«We are passionate about art because of its ability to bring so many people together»
Carla Lariot, art advisor and art historian, and Luca Sandigliano, architect, are the founders of Lariot Collective, a London based art gallery with an international trajectory. Burgeoned in the midst of the pandemic, they faced all the inconveniences of that moment with creativity and intelligence. After three years, they managed to gain a foothold on the international contemporary art scene with an ecologically sustainable and constantly changing gallery blueprint, always seeking to adapt to the trade’s needs and trends.
A gallery creating a community around its artists that also has the ability to attract new collectors as well as more experienced ones, welcoming everyone with friendly and close manners.
We talked to its founders to get an in depth understanding of the soul of their company.
– You are a Spanish and an Italian who have been living in London for more than seven years. How did you meet and at what point did you decide to create the Lariot Collective gallery?
We met in London in February 2020, at that time Luca was working at Foster + Partners as Bim & Design System Coordinator and Carla was working as Art Advisor and emerging art specialist for the Cingilli Collection. Between us we always talked about our dreams of owning a gallery (Carla) and becoming an entrepreneur (Luca). When the pandemic hit, in October 2020 Carla lost her job, and that’s when it became clear that it was the best time to take a risk and create Lariot Collective. It was a personal quest by both of us at a very complex time for all of us, a challenge in the midst of confinement. We both believe that the most difficult moments in history are those that generate the greatest creativity and where the best projects emerge. It is essential to remember that a recession is also a catalyst for innovation and opportunity.
«We both believe that the most difficult moments in history are those that generate the greatest creativity»
– What is your relationship with art and culture? What are you most passionate about?
– Carla: I have had the immense good fortune to grow up in a family that has instilled in me a love of art and culture from a very young age. My grandmother was a painter, my father (Semiologist) was the director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome for 6 years and I grew up playing in artists’ studios. My mother (Sociologist) has always been closely connected to the world of culture. It was only natural that I decided to study art history and that I ended up working in it, it is the field in which I feel most comfortable and in which I have enjoyed the most. What fascinates me most about the world of art is the force of attraction it exerts and the capacity it has to bring so many people together.
«It was only natural that I decided to study art history and that I ended up working in it»
«What fascinates me most about the world of art is the force of attraction it exerts and the capacity it has to bring so many people together»
– Luca: My process has been very gradual and organic. Being born in a small town, I immediately had the curiosity and the desire to free myself from a relatively restricted reality, which allowed me to be exposed to different places, people, environments and inputs over the years and little by little I built up my cultural baggage.
Undoubtedly, having studied architecture played a fundamental role, as it is a very flexible discipline that opens your mind to 360 degrees, thanks to which I have cultivated all kinds of contacts and friendships. An architect can easily become a writer, filmmaker, fashion designer, photographer or artist. I have always been fascinated by the connection between art and architecture. Content and container, technique and imagination, light and shadow.
I am interested in the will of art to make you imagine something, the partial description and the mental freedom that is necessarily unleashed, this freedom is not allowed in all disciplines and is a very valuable aspect.
«I am interested in the will of art to make you imagine something»
«this freedom is not allowed in all disciplines and is a very valuable aspect»
– What does London bring to you and why was the gallery born in this city?
It is the city where we have both grown professionally, we both lived here for several years and London has always been a great art and business center. The art scene here is still unparalleled, an explosion of artists and galleries that are a great inspiration. We’ve always felt that if a small business can do well and function in a city like London, it can do well in any city, the competition here is so fierce.
«if a small business can do well and function in a city like London, it can do well in any city»
– What tasks do you each perform in the gallery and how do you complement each other?
The truth is that we complement each other very well, the fact that we come from different fields is key: Carla has more than 10 years of experience in the sector and professional experience in galleries, institutions and biennials as well as in the art market and therefore has the know-how; however, Luca, who comes from the world of architecture and has experience in management, is the one who brings the most groundbreaking ideas, he sees beyond any classical model and that is key.
We are both involved in all the decision-making processes, but perhaps Carla is the one who is more in charge of relations (both with artists and clients), sales and the more specialised part, and Luca is the one who is in charge of all the design and organisation. Lariot Collective is the combination of the two.
– Carla, you have worked for numerous public and private art institutions in the UK, Italy and Spain, including the Venice Biennale, Sabrina Amrani Art Gallery, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Frieze, Victoria & Albert Museum and Red Valentino, among others, as well as working as an art advisor to collectors.
What are the experiences that have given you the most personally and professionally?
Throughout my professional and academic career I have always tried to position myself internationally and to have experience in different fields within the art world and not to focus only on one sector but to have a broad experience in order to get to know this industry from different points of view.
I think that of all the professional experiences I have had, the ones that have taught me the most have been my time at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, where I understood that the art world was my passion; my time with Sabrina Amrani during the early years of the gallery, from whom I learnt a lot and who is a great example to me as a gallerist; the honour of having assisted Okwi Enwezor at the Venice Biennale and having been able to work hand in hand with the whole team behind the colossus of the biennale; and lastly, it has been key to have worked with Kemal Has Cingillioglu at the Cingilli Collection as an art advisor, thanks to him I have learned everything I know about the art market.
