The story of how Sleeping Giant was founded is becoming more and more common: an art lover with a head for business starts a makeshift gallery in his home, realizes it's actually a viable career pursuit, and then seeks out a professional space from which to show exhibitions on a full time basis. Okay, maybe not that common. But the very fact that more than one of the spaces I've profiled in my short (but illustrious!) career here at blogTO suggests that the current recession hasn't stifled the hope of all of those who believe arts-based professions can still pay the bills.
Josh Glover, the founder and owner of Sleeping Giant, is just one of those people. Having worked in a variety of professions over the years, his entry into the gallery game is rife with both enthusiasm at the change in direction and optimism that he can apply his previous business knowledge to this new endeavor. Running a successful gallery isn't easy, but I'd say that the above qualities are absolute requisites (in the absence of piles of public funding) in order to have a fighting chance. The still reasonable cost of renting a space in Trinity-Bellwoods doesn't hurt either.
On the more artistic side, another thing that helps galleries to achieve viability is establishing a roster of talent, the process of which Glover has already begun. Five of these artists are featured on the gallery's website , and they've been responsible for much (but not all) of the work that's been shown at Sleeping Giant. And, interestingly, Glover doesn't just rely on these artists for their work; he also uses them to help with the curatorial process. Because the gallery actively seeks out new artists, Glover and his team collectively review portfolios as part of the ongoing search for new talent.
Being a new gallery, however, Sleeping Giant also offers rentals of its space in the absence of this review process. That's not to say that anybody with enough cash could necessarily have a show, but the odds are that if someone's stuff's good, it'll be more than welcome. In fact, Glover tells me that thus far he's worked out deals with artists that balance the rental fees with reasonable commissions from the sale of work. It strikes me that this is a pretty good deal for the artist. After all, for those who aren't established, the fear always exists that the work won't sell. Better to save on the rent - which isn't contingent on sales - and worry about the commission later.
If and when this "later" comes, that's good for everybody. More than anything, what Glover hopes to do is to make good on the name he's given the gallery: he'd like to wake a few sleeping giants. Throughout our conversation he revealed that he's both passionate and confident in the artists he's shown, really believing that with enough exposure they'll garner both critical and financial success. It's certainly a nice thought, and one that puts some of the control in his hands as owner of a space. Toward that end, he's worked hard to get people into the gallery by keeping longer than normal hours (12-8, seven days a week), hosting live music events in the space, and by pushing the work to any and all comers.
As with many galleries that focus on emerging artists, there's no one medium or style that's particularly privileged over another at Sleeping Giant. Having said that, it's clear from the current artists on his roster and from what's been exhibited thus far that there's a predilection for street art and Pop Surrealism. But, I would imagine that as a result of Glover's open attitude, things will diversify as the gallery grows and books more shows. Who knows - maybe he'll find the right sniffing salts for a few would-be giants along the way?
The artwork depcited in this post is by Smolik . Please see the gallery's website for more information.