Gallery Girl meets Aindrea Emelife

Aindrea Emelife founded her eponymous nomadic London-based gallery Aindrea Contemporary in 2018, since then she has presented at art fairs, chaired panels and even opened her own residency – PLOP – with artist Oli Epp. Having studied at the prodigious Courtauld Institute of Art, she is also a writer and presenter. Gallery Girl met with Aindrea to talk being a young woman in the arts and sliding into artists’ DMs.

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“I’ve always been interested in art”, explains Aindrea, “From a very young age I spent a lot of time in art galleries – Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus at the National Gallery [in London] was an early favourite.” Since she was a teenager she knew she wanted a career in art, but she didn’t want to be confined to one particular job. “It is not in my personality type to be tied to one thing”, she says, “So I am glad my career is quite fluid. I engage with art in many different ways, so creating 360-degree engagement is so fulfilling. I feel very privileged to do what I do for a living.”

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Aindrea Contemporary at Draw Art Fair 2019

Now aged 25, Aindrea embarked on an art world career at the age of 19. “Have I felt, in the past, that I’ve needed to prove myself because of my age or gender? Yes”, she says, “But now, I am consciously trying to reject that way of thinking. I have a full CV and a heart overflowing with passion for this industry.” She even says that while she has come across the stereotypical “bullish art male type”, most of the time she has been met with great advice and a helping hand and early on in her writing career she was supported by some of the leading art critics writing at the time (all male). “Every industry has a different dynamic. It will be to no ones surprise that the art market side of things is more cutthroat than the other areas of the art world I partake in”, she explains, “In short, its hard but everything worth having is hard and it’s definitely getting better. Most of my favourite galleries are run or were started by women.”

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Hot (T)ropic, 2018 and Strange Fruit, 2016 by Michaela Yarwood-Dan in After Cesaire.

Aindrea was inspired to found her gallery after being invited to curate an exhibition at Platform Southwark in 2018. After Césaire included the work of five Black diasporan artists, drawing on Aimé and Suzanne Césaire’s Marxist and Surreal influences to comment on the Black British diasporan experience. “Curating the exhibition was such an exciting process that something awoke in me”, says Aindrea, explaining that she thinks of the gallery as more of a curatorial platform, which showcases the work of emerging and early career artists and also engages in critical discourse that broaches many subjects. That same year, Aindrea’s first show under the Aindrea Contemporary banner – The Lotus Eaters – opened in Triton Street, with seven artists responding to the lotus-eaters in the Odyssey.

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Christmas Expansion Pack, Hannah Tilson, 2018 in The Lotus Eaters.

But how does Aindrea find her artists? It turns out that many of her friends are artistically inclined, but she also isn’t afraid to use some modern day tactics to secure her talent. “The artists I work with are either talented individuals I follow on Instagram and slide into their DMs”, she says, “Or others are introduced to me by friends or are fabulous talents I’ve met via PLOP Residency.” PLOP is the residency that Aindrea co-hosts with her close friend – and artist – Oli Epp, providing artists with studio spaces and tutorials in London every month. And despite only opening in April 2019, so far PLOP has had residents from 12 countries, as well as applications from all over the world.

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As for artists she is excited with right now, Aindrea explains that the list changes very often, but she does cite Benjamin Spiers, Dale Lewis, Julie Curtiss, Avery Singer and Sophie Larrimore amongst her favourites.

In the immediate future, Aindrea Contemporary will be launching a new project during Frieze Week and will be working on satellite projects in restaurants and hotels. There will also be a large show before the end of the year. As for her career plans? “I’m working on a few projects for television and would love to write a book. Other than that, I’d love to curate some shows abroad, expand the residency and continue to support the arts in a multifaceted way”, explains Aindrea, “I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to lecture and contribute to panel discussions so would love to do more of that also. I have more ideas than I can do with – perhaps invent cloning so I can do them all?”

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer and curator. She is the founder of Gallery Girl - a London-based curatorial platform and website dedicated to modern and contemporary art from across the globe. Her work is primarily focused on supporting emerging female artists from the Middle East and the Caucasus. She has written for Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed Magazine, Suitcase and Vice Arabia among other publications. Her exhibitions in London and Armenia have been featured in Vogue Arabia, The Art Newspaper, The Art Gorgeous and numerous other news outlets. Gallery Girl has also spoken in the UK, UAE and Belgium about the contemporary art scene in the MENA region, and is planning further events in London and Amman.

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