Gallerist Q&A – Nikolaj Stobbe

In this series, we talk to the founders and directors of leading galleries from across the Nordics about the personal stories behind them becoming gallerists, and the principles they work by. Meet Nikolaj Stobbe, who began his career wrapping artwork, and continues to do so in his own gallery, Lagune Ouest, founded in 2021.

Portrait of Nikolaj Stobbe, 2022

Courtesy of Lagune Ouest

Traditionally dealers / gallerists came from the same social group as the collectors. Recently there has been a shift towards coming from the artists' side. Where would you say you started?

In the storage wrapping the artists’ work. A level below everyone else involved, I guess. But I was good at it and after a few years I climbed the ladder, descended it, moved it a bit sideways and tried to place it horizontally.

I am not naïve and I know this world is full of rigid hierarchies, but I am doing my best to ignore them and treat everyone with respect regardless of where they see themselves/are being placed on the ladder.

Installation View, Attachments, Kåre Frang at Lagune Ouest, 2021

Courtesy of Lagune Ouest

Did you have gallery experience before opening your gallery?

Lots of wrapping as mentioned while I was studying art history. After graduating, I started being responsible for exhibition making and for sales too later on. Mainly, I have been working in Copenhagen-based galleries but also galleries in Paris for a few years.

Alongside my gallery work I have been co-running Vermilion Sands, a non-profit exhibition platform in Copenhagen. Since I started my own gallery I’m back wrapping and all the other stuff it requires to run a gallery.

Installation View, Vista, Emilie Bausager & Asta Lynge at Lagune Ouest, 2021

Courtesy of Lagune Ouest

What is your role? (talk about what you think the most important parts of your job are, what is your function, what is your role in the artworld?) (curator / agent / manager / salesperson / therapist / bank / coach / host / entertainer / accountant / magician… )

I am about to find out. So far my role has been shifting depending on whom I have been working with. And of course one is always performing several of these roles simultaneously. I try to be as well-rounded as possible.

Installation View, Deluge, Moa Alskog & Javier Tapia at Lagune Ouest, 2022

Courtesy of Lagune Ouest; Photo by Malle Madsen

What are your responsibilities and to who?

Presenting great shows that resonate with an art-interested audience but also a broader public. It is a big priority for me to do this collaboratively and in a fashion that corresponds with the artists’ ideas and needs.

Installation View, Made of sunshine, Asta Lynge at Lagune Ouest, 2022

Courtesy of Lagune Ouest; Photo by Malle Madsen

The American comedian Chris Rock said, Michael Jackson is rich, the guy who signs his cheques is wealthy. Anthony D'Offay said, you can get rich selling art but you get wealthy buying art. Do you collect art? From the artists you represent? More widely?

I definitely have a desire to be surrounded by art and I have a few things at home I bought from the galleries I have been working with. The next works I wish for Christmas are by the artists I have been showing so far, obviously.

Installation View, Impossibility of Peace in the Brain of the Bullied, Ivan Pérard at Lagune Ouest, 2022

Courtesy of Lagune Ouest

David Risley is an artist. He ran David Risley Gallery, in London (2002-2010) and Copenhagen (2010-2018). He was founding Co-curator of Bloomberg Space, London (2002-2005), Co-founder of Zoo Art Fair, London (2004), and Co-founder and Co-owner of CHART. He continues to write, curate, and develop projects with artists. He is developing a sustainability project for public-facing institutions.

Nikolaj Stobbe founded Lagune Ouest in 2021 with the ambition to make new exhibition and career opportunities, primarily for local artists. The gallery has an emphasis on curated exhibitions and aims to amplify and establish the voices of a new generation of artists.