Name: Gemma Rolls-Bentley
Born in: Sheffield
Current home: Deptford, London
Profession: Artsy Consumer Marketplace Associate Director + Curator
Gemma Rolls-Bentley is a leading member of the UK’s burgeoning Queer art community. The London native has worked within the city’s contemporary art scene for the past 10-years now with a concentrated effort to empower women, Queer culture, and community engagement.
As an independent curator, she has produced numerous shows and events at venues including the Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco, the National Portrait Gallery London, and most recently at the BFI for Art Night 2018 and at Somerset House for Pride in London.
Moreover, Gemma helped pioneer the 2015 opening the London office for Artsy; the world’s leading galleries, art fairs, museums, foundations, commercial and benefit auctions, all on one platform.
2018 was a year of many achievements for Gemma, she expanded her role to Associate Director, Consumer Marketplace, leading the European Auction & Collector Relations teams, she and the rest of her 35+ Artsy team members moved to the company’s new UK HQ in Whitechapel. However, the most important milestone as of late has been the birth of her and her wife’s first child in early-2019.
We had the chance to sit down with Gemma for a brief Q&A on all things art, empowerment of women, and conjuring queer communities.
Image by Gabrielle Cooper
What’s the latest trend in the art world that excites you?
Platforms for queer artists and spaces for queer communities are being created in the art world in what finally feels like a meaningful way. At the beginning of 2018, I chaired a conversation between Nicholas Cullinan, Isaac Julien, and Charlotte Keenan McDonald. We reflected on the progress that has been made in 2017 and discussed the challenges and opportunities for queer art in 2018. (You can watch the conversation on the Gay Times Facebook page here).
I’ve been really encouraged by what I’ve seen happen since that conversation. Some recent highlights are Queerdirect’s life drawing at Tate Britain, Queer Circle hosting a same-sex wedding in Kusama’s installation at Victoria Miro and Studio Voltaire’s homage to Oscar Wilde.
What’s the amount of unanswered emails in your inbox today?
8—an all-time low for me! I’m about to go on maternity leave and have been diligently working through old emails so that I can limit my ‘unread email anxiety’ during my time off.
What’s your idea of the perfect outfit for work?
Something black and shiny! Of late, I’ve been wearing a lot of pleather because it makes surprisingly good maternity wear, who knew?! I’m a pretty predictable product of the art world / recovering teenage goth—I usually wear black but I wear it with too much (apparently) gold jewelry.
What’s your everyday online art read?
Artsy of course! In all seriousness, I love the way that Artsy Editorial shines a light on underrepresented groups of artists and thoughtfully tackles important topics such as gender equality and motherhood alongside accessible and current art market news.
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever bought?
It’s not an object but the most ridiculous thing that I ever paid for is a tattoo on my head, I still can’t believe I went through with it.
What’s the song that instantly puts you in a good mood?
Nick Cave – ‘Into My Arms’
I was lucky enough to have the all-female choir Gaggle sing this at my wedding. What can I say, I’m a hopeless romantic.
What’s your favourite art x brand collaboration…
Ed Fornieles collaborated with Berthold on their AW2018 collection to create a cosplay inspired dream wardrobe. I have a raincoat and a bag and I love them.
Image by Iolo Lewis Edwards
What was your first Instagram post?
A heavily filtered ‘arty’ shot of my wife on Whitstable beach in 2013. Hopefully, my Insta formatting has improved since then (it had a total of 6 likes!)
What’s your favourite hashtag?
A hashtag I love is #greatwomenartists or more specifically, Katy Hessel’s @thegreatwomenartists account. She’s built the most incredible Insta-archive. I love rediscovering old greats and discovering new artists via her account.
Who are your art world muses?
I’m getting a lot of inspiration from Judy Chicago at the moment, I’m so pleased that her work is finally having a renaissance. I’m also in a coven called Sisters of the Sanitary Cloth. Many of my witchy sisters are doing interesting things in the art world and they give me a lot of energy!
How’d you describe yourself in three emojis?
An art world gent you’d love to have lunch with?
Is it a cop-out if I just choose my bffs that are art world boys? Fiontan Moran, Jeremy Epstein + Than Hussein Clark. Fiontan is a very talented curator at Tate Modern and performs as part of Queer Campervan. Jeremy co-founded Edel Assanti, a young gallery with an inspiring programme. Than is an amazing artist whose work you probably know. I’ve been friends with those boys for 10+ years and would love to have lunch with each of them any day of the week.
Artist(s) we should have on our watch list is/are…
Ahh, I have a lot of favourite artists but I’d say, Hannah Quinlan + Rosie Hastings, Jala Wahid and Jesse Darling are my favs right now, although Jesse recently had a solo show at Tate Britain so isn’t exactly ‘one to watch’. The last piece of work I bought is by Mimi Hope whose work I discovered when she was on a residency at the Sarabande—she’s amazing! And the piece I’m lusting over is by Cajsa von Zeipel whose work gives me the chills.