In all these experiences I have grown a lot, not only professionally but also personally.
«I have always tried to position myself internationally and to have experience in different fields within the art world»
«In all these experiences I have grown a lot, not only professionally but also personally»
– Luca, you are an architect by profession for a big company in London, but you have come to the world of contemporary art, do you somehow relate both worlds through the gallery?
My whole professional life has always revolved around the project: whether it’s designing a masterplan with Foster + Partners or directing the construction of a building with the MACE group.
The project defines a desire, an idea that takes shape, a precise objective, a timetable, a level of development depending on the availability of resources; it is a delicate balance. The project generates debate and at the same time generates development.
I think that design, not necessarily architectural design, identifies very clearly the point of connection between art and architecture.
In the gallery we live and feed on projects, they are the engine that drives our calendar forward and allows us to create an increasingly solid infrastructure over and over again, where we make mistakes, we learn and improve.
«The project generates debate and at the same time generates development»
«In the gallery we live and feed on projects, they are the engine that drives our calendar forward and allows us to create an increasingly solid infrastructure»
– How does the gallery usually operate and what strategy are you developing?
Lariot Collective organises four exhibitions a year and participates in fairs, we work very directly with our artists and our clients and we are always looking for new strategies, new spaces and new exhibition projects. In these years we have understood that the classic gallery model is not always sustainable and we are working to follow new gallery models that have a more tentacular strategy, with projects that go beyond exhibitions and that we believe are alternative models to the classic one, with a concept that unites the classic gallery model with a model closer to that of agencies and consultancies.
In this last year we are learning to have a strong business vision, we are starting to look for investors and to develop market strategies, to work hand in hand with a network of art advisors who support us in sales internationally and to look for partnerships with other industries. We are working between London and Madrid to remain within the European Union on a business level.
«In this last year we are learning to have a strong business vision, we are starting to look for investors and to develop market strategies»
«We are working between London and Madrid to remain within the European Union on a business level»
– Over the years you have been defining the style of art that interests you, how would you describe it and what differentiates you from other galleries?
We have needed some time to discover what our style is as a gallery, at first we thought we had to have several and test them in the market, but in a very organic way we have understood what our style is: we work mainly with painting, specifically figurative, with a strong and powerful style but at the same time it is very conceptual. We like to have a storytelling, but what we like most is to present artworks that have a lot of technique, that aesthetically we like a lot, but that confront you with a complex reality. As spectators we like artworks that leave a mark: not only amazing technically and aesthetically, but also because the message behind it is clear and energetic.
As a gallery we started out focusing on emerging and young artists, but now we are also working with established ones.
«we work mainly with painting, specifically figurative, with a strong and powerful style but at the same time it is very conceptual»
– What makes you different from other galleries?
Lariot Collective has a philosophy behind who we are, what we want the business to be like and what we want to do, and this changes the way we look at artists because the gallery is born with the idea of a collective, that is to build and share a community of people around our artists who share the same passion as us, whether they are collectors, institutions, brands, magazines, publishers, museums; we all share the same motivation to tell stories about those who inspire us. The narrative you choose to tell is very important, it has to be a narrative that you want to be heard. If we don’t believe in the story, we won’t push it. We are authentic and that is what makes our business effective in the long run.
We’ve realised that there are very traditional ideas and gallery models in the art sector. We try to deconstruct and reformulate the way a lot of things work at the moment in this sector and understand better how the art market works so that we can adapt new models. We are in a very traditional market and our gallery wants people who challenge their way of thinking. The art world has a hard time adapting, let’s change it with reflection and proactivity.
«the gallery is born with the idea of a collective, that is to build and share a community of people around our artists»
«We are in a very traditional market and our gallery wants people who challenge their way of thinking»
– Lariot Collective was born with an international vocation, in what aspects is it reflected?
London is a great business center, with start-ups and very inspiring think tankers. In the art world there are thousands and thousands of galleries and to be successful in an industry it is crucial to know what is happening, what is being done. There is so much happening that you feel you are always studying and analysing.
Right now we are being a bridge between Spain, Italy and the UK, we are exhibiting Spanish artists in the UK, London based international artists in Spain for the first time and bringing Italian artists here.
We are looking for art residencies in other countries so that our artists can have a presence internationally in other markets.
– Your clients are regular collectors but you also have new buyers who end up becoming collectors. How do you manage to create this interest in the art world and what are the particularities of the buying experience in the gallery?
We believe that art should be accessible to everyone and we work to make the experience of those who want to get to know Lariot Collective as close as possible and that they can feel that they are also part of our collective.
Our house is a working space and it also functions many times as a showroom and a space where we organise drinks and dinners with our collectors and people interested in our artists.
Nowadays anyone can be invited to the opening of a gallery, but we take it a step further by opening the doors of our home for a more personal and intimate experience. Since I was very young I have been fascinated with the idea of the gallerit’s house, there is a certain appeal in knowing the small chaos of artworks they have in their homes, and opening a house is also an act of showing a very personal side that not everyone is willing to show.
