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Business Guardian

Thursday, August 26, 2004

 Trading SpacesATT building

 Art dealer moves to Fed Park

 by  ANTHONY WILSON

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IN April this year, when Mark Pereira closed his hugely successful business, 101 Art Gallery, it sparked tremendous speculation among the small group of art patrons 9in the country.
Was the 48-year old art dealer terminally ill? Was he migrating? Was he broke and forced to sell the $3 million property at 101 Tragarete Road? Had he made so much money dealing mainly local art that he was able to retire prematurely?
Putting all the rumours to rest, Pereira says he had "grown tired" of the space.
"We had been at 101 Tragarete Road for more than 13 years and in that period we had done about 300 formal shows in that space.
"Towards the end, I was doing 16 to 20 exhibitions a year and occasionally two at the same time."
The two-storey pink house, in which most of the country's artists have displayed their work, "became boring" to Pereira as it no longer presented a challenge to him.
The amount of work involved in putting on a major exhibition of art every three weeks was also beginning to tell on him.
The 101 Art Gallery did 19 shows last year- which meant, Pereira says, that he was not able to give each exhibitor the attention they paid for and deserved.
The attention he refers to is spending time in the studio with the artist in preparation for the exhibit and the attention to detail when mounting and marketing of it.
As a result of the ennui he was beginning to feel, Pereira initiated discussions last year with the Trinidad Art Society to use their building in Federation Park.

Pereira family
Pereira family just before they left for South Africa: VIKKI,left, MICHAEL, SHARON, mother BUDDY, father NEVILLE and CHARLES.
Photo: Percy Huggins, March 1963

 

 


The organisation-which approved a name change to the Art Society of T&T at its annual meeting earlier this month-constructed the building on land leased from the State 12 years ago.
The agreement between the Art Society and Pereira (it's being called a collaboration) calls for the gallery owner to undertake "substantial refurbishment and improvement of the premises."
This work, amounting to about $200.000 involved the treatment of the site for termites, the installation of air conditioning, painting of walls and ceiling and a new lighting system.
In exchange for the refurbishment, Pereira gets to use the building for three months of the year (September to November) for the next five years.
He will also be required to run a programme for Art Society members in the management of exhibitions.
Pereira will begin his occupation of the Federation Park premises on Wednesday with an exhibition by Martin Superville, the hot young Trinidadian artist who operates his own gallery in Tobago.


Superville is the first of about a dozen artists Pereira will work with over the five-year term of the "collaboration."
Pereira is only willing to disclose the names of the six artists who he will exhibit this year between September and November 30.
The others are Shalini, Peter Sheppard, Lisa O'Connor, Michael Phillips and Karen Sylvester.
The 12 were selected because they were artists who we worked well with and with whom we have had a good track record over the years."

Pereira has also agreed with the Art Society that he can do special exhibitions at the Federation Park building, outside September to November, for a specially negotiated fee.
He is already in negotiations to hold two such shows in April and May next year. One is an exhibition of Boscoe Holder's paintings and the other is the Greenhall collection-a large body of local art from the sixties which was owned by an American zoologist. The collection includes all of the top names from the period including Chang, Codallo, Squires, Louison, Stollmeyer.

The Greenhall heirs have expressed a desire to sell the work and for the proceeds to be used to establish a trust fund to support local artists.
"I feel that a trust fund is necessary to support younger artists who want to go abroad to study and who want to exhibit locally and abroad," said Pereira.

NOT ALWAYS EASY

FOR the last decade, Mark Pereira has been Trinidad's top art dealer.
He will continue doing valuations, assessments and buying and selling local art for private and corporate customers through his Web site at 101artgallery.com.
But he will no longer be putting on a major exhibition every three weeks.
The pace of his art dealing in 13 years has left him set for life.
Over the years, most of the money he made selling art - local dealers receive commissions of between 17.5 and 30 per cent - was ploughed into the shrewd property investments.

He acquired five properties throughout the country - including the building at 101

Tragarete Road.
But times have not always been easy for him.
"Thee times in my life, I have had to sell off all my furniture and paintings in order to make immediate payments," says Pereira, recalling the hard times he went through in 1990, 1992 and 1996.
In the last year, he has sold works by Isaiah Boodhoo, Geoffrey Holder, Sonnylal Rambissoon and Hugh Stollmeyer.

"When I decided to change my life, over the past year, I sold four properties which meant that I had less wall space to hang, especially my larger paintings," he says.
Asked whether it was a contradiction for an art gallery owner to sell his art before his property, Pereira says the paintings can be disposed of more quickly than property.

"The paintings could have been used to tide me through short-term financial problems that I may have run into," he says.
He also recalls some advice he received from Brice McLeod, the antique dealer, who told him 19 years ago that he needed to decide whether he was selling art or collecting it.


Questioned about what he feels made him a success at his chosen profession, Pereira points first to his reputation for honest dealing, his meticulous record-keeping, his sales ability and the fact that he has always set sales targets that are high.
"I have been driven to succeed in this business because I depended on it for a living. To eat, I had to survive on commissions, unlike most of the other galleries which had something else to fall back on - such as a framing business."

FROM CASCADE
TO SOUTH AFRICA
   

ALTHOUGH he was born in Trinidad and spent the first seven years of his life in Cascade, Mark Pereira's parents Neville and Buddy (nee Pantin) migrated to South Africa in 1963.
"My father, who was a pilot at BWIA, needed to find another career because his eyesight was failing. He became a farmer in Durban, breeding rabbits and growing timber.

"But also in 1963, there was a lot of people who were concerned about the future of the country, which is not dissimilar to people's thoughts now about emigration or their thoughts in 1970 and 1990," says Pereira, answering a question on why the family left the year after the country got Independence from England.

Pereira is the fourth of five children and has two sisters and two brothers: Vikki, Michael, Sharon and Charles. In the years he lived in South Africa, Pereira went through school - at Fatima Convent, Northwood Junior and Thomas Moore boarding school -

gaining seven O'levels (including passes in Afrikaans and art) and four A'levels including Afrikaans.

He also did two years of national service in the South African Navy which included a stint of active duty in a frigate, the SAS President Kruger, fighting Russian submarines off the coast of Angola.

He describes South Africa as a "shrouded" society - meaning that his "level of awareness" of the non-white population "was limited".
Asked how growing up in south Africa during apartheid shaped his attitude to non-white people, Pereira says "My boarding school was very progressive and we were encouraged to interact with the Zulu staff."
He recalls that the all-white, all-male boarding school invited Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the Zulu leader.
"I spent a lot of my youth on farms and would have spent a lot of time hunting, fishing and shooting with the farm labourers."

Socially, he says, coming from South Africa in the late seventies "was a bit cumbersome, people were wary of you."


After the navy, he left South Africa in the late seventies, spending a year hitch-hiking and working through Europe - including england, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany, Holland, Greece and Italy - and the Middle East, where he worked for six weeks in an Israeli kibbutz.

In 1978, he returned to Trinidad, accompanying his mother (his father died in 1967), where he got a job supervising salesmen at Alstons Marketing.
After two years at Alstons, Pereira opened a business installing plants and foliage in restaurants and offices.
Some of his clients included NP, Kirpalani's, BWIA, Rafters and JBs.
He got into dealing local art with Geoffrey MacLean at Aquarela Galleries.

 

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