Interview
Art Dubai 2018

Confessions of a dealer: Conor Macklin

We talk to the Grosvenor Gallery director and Art Dubai exhibitor about FOMO and the joys of McDonald's Happy Meals

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My greatest achievement is…

So far, I have never sold a fake.

The most underrated art movement is…

Anything not contemporary.

The museum I’d like to lead…

The Adil Shah Museum of Modern Art in Goa, India, which was very close to being [built], but the local government abandoned the plans in 2017. I still hold a candle for living part of the year in Goa.

The artist I should have signed…

I once tried to sign M.F. Husain, but he wisely put me off the track, stating: “No dealer can afford me.” He sold his own works far more successfully than I could have ever dreamed of—even in multiples.

I last cooked for...

I haven’t cooked for ages, except for sausages on the barbecue. However, a memorable recent meal was with Kiran Nadar, the owner of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art [in New Delhi]. After seeing some contemporary shows in the East End [of London], we settled down to a very satisfying Happy Meal at McDonald’s.

Dealers are misunderstood because…

They think they are not lice, as Marcel Duchamp once aptly described them.

Fairs are important…

To meet people. Becoming temporary neighbours with a wide range of galleries for a short, intense period has its highs and lows. I dread to think what they’ve all thought of us.

A recurring nightmare involves…

Artists complaining.

I was happiest when…

At a fair in Delhi, completing a deal for about $25. It wasn’t the money so much as this couple had wanted a print by one of our artists, Senaka [Senanayake]. You could tell it was their first-ever art purchase and it was a big deal for them. All the emotions, the anguish of the purchase and then the smiles and hugs they gave each other—the joy and worry of it was etched all over their faces. Made my fair.

The next big thing…

Handwritten letters. Emails, Instagram and WhatsApp leave no trace. Want to sell your archive to the Getty? Write letters.

I wish I had met…

The enfant terrible of Indian art of the 20th century, Francis Newton Souza. He has consumed my life for more than 20 years and counting.

Life’s too short to…

Cancel or change plans. Make a call and live with it.

My Art Dubai dream is to…

Return with the Tate’s budget for South Asia acquisitions. I get frustrated, as a taxpayer, at how curators convince the board to buy massive installations that cost a fortune to ship, install and store, knowing full well they can easily be loaned for a show if they’re so important. Whereas their holdings of modern works are extremely poor.

Things that keep me awake at 3am...

If not the kids, then the foxes in our garden in North London.

My biggest mistake...

FOMO.

Small talk is…

Like pulling teeth. I can’t stand it when yet another consultant comes on the stand and asks: “How’s it going?”

Travel broadens...

My network, forces me to meet people, I love it!