We have been busy digging through the archives and have unearthed some RARE gems for a special auction hosted by Catawiki.
For more info on the lots and how it came about read on below for Steve Lowe’s interview with Abby from Catawiki.
Click here to view the L-13 archive items up for auction, and place bids before Monday 3rd of July.
What is L-13 Gallery? Can you tell us about its history, how it’s changed over time and what its role is today?
Firstly L-13 is not a gallery. We used to have an exhibition space and run a programme of exhibitions but stopped in 2013. But even when we did I refused to be known as a gallery. I always had in mind that we were as much a space that generated ideas and made things as much as displayed and sold artworks. I wanted it to be a platform where a few chosen artists could develop their work with a sense of collaborative enterprise. I have also used it as a platform to develop my own creativity and the former exhibition space is now the Harry Adams studio where I make collaborative paintings with Adam Wood under the name Harry Adams.
We started off in a small space in Bloomsbury in 2003. We were first known as the aquarium, then became THE AQUARIUM L-13 when we moved to a bigger space that had been bombed by Zeppelin L-13 in 1915, and then in 2009 we moved to our current space hidden away in Clerkenwell and became The L-13 Light Industrial Workshop and Private Ladies and Gentlemen’s Club for Art Leisure and the Disruptive Betterment of Culture. The four artists that have been the mainstay of L-13 since the beginning are (in alphabetical order) Harry Adams (formerly known as STOT21stCplanB), Billy Childish, Jimmy Cauty and Jamie Reid. We raise money by making editions and selling them through our website, but we also do lots of things that can’t make money. In fact making money has never been at the forefront of what we do. We usually decide what we want to do and then work out ways of paying for it or making it pay for itself.
You’re known for always pushing boundaries in the art world, can you tell us how you got into it.
Being involved in the art world is a real love hate relationship. On the whole I believe it to be an immoral institution realized by power and money which is always corrupting. In the early 1990’s I stopped making art for this reason one month before completing my MA in fine art and went on to play in bands for about 15 years. Back then I really believed that part of the job of the artist was to challenge the dominant culture and that has carried through into what I do now. The first show we did as a “gallery” was about the radical French group The Situationists, and my interest in counter culture lead me to the artists I now work with. Billy was well known as a defiant and vocal critic of modish mainstream culture, Jimmy has the fantastic legacy of being one half of The KLF and burning one million quid as the K Foundation with Bill Drummond, and Jamie of course is best known as the creator of the Sex Pistols visuals and is about as radical as you can get. With these artists on board we can’t help but present a constant stream of playfully provocative or iconoclastic work. It’s important to point out that despite our somewhat critical position, none of us are angry people. We actually have a lot of fun with what we do, we’re passionate about it and I hope that the love always shines through.
How did you come to Catawiki?
Your head of Urban and Street Art contacted us to ask about the authenticity of a Not Banksy piece he thought it might be fake, which it was. Back in about 2007 me and Adam as STOT21stCplanB started making the Not Banksy paintings which were essentially taking the piss out of not so much Banksy, but the hordes of opportunist speculators who bought his work. The first pieces were on pound shop canvasses using stencils intended for decorating children’s bedrooms. So cute bunnies and chicks etc. We gave them politicized titles with a fake Banksy stenciled signature and sold them in small editions for about £50 each. They flew out (helped by the rumour that it was actually Banksy making them), so we kept on making more, each time stretching the credulity in terms of edition sizes and variations in an attempt to wear out the interest of the people who were buying them. The last canvas piece did the trick. It was a series of 11 paintings in editions of 100 (I think). The first one was a bunny with 10 carrots, then a bunny with 9 carrots, and so on until the last edition was a bunny with no carrots. After that we stopped for a bit, but then came back in 2008 with a series on cardboard which were much more a pastiche of Banksy’s stencil work. My favourites were Stencil Art is So Last Week, and one with a Banksy rat that was pasting up a poster that said “In our spectacular society, my commodity value vastly outstrips my true worth, thus diminishing any real meaning I might have once had. Please help!” We’ve found a few left-overs from those editions, plus some proofs and try-outs that we’ve put in this auction. Sadly we don’t have any of the first canvas pieces any more.
Could you tell us a bit about the artists, their work, and why they’re worth collecting?
I’ve already said a little bit about the artists and they’re all worth collecting because they make great work that is as sophisticated as it is easy to understand and enjoy. They all enjoy high cultural status for their authentic engagement with what they do and are highly respected for this. It is also worth collecting the L-13 editions because we dedicate ourselves to making things with a genuine sense of excitement. We really love what we do, love some of the crazier ideas, like to keep our prices as low as possible and get a real kick out of chucking it all out into the world. I would never encourage anyone to collect our work for pure investment, but on the whole you can’t really go wrong in that respect. As long as you’re not looking for an instant return.
Do you have a favourite work that will be in the upcoming auction?
Not really… I like all of it. I am very fond of the ART HATE posters, and the story behind the Billy Childish Penguin book is great. Oh, and I love the Thatcher’s Children box set. Everyone should read the letters that go with that. They’re hysterical.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
Yes, visit our website L-13.org, join our mailing list, and come along for the ride. You won’t regret it!