road block.