James Ryan is the CEO of Grove Square Galleries, a London art exhibition space and a 360-degree service which helps clients source hard-to-find secondary market pieces and build private collections. For artists, Grove Square Galleries is an accessible and transparent platform for novice and experienced art lovers and collectors alike with a focus on storytelling from a diverse range of global artists. James’s combined passion for luxury assets and art, alongside his finance background, led him to start his own business in the art market. James saw a gap in the market for promoting new art talent, engaging with consumers through digital activations, sourcing rare pieces and offering a consultation service for collectors. With a team of art-industry experts, Grove Square Galleries was born in 2020 mid-pandemic.
James is also one of the co/founders of Quantus- Europe’s first NFT Advisory who aim to be at the forefront of all things NFT. From the latest artist drops, news, to new use cases with premises on Fashion Street, East London.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
My background has always been in luxury assets and finance. I’ve worked as a broker in South Africa and founded a number of successful companies including a luxury watch business. Art has always been an interest of mine and Grove Square Galleries combines a lot of my passions, from nurturing new up and coming artists, travel, mentoring, networking, running a team of art industry experts and engaging with consumers.
Grove Square Galleries Grove Square Galleries in Fitzrovia is still a very new art gallery where we offer emerging and established collectors an avenue for exploration and discovery. We merge digital innovation with physical exhibitions. Our Fitzrovia space offers a year-round programme of dynamic talks and events which run in tandem with an artist-led exhibition programme celebrating contemporary art practice worldwide.
What are the key successes?
starting a new business during the pandemic is quite the challenge but we’ve grown substantially since launching. We’re making art accessible to first time collectors and alongside my Art Director Serena Dunn we’re representing some incredibly talented artists. We’ve had a number of successful solo and group shows where we’ve worked in tandem with global charities such as Flora and Fauna and Food for Life whilst also presenting some incredible talks from some of the industry’s finest. It’s incredibly rewarding to mentor and nurture new staff members and watch them grow into confident individuals with a passion for art and people. I’d say some of our successes are taking on artists who have perhaps had their talents overlooked by other galleries due to not attending certain art schools or having a particular background, when you see their work receive recognition be it by a fellow artist or in a leading art magazine there’s no better feeling.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The challenges I face now are far different from the initial challenges when starting Grove. Firstly, I’ve never doubted myself, I knew the art sector was a career move for me, and one in which I could make a positive impact on people’s lives, so any challenges I’ve ever faced I’ve managed to breeze through because the passion and belief has always been there from the start. That said, the initial challenges we faced back in Q1 2020 were of course the same challenges we’ve all faced recently. We secured our first gallery at 156 New Cavendish Street in March 2020- the decorators refurbished it within a week and then we were locked down! the challenges back then were facing questions from the team which was changing by the hour and being expected to know all the answers. Of course there’s been thee challenges from the industry as we’re so new and unknown so with that there’s always a bit of scepticism but in the last year that’s already changed enormously.
What are your plans now/for the future?
The goal for Grove Square Galleries is to become more established and a household name and that will only happen by delivering for our clients, providing a 5* service and taking our artists right to the very top! I’m confident we will increase last year’s turnover by approximately 30% and we will grow our non-sales teams, with solid infrastructure and recruitment of industry experts. I’m also involved with the launch of Quantus which is Europe’s first NFT Advisory. We’ve just opened an incredible space on Fashion Street in East London and have an amazing team in place so it’s a very exciting time.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
I’ve been lucky enough to have some incredible investors who have had a great understanding of my vision for Grove from the start. I’ve relied heavily on my Art Director Serena Dunn’s expert knowledge and experience with which artists to work with and why. We’ve grown from strength to strength. Our turnover was 6 million last year and we’re on track for 10million in 2022.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Believe in yourself and have a solid business plan. Don’t be afraid to take advice from others. Make sure you have a solid team in place. Have clear communication from the start and stick to your commitments.
Can you share you top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
You have to have skin in the game I believe. If you’ve committed your own funds to your project then that usually makes you take things more seriously than just getting investment.
Keep your business as lean as possible and only recruit when it’s clear and obvious that you need to.
Learn by your mistakes to become bigger and better, and don’t be afraid of criticism.
Pay your bills on time.
Have a business mentor, someone who believes in you but that you can call when you need that extra bit of advice.
Mentor others. I’m very passionate about teaching others, the good and bad in business. It’s a pleasure watching individuals grow professionally and personally, but ultimately you’re only as good as the team around you.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
My family including my partner and two children , ultimately everything I do is for them in the long term.
Entrepreneur and new dragon- Steven Bartlett Steven Bartlett (@steven) • Instagram photos and videos what he achieved with the Social Chain was amazing, his growth in business and I’m a great fan of his podcast and watching him as a dragon
The artist Stony Stony Art (@stonyartofficial) • Instagram photos and videos he’s actually become a personal friend of mine and the man is such a talent, his work is very unique and despite his own personal cancer battle, he’s continued to work and raise money for others.
I’m a huge fan of Mr Controversial as an artist Mr. Controversial (@mr.controversial.art) • Instagram photos and videos despite not having a traditional art background he’s making art accessible for everyone. I like the fact he calls himself an Artpreneur and is self-taught not just as an artist but as a businessman. I love the way he takes something old and put a modern spin on retro imagery and his quotes are utterly brilliant.
Gary Vay-Ner-Chuk Gary Vay-Ner-Chuk (@garyvee) • Instagram photos and videos is just brilliant at what he does and is a real disruptor in his space. His podcast is my number one go to for inspiration and advice.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Always deliver more than is expected- Larry Page co/founder of Google
Screw It, Let’s Do it- Richard Branson
There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.- Colin Powell.
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