Interview with Riflemaker’s Tot Tyler (Co-founder)

Published Sep, 2016

Tot Tyler. Photo credit Peter Ashworth.

Your background is mostly in music can you tell me more about that?

Professionally I was firstly in the dance and theatre world, then art and music. I came to London as a rehearsal pianist with a theatre company aged 16. In breaks in rehearsals, I used to wander into Sotheby’s in New Bond Street to kill time. It was close by. That’s how it started.

How and why did you decide to found a gallery?

With my co-founder Virginia Damtsa we wanted to be able to present properly some young artists we’d both been taking notice off individually. When we found our unique space — and bearing in mind the opportunities of those few years and the ‘buzz’ about contemporary art in London we figured we might be able to make it work.

The space is not the traditional white walled, white cube gallery, where you intentionally searching for a space that’s different? How and why did you choose the current location?

We wanted to be in the West End, everyone else was East then, but we thought they’d eventually end up coming back west. We felt that the clinical white-walled space wasn’t for us. It’s really a concept from the mid-sixties which became the norm through the eighties. I think most people’s idea of the white-walled space comes from scenes in Woody Allen films of the period.

Why is the gallery called the Riflemaker?

We had no budget and the sign with that name on it was already above the door so we just went with it. We didn’t want to put our names on the gallery. Wanted it to be artist-orientated, not ‘gallery-oriented’.

How has the art landscape changed since you opened the gallery?

It was difficult then, then it got more difficult, now it’s plain impossible. So many good galleries have closed in the past couple of years but if you are, as they say, a ‘happy warrior’ then you’ll stay open.

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