“Our core mission is the identification, development and exposure of innovative artists for a 21st century audience.”
When you say Unit London, the first sound you utter, phonetically, is “You”. This may sound trivial, but it underpins the very purpose of the gallery – to re-inject a sense of humanity, of openness, and of inclusivity to a world which has tried so hard to exclude itself from the reach of the mainstream. Conversation, engagement and accessibility are core principles that define our mission, and we will only be happy when we have engendered genuine change within the industry and broken down the barriers that prevent so many people from engaging with art.
Jonny and I met at school when we were 11 years old. We would always talk about art, music, film, comedy (amongst other things), and perhaps subconsciously at the beginning, throughout our teens always dreamt of starting something creative together. We would share lesser-known artists with each other and obsess over their techniques and outputs – often adapting or borrowing elements of their work and using it to inform ours. We shared the same tastes – but we also shared an irrepressible work ethic which marked us as high achievers at school across both sport and academics. We thrived on challenging ourselves, and we still do today.
At the age of 23, having gone into different industries, we combined our experiences: Jonny had spent a year developing his own artistic practice in London, and I had travelled to Sydney for a job in a major advertising agency, working on multinational campaigns for some mega brands. We met up in London at the end of the summer in 2013, both fuelled by a desire to create something. We laid out our frustrations with the art industry, and we decided that it was our role and our duty to solve them.
We started in a disused, empty charity shop in Chiswick. We had never sold art before, and we didn’t know what we were doing – we just wanted to tell anyone and everyone about our mission, and put on a show that we would be proud of. About 50 people turned up to the opening – supportive and intrigued friends and family. Today, on the eve of our 6th birthday, we have a permanent flagship gallery in the heart of Mayfair, a thriving events business, a busy print store, and a talented team of 20 staff committed to helping us curate a programme that is making a genuine impact on the industry.
Early on, we recognised that talent exists is found in the most unlikely of places – it is spread far and wide. That talent often is not nurtured or shared with the world and it’s potential to impact and influence culture is never realised because of the
traditional route up the gallery ladder to infamy starts only from a limited and often self-aware pool of talent that has access to tutors and institutions that teach art. But what about the rest?
Unity is important to us. We strive to identify and develop artistic talent regardless of who, what, or where they are. Many of the artists that we represent are self-taught. They come from all over the world, from China to New Mexico. They are young, they are old. But what unites them is undeniable and unmistakable talent. Talent is universally recognisable, in the sense that it shouldn’t require accompanying texts from industry authorities to validate it. The more that talent defines the industry, the more the industry becomes comprehensible and accessible to the masses. And that is what Unit London is all about.
The creative industries are worth more than £100bn to the UK economy. We need to encourage and promote new ideas and lateral thinking – this is the key to innovation. Amazing art needs to be seen, and we are incredibly passionate about encouraging people to appreciate and engage with it – whether that experience begins online or in the physical, it is of critical importance to our culture.
Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt Unit London Image with thanks Unit London