Conrad Carvalho is the director of Oaktree & Tiger, a company dedicated to the promotion and nurturing of new artistic talent. We spoke to Conrad ahead of O&T’s exhibition (Re)Fashioning The Gaze to find out more about the business and his experiences working with young emerging talent:
Tell us about your background and what inspired the creation of Oak Tree and Tiger?
I had a long career as a commodities trader and felt it was time to take a really big risk and jump into something completely different. I’m fascinated by things I don’t understand and the artworld has an unlimited source of this. I especially had to understand the crazy prices for the artworks that I liked so much, so I did a full time course at Sotheby’s learning about art collecting, valuation and how the art market works. This triggered the end of my finance career… I was hooked on the art world.
The idea formed to work with artists, a good way to experience their work more intimately, and find ways to support them effectively. So I found that I could use my experience and network to help their careers.
Where does the unusual name come from?
I wanted something that had meaning. My surname means Oaktree in Portuguese. It symbolises wisdom, honesty, family, longevity and generosity. Tiger is the national animal of India and is respected for its strength, courage, success and passion. Plus I’m Goan.
What do you look for in an artist, and what advice would you give aspiring artists looking to sell their work?
Well our criteria are that we love their art and they have excellent trained skills. We like their work to have some conceptual ideas, but nothing too integral to the enjoyment of the work. They need to be based in London so that we can build strong relationships and connections, and also with our collectors.
I’d advise aspiring artists to… think about gaining as much visibility as possible. Let galleries approach you (we get far too many applicants all the time). Set up a simple website with your work and do lots of socialising/networking. Keep looking for ways to improve your skills, refine your ideas and message, and speak to people about all of this. You’ll naturally bump into a buyer/gallery directors/etc. and they’ll act without you trying to ‘sell’. Social media campaigns are a very effective and cheap way to build an audience. Lastly, and this is difficult for an aspiring artist to do, but try your best to put on your own events.
We spend a lot of time visiting graduate shows, art fairs, searching on the internet and finding recommendations. Studio visits are obviously hugely important. It takes a lot of visits and time to get to know the artist before we can get a feel for if what we do will help them. They need to trust our vision and guidance. We’ve been extraordinarily lucky to have found the artists we work with.
What’s coming up next for Oaktree & Tiger?
Our big exhibition in the Strand Gallery: (Re)Fashioning The Gaze by Jennifer Louise Martin!
Also, I am still looking for a few more artists to join us. We are working on ideas with all our current artists too. In fact, I’ve just had a meeting with a particularly fascinating new artist that I would like to join us… I’m really excited because his ideas for a show are extremely ambitious and original. We’ve already discussed it with a talented violinist and a director… (I have to keep a lot of it a secret until later!). So I’ve got the hard task of translating that into something viable, for early June, and more details will be sent to our newsletter subscribers when finalised.
(Re)Fashioning The Gaze can be seen at The Strand Gallery between 22nd-27th April.