by Pallavi MehraJan 19, 2023
Change is constant, and risk is a necessary element in the act of bringing about change in any context. In the creative community, this holds true at every level: from an individual or collective imbuing new ideas into their creative process, to transforming mindsets, and by extension, the status quo within the larger landscapes they inhabit. Having come from non-design backgrounds and working in the sectors of banking and marketing respectively, Sam Pratt and Valerio Capo took a leap of faith and dove into the realm of art and design, co-founding London-based Gallery FUMI back in 2008. At a time when the UK's capital had scarce specialist galleries, or even an audience for limited edition design works, the duo embarked on this labour of love, driven solely by passion and a strong desire to "invest in the people making the work".
Capo reflects on the origins of the duo’s radical shift in career paths, sharing, “We had the urge to create something that was our little world, and we started playing with the idea of opening a design gallery because we loved design - for one reason or another. We really had no idea what we were doing and learned year by year." Having initially set up shop in London’s Shoreditch district, Gallery FUMI set out to highlight newer, upcoming names in the domain of contemporary design, after having built relationships with artists, furniture designers, and product designers such as Max Lamb, Rowan Mersh, and design partnership Glithero while visiting design fairs, exhibitions, and design schools in cities throughout Europe.
"Our story started off displaying the work of old modern masters such as Gio Ponti in our first show, and then, we quickly thought that although we liked the famous and the imported, we also wanted to cast a light on the future," states Pratt. Now one of the most well-known spaces for those invested in the domain of original and innovative product and furniture designs, FUMI’s identity is closely tied to a sensitivity for materials and a focus on craft, as Capo explains: “Craftsmanship is very important for us. In fact, it’s probably one of the main values we appreciate in what we do, because the vast majority of artists we work with, make things themselves in their own studios."
In a similar vein, Amit Gupta, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of STIR, left behind a career in advertising to found 'vis à vis' - India’s first architecture and design gallery back in 1997, motivated by a wish to give voice to creatives in the country’s emerging design scene at the time. Despite their journeys commencing a decade apart, the parallels between them are uncannily similar, both with regard to the motives that fuelled their transitions as well as the odds confronted and the obstacles in carving out a niche within their respective contexts. As Gupta mentions, “In India, there was no culture of collecting design back in 1997. Although people had started investing in art or buying art, there were no takers for design. So we had to twist and turn our revenue models, and initially organise curated shows that could be sponsored by brands who were interested in supporting the creative community.”
Engaging in thought-provoking dialogues on entrepreneurship, curatorial philosophies, and bridging divides between art and design collection, Pratt, Capo, and Gupta delve into their respective stories - from FUMI’s experiences shifting gallery spaces from Shoreditch to their current home in Mayfair, to their exploits in Porto Cervo, Italy, under the invitation of reputed gallerist Rossana Orlandi. Reflecting on their hectic schedules and need to find enjoyment in their calling, the pair relays that their current scale of operations grants them the freedom to explore a variety of creative endeavours. Pratt notes: “We are quite keen on not being a big monolith gallery. Because of this, we can be more flexible, creative, and adjust with things. That’s what makes it fun really, and Valerio and I always want this to remain a fun experience.”
Simultaneously, Gupta recounts his own exploits over the years: from connecting the world through art on the eve of the current millennium, to inviting monumental figures such as Andrea Branzi or Piero Lissoni to India. In the process, he also conveys his goal for greater interaction between creatives and artisans from different parts of the world. Finally, the dialogue concludes with the trio's aspirations for what's NEXT for the global creative community - as Pratt and Capo express their hope for greater collaboration and stronger relationships with their makers, Gupta shares his wish for design to give back to nature in the wake of its exploitation by humanity while also stressing on the need for creatives to think laterally.
Catch the full conversation in the cover video.