«Nowadays anyone can be invited to the opening of a gallery, but we take it a step further by opening the doors of our home for a more personal and intimate experience»
«Since I was very young I have been fascinated with the idea of the gallerit’s house»
We have realised that there is still a lot of unfamiliarity about the art market world, and there is a very high percentage of people who are art lovers but don’t take the step to buy simply because they think they can’t access it, or because they don’t know exactly what their style is or think they don’t have the budget; they are usually people who are very familiar with found investment but not with art investment.
We try to break down all these barriers, we advise on the art market, we help to establish budgets, we don’t want the purchase to be just a transaction but to be the closest possible experience and for this we deliver the works whenever we can in person, we open our doors and we believe in the synergies that are created, it is very important to maintain contact with people not only who have become our collectors, but to all those who show interest in our project.
Nowadays we have become used to having everything with a click, we are committed to interpersonal relationships, to experiences and Lariot Collective are not only those who work behind the gallery and our artists, but all those who are interested in our project and follow us. In a society in which everything is increasingly impersonal, it is important to feel that you are part of something.
«it is very important to maintain contact with people not only who have become our collectors, but to all those who show interest in our project»
«In a society in which everything is increasingly impersonal, it is important to feel that you are part of something»
– As an itinerant gallery, you are very conscious of your ecological impact and carbon footprint, how do you manage this aspect on a daily basis?
Yes, for us it is crucial and it is in our DNA, our pop-up gallery model implies flexibility, innovation and reduction of emissions, the key to a sustainable model.
This model allows us to expand nationally and internationally, to test cities and neighbourhoods and to change the static gallery model. It is an easy way to attract new visitors, avoiding a long-term lease. This model offers flexibility, cost reduction and additional income.
On the other hand, we have been part of The Gallery Climate Coalition since the beginning to fight the carbon footprint together with other international galleries.
We have made many changes in the logistics of the gallery and every movement is very well thought out: unless it is essential (for example shipments to the USA, Asia etc), we avoid sending works by air and the use of custom-made wooden crates: these crates are not going to have a second life, they are not sustainable, and therefore, we look for alternatives to the traditional shipment of art. If we have to send artworks, for example Madrid-London or London-Paris, we work with removal companies who, when they have a scheduled moving, they give us the go-ahead and we only use a small space to transport the artworks, maintaining a high level of security for the piece and its tracking at all times. Every small gesture helps to reduce the carbon footprint.
«We have made many changes in the logistics of the gallery and every movement is very well thought out»
«Every small gesture helps to reduce the carbon footprint»
– What is your assessment of these three years?
Three very happy years of hard work and personal and professional growth. Three years full of challenges, of connections and above all of growing hand in hand with our artists. We are very proud to have carried out our project in such a complicated moment.
Now in this third year we are moving into a phase of consolidation, business maturity, learning what works and what doesn’t and activating the tentacular model we were talking about before. I think it is very important as a company to know when to stop and analyse from a distance what needs to change and to know how to have a road map, to be prepared to face new challenges and to adapt the company to the needs of the moment. I would say that in these 3 years we have learned not only to be gallerists but also to be entrepreneurs, and this is something they never teach you in art history or architecture!
«in these three years we have learned not only to be gallerists but also to be entrepreneurs»
– How do you feel when you sell works that you particularly like?
On the one hand you feel happiness to see that the piece has found the right collector or collection / museum, but at the same time you feel very sad to part with it. During the time that you live with the piece until you sell it, you feel that you own part of the aura of that artwork, it becomes part of you and it is always sad to say goodbye. It’s part of our work. It is very nice when you see them again in collectors’ houses or even in private collections and museums.
There is a romantic part of not knowing whether you will see them again or not.
«During the time that you live with the piece until you sell it, you feel that you own part of the aura of that artwork, it becomes part of you and it is always sad to say goodbye»
– What are Lariot Collective’s upcoming events?
In june we just presented a duo show in London with works by Ernesto Crespo and Filippo Fanciotti and for the first time we collaborated with Bag, a great sound art project, they performed during the opening.
In september we will have a duo show with two Spanish artists in London: Santiago Talavera and José Luis Serzo.
And in autumn/winter we will do an exhibition with Diana Zrnic in London and a solo show in Madrid with Ernesto Crespo.
– What do you spend your time doing when you are not working?
We are both lucky that the gallery is our passion, and this means that most of our time is dedicated to Lariot Collective, preparing projects, events, etc. But when we are not working we visit exhibitions (professional defect!), we love walking in London’s parks: Luca is always looking for green spaces to detox from the city, we like to do yoga and read and I like to discover bargains in second-hand clothes shops from time to time.
– A wish that you would like to come true
If we say it, it won’t come true! But …. maybe we would say to never lose the sense of humour, it’s key to everything in life 😉
«to never lose the sense of humour, it’s key to everything in life ;)»