Martin Wittfooth Interview
You’re an established artist with a substantial fan base. What is the story behind selling your first painting?
The first painting I sold was exhibited La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles. It was part of a group show, and this first sale was an important one in that it opened the doors for feature shows in the future.
What has been the importance of networking for your career? How did you come to meet your most important contacts?
Networking has been crucial to landing new opportunities, both with regards to exhibitions and generating a wider collector base, and so forth. The thing is, there’s no set formula for how this has worked out for me. I’ve met a lot of influential people by dropping in on show openings – my own and other artists’ – and at other times I’ve been contacted by someone who’s seen my work somewhere and wants to collaborate on something. I will say though that perhaps the most important people I’ve met, in how they’ve been able to advance my career, have been other artists. “The good word” from another artist can have a lot of sway on the minds of curators, art dealers, and collectors.
Throughout your career, you have done a multitude of solo and group exhibitions. In your point of view, what are the pros and cons of each type?
The pros of a group show are usually two-fold: less pressure to complete a substantial series of work, and the participation of other artists often brings in exponentially more viewers and hence, the potential for more exposure. A con for group shows can often be that, unless it is tightly curated and revolving around a certain theme, the exhibit’s focus can appear somewhat scattered, and you don’t get a singular, cohesive sense of the show as a standalone experience. A solo show on the other hand, while being more intensive and carries the potential of great stress, is also limitless in what you can dream up, so long as you put aside the appropriate amount of time and effort into its creation. I tend to always follow some thematic direction while conceptualizing my solo exhibits, and in doing that I aim to give the whole show a certain feel that is common throughout the whole series. In getting more into installation-driven artwork lately, too, my aim for future solo shows is to attempt to really transform the space that my viewer walks into.
What was your worst experience during an exhibition? How did you manage to overcome it and ensure that it doesn’t happen again?
I can’t say that I’ve had a really bad experience yet, except where shipping is concerned. I love the whole process of putting a show together, but I hate packing and shipping my work. One time I shipped a couple of pieces to Montreal from New York, with three weeks of time to spare. I started to get worried about a week prior to the opening date since the gallery hadn’t received the package yet, so I checked the tracking, and found out that it hadn’t left New York yet. I went back to the post office, and was told they had no way of finding out where it was. This stressed me out huge. Mysteriously, the paintings arrived the day of the installation, which leads me to believe that the package was just sitting in the back room at the post office, and when I dropped by to give them a hard time, they probably spotted it back there and got moving. The moral of the story: never trust USPS.
Your work is currently on display at Bristol’s City Museum and Art Gallery. How difficult was it to break into the international market? Were the challenges different than the ones you faced in North America?
The Bristol Museum show was curated by Corey Helford Gallery of Los Angeles, and in picking the artists to represent for this show, they looked at North American artists. The response has been great, and my piece in that show was picked up by an Italian collector before the show opened, so I believe the international market has taken quite well to the work. I think that in today’s market, there are no set borders.
Is there anything that you would change about your career?
I attempt to change for the better all the time. I have few regrets, but I suppose I had to make whatever mistakes I feel I’ve made to have an awareness of how to improve.
There’s no doubt that you are a remarkable painter, how do you challenge yourself to keep improving both technically and conceptually?
I keep myself tuned to the work of both past and present artists whose work is intimidating in its scope, scale, ingenuity, or technical mastery. I also like to tackle a new challenge with every project I undertake – with every piece I create, I want to explore something new, which keeps things fresh, both for myself and hopefully for my viewer, as well.
Montrealers can currently view a sample of your work at Galerie d’art Yves Laroche. Are you planning any new exhibits in Canada?
I’ve been in talks with Yves and his fine folks about another solo in the future. No exact dates set, yet, but plans are underway.
Martin Wittfooth was born in Toronto in 1981. He earned his BAA in Illustration from Sheridan College in 2003. He currently lives and works as an illustrator and fine artist in New York City, where he earned his MFA at the School of Visual Arts.