“I got turned away from Battersea dogs home, who does that happen to?!” laughs Freddie, art dealer and founder of Ginny on Frederick, arguably, one of the most talked about galleries of the moment.
We’re sitting inside his gallery - or should I say miniscule-sandwich-shop-cum-gallery. The tiled space is about as wide as an arm’s length and could probably fit 10 people at a serious push. It would be easy to miss the space (unless there’s a show on), the gallery is by appointment only and so passers by would be forgiven for thinking the small space was abandoned. It’s all part of the Ginny on Frederick charm. Freddie doesn’t do PR, he doesn’t do digital marketing, and when I joke he’s the Maison Estelle of gallery’s he replies “what’s that?!” Which sums him and his strategy up nicely.
Freddie has done nothing to change the original tiled decor of the space, “it’s easy to wipe clean for one,” he says, “and it means I can do what I want with it.” He sits, dressed casually in trainers and shorts, on a little fold out chair, the only item in the space other than the pages of Real Review, Issue #14, a magazine displayed on the back wall.
Just like Freddie’s humorous conversation which flits from dogs to art to spirituality in the space of a minute, his exhibitions too are executed in a non-conventional manner. When first experimenting with exhibitions Freddie liked to push the conventional art boundaries. He would stage shows in hotel rooms - or even on trains. “One show I did was on this train from London to Hartford”, he explains, “and we left work at each station, so that you saw the full exhibition by going down the line and seeing the works. I was just really young and figuring out these kinds of crazy shows that were mainly for documentation online, so only a few people would see them.”
His approach to space is equally as creative, returning from the USA where he had studied, Freddie was on the lookout for a gallery space in London on the cheap. “I found a space in Haggerston in an archway that was used as beer storage. And I rented that and was like [to my then workplace] - I'm opening a project space. And unfortunately that then closed quickly because of the pandemic - as in within one show!”
The pandemic did not deter Freddie, a year and a half later he found his beloved sandwich shop located in Farringdon and opened its doors in September 2021. “I orgnanised three shows here and then I quit my job, and this became a commercial gallery.” The rest as they say is history. “I just started selling work, because I don't come from a background of art sales at all, I was just going with it. And the gallery got a bit of attention, people were interested in what I was doing, I began programming this space in an interesting way. Anyway, suddenly I was like ‘Oh s*** - I’m an art dealer now!’.”
There are some challenges with his little sandwich shop - for one, working out how to create interesting exhibitions and shows with minimal sq ft. “I was really conscious that I didn't want the gallery to be like a typical one. So I normally ask the artist to think of this space and their work as a whole show, but just in a very small space. I wanted people to physically come in rather than just look through the windows. I wanted to keep it tight. Small spaces can be really easy because you don't need that much work. But then also you have to figure out how to use the space well and present within spaces like this because you can't make anything bigger.”
Whilst operating from such a confined space, Freddie’s ambitions and success has grown, this October marks his first at the iconic Frieze art fair in London, which receives over 125,000 visitors each year and showcases some of the most famous artists on the planet - as well as grants new artists a chance to access the world stage. Ginny on Frederick will be showing the sculptor and installation artist Jack O’Brien.
Freddie’s choice in artists and who to champion is not from some preconceived notion of what art should be - he is simply drawn to obsessives - in many ways like himself. “I'm really interested in artists who have obsessive practice,’ he says, “I need them to be really obsessed about it, and that's why I have a wide range of people who work within the gallery."
The next steps for Ginny on Frederick are clear to Freddie. He is to move to a new space in September which is a little bigger than his current sandwich shop, “it’s an old loading bay we’ve done up,” he says.
I ask a final question, what’s Freddie’s advice for young art dealers out there wishing for the same success but not sure how to start? “Just start. Do a show in your house. Do a show in your fridge. Do it in a space that you can get for free and you can have people come, and just see how it goes.” And with that Freddie folds up his chair and it’s time to lock up shop.