Vanessa Vainio is a London-based curator and advisor, with over 13 years experience in blue chip galleries such as Skarstedt and Lisson Gallery. She launched her nomadic platform for artist projects in 2019, her programme focused on emerging and mid-career artists in the contemporary art world, temporary projects in London, Paris, New York, and Hong Kong, in galleries and independent spaces. Vanessa is now the director of Ab-Anbar Gallery, a leading contemporary art gallery in London. Vanessa is known for her innovative approach to curating and her commitment to nurturing emerging talent. Her vision and leadership have helped to establish Ab-Anbar Gallery as a leading force in the contemporary art world, and she continues to shape the discourse around art and culture through her work.
@vanessa_vainio | @ab_anbar
You've worked in the art world and launched various galleries in London, as well as your own. What brought you here from Vancouver, and what would you say are your "greatest achievements" in the London art scene so far?
I came to London for art, it was important for me to be in one of the art capitals. For years I worked in galleries with spaces both in NY and London, and have always loved the pace of life here more. In London we have greenery and take a more European approach to life. Working with so many incredible artists over the years is definitely my greatest achievement - they inspire and challenge me.
Please share with us Ab Anbar Gallery’s concept and art they show.
Ab Anbar Contemporary Art gallery in London serves as a nurturing incubator that engages non-linear histories of art and history. Often diasporic, AB-ANBAR represents artists and develops projects with artistic voices from multiple latitudes who embody multiple forms of identity. AB-ANBAR’s exhibitions and programmes present artists who traverse the aesthetic and political, as well as social and psychological borders.
Where in the world do you feel the most inspired?
I love Greece - Athens is such a vibrant city that has an energy of renewal. Galleries and restaurants have popped up in disused spaces, there is so much creativity there. I of course love the islands, each one has its own identity, but I am happiest on a beach with a simple taverna with plastic chairs.
You live in Notting Hill (a close walk to our studio!). What inspires you in the area? Any favourite finds that our shoppers might want to know about in the neighbourhood?
I love the diversity of the neighbourhood, it's such an easy place to live with great pubs and restaurants. I rarely leave the neighbourhood on weekends - it’s farmers market and a stroll up to one of my favourite pubs. Golborne Road is one of my favourite spots, the tourists don't make it up there so it's all locals. Golborne Wine & Deli do amazing wines by the glass, and I always find something I never knew I needed at Les Couilles Du Chien.
What artists have personally influenced you recently? List some of your favourites, and why.
I see art every day and fall in love with a new artist every day. I love the work of George Rouy, his figurative canvases feature fleshy nudes washed in soft hues of pinks and blues. I saw Magdalena Abakanowicz yesterday at Tate and the exhibition blew me away, her sculptures made of woven fabrics challenged the boundaries of what was considered art. She took inspiration from folklore and in this exhibition presents her work in a forest of sculptures. Another artist's work which always inspires me is Cecily Brown, her approach to abstract painting questions and satirises the masculinity that has been historically linked to abstract expressionism. She paints with an evident eroticism that visually links contemporary pornography with Old Master painting.
Is there anything you would like to achieve that you haven’t already? (*can be in life, in career, up to you!)
Too much to even name. One thing I always have on my mind is trying to get my doctorate in Anthropology, but maybe this is something I will come back to later in life.
What is your favourite exhibition, partnership, or project that you've completed in the past few years? What felt so important or special about it?
I have launched so many exhibitions and special projects in my career. It's hard to name only one. Last year during Frieze week Ab-Anbar exhibited the work of Sonia Balassanian, an incredible artist in her late 70's. She hadn't had exposure since the 1980's and it was incredible to give her this platform - the exhibition was staged as a mini retrospective and showed the breadth of her work from performance art, installation and paintings. She is most known for her lyrical abstract paintings which have a very meditative quality to them. This exhibition brought Sonias work back into focus and we were able to place many of her works in incredible international art institutions.
What are your favourite pieces from OYUNA's present collection?
I have a beautiful DRANO skirt with the matching LEWA sweater, these have become the wardrobe staples I live in. Not only do they feel amazing, they are so comfortable and chic.
To finish off, I have a few simple questions; you can reply with a word or a couple of words…
If I say blue, what comes to your mind?
Yves Klein blue
The brushstrokes of a painting
Looking into the eyes of someone you love
Finding a personal style