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Johnny Messum runs Messum’s Wiltshire, a pioneering art, design and sculpture centre in a 13th-century thatched barn – the largest of its kind in the UK – in an idyllic English countryside setting. The aim is to support a range of contemporary creative talent working within art, ceramics, dance, music and more, by organising workshops and exhibitions which introduce the artists to the public.
After a stint at Christie’s, followed by 15 years as a director at his family’s eponymous gallery on Cork Street, Messum decided to ‘realign a disconnect between the artists who were making the work and why they were making it, and the reasons people were buying it’.
There is, he notes, a growing interest among collectors and enthusiasts for ‘quality of hand’ in areas such as ceramics. ‘The value of making is very much on the ascent,’ he asserts.
Messum, who will return to Cork Street in 2018, loves ‘empathetic objects which connect people together’, such as the ceramics of Julian Stair and Edmund de Waal, but if he could steal a single piece of art, it would have to be George Stubbs’s Whistlejacket from the National Gallery: ‘A resolutely contemporary piece even though it was painted in 1762.’