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Taking the reins
Nione Meakin catches up with Stewart Drew, concrete-lover, eBay addict and recently appointed director of the De La Warr Pavilion.
You’ve been working at the Pavilion since 2005 – what is it you love about the place?
I love the building and the sea views that go with it. The seafront was re-landscaped last year, which has really set off the Pavilion and made it great for families. Bexhill is a clean, calm and relaxing place to be.
What are you most proud of achieving?
Putting Richard Wilson’s Hang On A Minute Lads, I’ve Got A Great Idea... installation on the rooftop for the London 2012 Festival. It was wonderful to be able to realise such a major piece of Richard’s work at such an exciting and appropriate time.
The Pavilion’s late director Alan Haydon was known for his daring approach and belief that the arts should be accessible to all. Will you pick up those batons?
The Pavilion is a wonderfully democratic space and we will naturally continue with Alan’s vision. Where else can Andy Warhol, Cerith Wyn Evans, Richard Wilson and Ian Breakwell sit alongside Keane, Rich Hall, Imelda May, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti?
What do you think has enabled the Pavilion to attract such high-profile artists over the past few years?
The building is a huge attraction, but Alan also responded to the architecture with an aspirational programme that crossed all art forms and that had no boundaries.
Eddie Izzard has been a big supporter and patron, and has cited our “can-do”
attitude as a major factor of his involvement. Can we recreate the final scene of The Italian Job on the top of a Grade I-listed building? Of course!
You studied art – were you a good artist?
I studied art history through prints and drawings at Camberwell. It was a fantastic experience to be there in the early 1990s but my own efforts leave much to be desired.
Do you think a practical background is important for directors?
I’m a big fan of working your way up and learning on the way. I have fond memories of voluntary work at the British Museum and Museum of London after leaving college, and working the Long Bar at the National Theatre. I think this kind of experience helps you understand all aspects of an organisation and what it is you are trying to achieve.
Which artists do you most admire?
I was an obsessive fan of William Blake and Samuel Palmer for years after college, moving on to Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst. I also have a soft spot for Joseph Beuys.
What’s the most memorable event you’ve attended at the De La Warr Pavilion?
I have two. The opening night of Grayson Perry’s Unpopular Culture exhibition with a gig by The Fall – it was so busy we ran out of beer and had to go shopping halfway through the evening! Eddie Izzard with the Olympic Torch last year was also pretty memorable. I was lucky enough to be able to hand the torch round for people to have their pictures taken with it.
What is the most exciting thing the Pavilion has programmed for early 2013?
Shaun Gladwell’s Cycles Of Radical Will exhibition. Shaun represented Australia in the 2009 Venice Biennale and created a number of new works for the exhibition related to the culture of the local area. As well as new films, the exhibition includes a Triumph Daytona installation in the main foyer and a rooftop skate ramp installation – it’s great to move work outside the traditional gallery spaces.
Where is home for you and who do you live with?
I live in Hove with my wife and two children.
How do you unwind?
By spending far too much time on eBay!
You list your interests as “culture, concrete and collecting”. Can you elaborate on the last two?
I love concrete buildings and I am a big fan of Powell & Moya, who designed the Skylon at the Festival of Britain and the Museum of London. To be working in an Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff building is a real privilege for me. I also collect C20 ceramics, glass and ephemera. Being based in Bexhill deson’t help my collecting habit – there are far too many great charity and antique shops!