Photography by Louisa Nicolaou
In case it isn’t clear by now: at The Drake, we loooooove art. We are proud to showcase the work of local and international artists side-by-side in all of our properties, and we have had a curator as part of our team since we first opened back in 2004.
Ashley Mulvihill is the founder of Ninth Editions, an online gallery selling limited edition prints and original works from emerging artists. She started working with us back in 2016 and she now leads the curation of both our rotating exhibitions and new additions to our permanent collection. If you’re looking to discover a new artist, start a new collection or simply have a conversation about what’s going on in the art world in Canada, Ashley is 100% your girl.
What is your process for curating an exhibition at The Drake?
It’s a little bit different for every space, property, and project but it all starts with a ton of research. I am constantly searching for work that interests and intrigues me, saving it into folders or decks I have on the go. I use everything from social media, online blogs, exhibitions (grad shows, commercial galleries, artist-run centers, museums, etc.), or word of mouth. Before curating an exhibition I’ll always reflect on the space, how it’s used, what other works are in it, what themes I’m drawn to our interested in, and then build a bit of a framework. Exhibitions tend to follow the same curatorial pillars (assessing the visual, conceptual, practical, and collective elements) as permanent collection works. Of course, how we approach the artist or gallery for site-specific artworks vs loans vs acquisitions is where it becomes quite unique for each piece.
You’re a mom! How has motherhood changed your work?
I’m so much more conscious of how I use my time when I sit down to work I have this laser-like focus because I know that every minute counts. With that, it’s also changed my process for finding artists. I don’t attend as many events or openings as I used to, so I use online research more than ever. I spend an inordinate amount of late-night hours digging for new work, sometimes finding myself on the most unexpected hashtag of a group show that happened six years ago, but it’s really the only way I can balance everything right now. I am very grateful for the technology that allows me to put my kids to bed and view live updates of exhibition openings or events. Hopefully, in a few years, I can start bringing them along with me!
Obstacles for women have always existed in the art world. Do you notice any new obstacles coming up? If you do, do you have any suggestions for how they can be overcome?
Recently there has been increased awareness around institutional collecting practices and how it’s still very disproportionate, with only 11% of museum acquisitions in the last decade representing artworks by women. A number of organizations have committed to collecting only women in 2020, but I think it will take many more ambitious initiatives to see gender parity in museum exhibitions and collections. It’s also reported that artworks by female artists are on average sold for 40% less than men, as the market has historically been skewed to their work. As a positive, on the commercial level, we’re seeing so many more female artists represented by major galleries so I’m hopeful that changes the conversation in the years going forward. The more we talk about it the better. My advice to female artists would be to never stop advocating for yourself.
Who are some of your current dream collaborators or artists whose work you admire?
That is such a tough question! I recently did a take over with @cdnartforecast featuring a selection of emerging Canadian artists I love. I also really admire all of the artists on Ninth Editions, it’s such a privilege to work with them. In terms of people whose work I am fascinated by I’d say, in no particular order, Tau Lewis, Stephanie Temma Hier, Daniel Steegman Mangrane, Gabriel Beveridge, Esmaa Mohamoud, Brian Rideout, Roula Partheniou, Jeppe Hein, Al Freeman, Anna Torma, Kehinde Wiley, Olafur Eliasson, Pipilotti Rist, Caitlin Keogh, Jeffrey Gibson… the list could go on and on. I’m art obsessed.
What’s your favourite memory of The Drake?
When I first started back in February 2016, there was a Red Bull Sound Select show in the Underground. I took my mum, who was due for knee surgery, so we sat on this old couch that used to be by stage right and shared a bottle of wine. This relatively unknown artist opened and I remember being completely floored by her, it turned out to be Charlotte Day Wilson. I’ll never forget that feeling of being so happy to spend time with my mum, at my new work, all while listening to a phenomenally talented singer so up close and personal.