SPEAK YA CLOUT: Jonatan Erlandsson - Mankovsky Gallery

SPEAK YA CLOUT: Jonatan Erlandsson

by Fredrik Svanberg

Speak ya clout is a series of heart to heart conversations exclusively found at BSTN Chronicles From insiders of the fashion business to blazers of new trails and creative forces from other industries, topics vary for each conversation. This time, we sat down with Jonatan Erlandsson, Director of Mankovsky Gallery in Stockholm.

This article was originally authored by Christian Trojan for BSTN Chronicles, March 10, 2021.

Give us the elevator pitch on Mankovsky Gallery!

In a world where people know exactly what clothing brands to wear, it’s quite surprising how few know what to put on their walls in their homes. We want to remove the stigmata around art that it is crazy expensive or that you need lots of knowledge. Art does not have to be inaccessible and you don’t have to visit some stuck up gallery to actually be able to buy what you want. Where classic galleries have failed to include the next generation, we aim to tap into the culture of this era and be inclusive.

We call ourselves the next generation gallery for the next generation collector since finding and opening eyes of the younger audience towards art is our main mission. There’s a certain pride in having something limited, numbered and signed from an artist on your wall. I would go so far as to compare that pride to wearing that latest raffle you won.

2020 has obviously caused significant changes for nearly all kinds of businesses. However, your concept was not focused on just brick & mortar anyways. What are your learnings from your model so far and how do you apply them in fine-tuning your gallery for the future?

I would explain the setup of our gallery in the following way: Our art space in Stockholm is vital for us to create the foundation in our digital communication. Our inner city art gallery is strictly invite-only. While other art galleries see their brick & mortar as their main focal point of business, we have focused our online gallery as our main business and communication platform. Our brick & mortar walls are an extension of our digital gallery communication, not the other way around.

Since we do not have to abide by opening hours, physical art showings and staffing in the way traditional galleries have to, we’ve seen growing visitor and sales numbers in our digitized gallery environment since the start. We started drawing the foundation of the gallery three years ago but took our time to find amazingly talented artists. We ultimately launched just seven months ago. We are learning every day but we are happy we were so focused on our digital strategy instead of a brick & mortar one.

Building on the above: A strong digital aspect of your business not only helps during shutdowns but also makes the gallery more accessible for an increasingly international clientele I would imagine!?

Absolutely! We are always available and also offer video and e-mail consultation for clients who request guidance. With shutdowns becoming more and more common we see a huge increase in non-traditional online clients showing interest as well as traffic spiking on a more global scale. People are curious and bored. That’s a powerful combination when chasing visibility.

You’ve mentioned art as another element to collect for modern consumers. With consumers making more precise purchasing decisions than ever before, how important is brand building for artists as well as galleries in this regard?

Brand building is everything, from start to finish. I believe it starts from the product. In our case, our artworks start much earlier than when we showcase them in our gallery. We only work with the best possible partners for production, materials and logistics. We are in this for the long run, not giving into the temptation of lowering any aspect of our product. It took me one year to finalize our black velvet artist tube that we use to package the artworks, 20+ meetings with paper suppliers to find just the paper we want to work with as well as years of discussion to just get the right artists on board.

I have some amazingly talented colleagues in the fields of digital communication, design and development which gives me the freedom of being analog in a digital world. Product, brand, and artist relations are everything to me.

How do you feel about less conventional canvasses like toys, skate decks etc. as they allow a multi-layer combination of artworks and artists/brands/graphics? Consumer-friendly entry into contemporary art? Gallery material? Or reserved for living room shelves and Instagram flexes?

I you create something with intent of creating art, then it’s by definition just that, art. There are original and unique art concepts within all of the above. Some I love, others are not for me.

I collect and represent what I love, most of it is done with a profound feeling of ”I want that” in mind, making it a purchase decision made from the gut and not the mind. I believe galleries like us, 2G Tokyo, professional co-lab concepts like Be@rbricks, artists like Murakami, Arsham, Kaws and many others are the real next wave for the collector of tomorrow.

What’s your take on the role of basketball in current mainstream consumer culture?

These days, I would say everything is basketball. From the latest Nike raffle to the French luxury fashion houses begging for collab- possibilities with brands that are in tune with next-gen teens and young adults.

Basketball gear like jerseys and especially sneakers are not confined to on-the-court-wear but have been established as key items for everyday situations. Mainstream consumers see basketball in everything from music to video games. It’s equally as much the on-court superstars like LeBron James and off-court initiatives like the Cleveland Cavaliers signing artist Daniel Arsham as their Creative Director. Basketball is a cultural movement as much as it is a sport today. It impacts life on so many levels.

Staying on the topic of basketball, how and why did the current collaboration with Kevin Couliau come about?

It was actually Chris “Fu” Boszczyk at BSTN that pointed me in Kevin’s direction. Fu and I have been working on a joint project to be released later this spring and during one of those meetings, Fu spoke about his friend Kevin who was this great photographer and artist working out of Paris, traveling the world documenting everything surrounding the sport of basketball.

I didn’t know what to expect but after seeing works from Kevin like ”The Iron Throne”, ”Heaven’s Gate” and ”Brooklyn Jets” I was just amazed how he could turn simple concrete, paint and metal hoops into a thousand untold stories from basketball courts around the world. I think that’s something very Kevin, his love and dedication to the sport is so present and it’s so much more than just photography, like a piece of him can be felt in every picture.

Is it different for an artist with such a specific focus to catch your eye? Basketball is the love our lives for many of us at BSTN (and I’m sure Kevin would say the same thing) but that does narrow down the audience a little bit? Or doesn’t it?

Kevin’s art does cater a very specific type of collector, that also makes him the very best at what he does. Mankovsky Gallery wasn’t founded on the notion of representing everything for everyone but rather finding these unique artists who are absolutely obsessed about their specific niche of artistic expression. Kevin’s works have brought him to photograph former US president Obama playing basketball, kids in Kigali, Rwanda, and onwards to courts in over 60 countries. I love these stories and I believe many people out there will do as well. Basketball fans or not.