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Vishal Sumarria

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Vishal Sumaria is the founder and co-director of Young Professionals in the Arts (YPA), a non-profit London based networking group created to foster connections for creative and visual arts professionals.
Artsper interviewed him to learn more about his network and his take on contemporary art!

{Artsper} Vishal, you are the founder of the networking group YPA (which you now run with Maria Marro-Perera). Could you tell us a few words about yourself and about your background?

{Vishal Sumarria} I studied photography and art history at university in Sydney and I worked in Sydney for a year before coming to London. In London I worked at various galleries and it was while working at Bishoff/Weiss gallery that I started Young Professionals in the Arts.

{Artsper} What is your relationship with art? How has your passion begun?

{Vishal Sumarria} I was interested in art from an early age. I’m not quite sure where the influence came from. Perhaps a little from my parents. I used to go to galleries from age 13 onwards and that’s how I became interested in contemporary art and photography. Art is something I am passionate about and I particularly enjoy seeing the work of artists I may not already know or meeting them to hear about their practice.

{Artsper} You created the group of Young Professionals in the Arts a few years ago. How did you get the idea of this project?

{Vishal Sumarria} While I was working at a gallery in Shoreditch I wanted to join a group to network with other art professionals but realised that no such group existed and private views are not always the best way to meet other art professionals. Also working in small, private galleries our world is very insular – and I think it’s necessary for those working in the arts to go out there and meet people. Almost every other profession does it and benefits from it – why shouldn’t those in the Arts?

{Artsper} What is YPA today?

{Vishal Sumarria} YPA has grown steadily over the years from about 5 members to now more than 900 members. We meet once a month at evening networking events and our members can include anyone from a collector to a curator to those working in museums.

{Artsper} According to you, what can the young generation bring to the London art scene that is already very dynamic?

{Vishal Sumarria} I think that young artists need to embrace social media in a big way. In the beginning I was very resistant to social media but I now see it as an essential tool for promoting yourself and getting your work seen. I would like to see artists doing more political work and work that is more radical in nature – that is severely lacking in the London art scene which is driven by big name galleries, big name artists and art fairs.

{Artsper} What do you think about digital concept like Artsper?

{Vishal Sumarria} I think Artsper is a great idea. Anything that makes artwork more accessible is always a good thing.

{Artsper} You’ve been working in a gallery yourself. What would you say is the biggest challenge for galleries nowadays?

{Vishal Sumarria} The biggest challenge is probably how to stand out from the crowd. There are so many galleries in London now you need to do things that get you seen – such as the quality of your programme, the way you promote shows etc.

{Artsper} What was the best exhibition you went to in 2015?

{Vishal Sumarria} Joseph Cornell at the RA and Michaël Borremans at David Zwirner have both been excellent. But in the last five years one of my favourite shows was Richard Long at Tate Britain.

{Artsper} What are your favourite art venues in London?

{Vishal Sumarria} They include Richard Saltoun, Ben Brown, the Hayward and Parasol Unit.

{Artsper} If you could have a drink with one artist who would you choose?

{Vishal Sumarria} Probably Ganesh Pyne.

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