Interview: Joyce Goss, Goss-Michael Foundation

by Claire Ruud

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      Tim Noble & Sue Webster, The Joy of Sex, 2005
      Lithographs; Set of 40 prints; Edition of 25
      16 3/8 x 11 ¾ inches
      Courtesy Goss-Michael Foundation

      Joyce Goss is Director of The Goss-Michael Foundation, a Dallas-based foundation established in 2007 by Kenny Goss and George Michael for the exhibition of their collection and the support of the Dallas arts community. Ever since the Foundation received a feature in the 2007 Holiday issue of The New York Times Style Magazine, we've been wondering whether Goss-Michael is a vanity project or a non-profit committed to the community. So, on a recent trip to Dallas, we met with Joyce to get the inside scoop on the Foundation's mission and upcoming projects.

      …might be good: In 2005, Kenny Goss opened the Goss Gallery—a commercial gallery—in the space we’re sitting in now. But two years later in 2007, this space became The Goss-Michael Foundation. Can you tell us about the motivation behind this transformation?

      Joyce Goss: Kenny opened the former Goss Gallery in May of 2005. He wanted to bring a new, edgier art to Dallas—an art that Dallas and the surrounding areas had never really had access to before. Kenny and George Michael were traveling a lot internationally, and they slowly became involved in collecting. Particularly, they became very interested in YBA artists and began to focus on collecting their work. Since they live part time in London, they were able to build relationships with many of these artists.

      The Goss Gallery was very successful, but Kenny and George realized they were less interested in running a commercial gallery and more interested in sharing their rapidly growing collection with Dallas. They live here on a part-time basis and it’s Kenny’s home town, so they really wanted to invest here as well. So they decided to convert this space to the Foundation.

      …mbg: So the primary focus of the Foundation is to present Kenny and George’s collection to the public?

      JG: Yes, but with a particular focus on education. Kenny and George have a niche by collecting YBA artists. The Dallas metropolitan area museums have great collections, but they don’t really cover British art, especially the YBA’s who captivated the art world during the 90’s. They want their collection and their desire to educate to work in tandem.

      In addition to having exhibitions, we also offer scholarship programs. Last year we initiated our first scholarship program with scholarships for two young artists, one for music in George’s name and one for visual art because of Kenny. This year we awarded four scholarships.

      …mbg: When did Kenny and George start collecting the YBA’s?

      JG: Definitely within the last few years, but I’m not actually sure when they purchased their first YBA piece. But over the last several years they’ve become good friends with Tracy [Emin] and Damien [Hirst].

      …mbg: How did you become involved with the Foundation? Do you have a background in the arts?

      JG: Well I’m still learning. Kenny’s my brother-in-law, so there’s a little family nepotism. I got a finance degree at UT Austin and I was in the mortgage business for twenty years. When Kenny started the gallery here, he intended it to become a family business, but he also really wanted something that would grow into a world class institute. Even the Foundation has a business side, and requires someone who is financially-minded, so Kenny thought I would be the natural person for this position. I don’t have an art history background at all and that’s why we have a curator [Filippo Tattoni-Marcozzi]. He actually lives in Germany, but he creates a lot of our exhibitions. We have several staff members that have a background in art history, so every project is a collaborative effort.

      …mbg: What have been the major differences between running a gallery and a non-profit?

      JG: Obviously with a commercial gallery you need to make money to stay in business. As a non-profit we have more budgetary constraints. The Foundation is partially funded by the Platinum Trust, which is the biggest trust in the UK. But we are pushing to raise more money because we want to expand our scholarship program. We did our first state scholarship this year. Within the next couple years, we want to expand to $400,000 in scholarship awards, probably nationwide.

      We also need to overcome the public misconception—due in large part to George’s status as a pop-star—that the Foundation has a lot of money. Kenny and George are obviously extremely generous, but there’s only a certain amount that they can contribute to the Foundation. The artists have been very generous helping us raise money. For example, Tim [Noble] and Sue [Webster] designed a beach towel and are allowing us to sell them and have given us the copyright. So any money we raise from the towels will go to the scholarship fund. And Tracy Emin is going to work on a special edition print that we can use so that all proceeds go to the Foundation.

      …mbg: It sounds like you’re juggling two objectives at the Foundation. On one hand, you are collecting and presenting work that can be somewhat edgy—for example, Tim and Sue’s The Joy of Sex (2005). On the other hand, your primary focus with these scholarships has been high school students. I’m interested in why, given the type of exhibitions you do, you feel it is particularly important to reach out to such young students.

      JG: Well, it’s true that the current exhibition of Tim and Sue’s work is edgy. And this is the edgiest show we’ve done by far. That’s part of the reason that we chose to display this work in the summer, when most kids are not in school and probably are not going to be touring the museums. The Goss-Michael Foundation is rather conservative because of all our students. So we ask all youngsters that come in for their I.D.’s. Otherwise, I won’t let them in.
      In general, teachers love the fact that we’re here as an educational resource. We’re building a library that’ll have a lot of periodicals and books that cover a lot of the artists we represent. We already have a lot of books from the U.K. that are not readily available here in Dallas. And we are going to start the artist talks, so in the fall I believe Sarah will be able to give a talk that students will be invited to. We really want them to be able to come and see what makes the artist really tick.

      …mbg: Why are the YBA’s particularly important to Dallas?

      JG: It’s obviously part of Kenny and George’s passion and their collection. We’re working in tandem with other Dallas-area collectors like the Rachofskys, the Hoffmans and the Roses. They all have wonderful collections and have made generous donations to DMA. But the YBA’s were not well represented by any of their collections, so the Goss-Michael Foundation really provides the missing link in the whole picture.

      …mbg: To me, it seems that the public awareness of YBA is already relatively high, so I’m wondering why Kenny and George didn’t choose to work with some lesser-known emerging artists.

      JG: Working with emerging artists is in our long-term plans. Kenny and George’s collection may have started out with YBA’s, but I think it will evolve. We have plans to build our own building for the Foundation and in that building we’ll host residency programs for some of the YBA’s and possibly local artists as well.

      …mbg: What is Tattoni-Marcozzi’s role in shaping the Goss-Michael collection?

      JG: He’s constantly paying attention to the art fairs, but we also have an art advisor. In general, Kenny and George’s art advisor helps them assemble their personal collection and Filippo creates the exhibitions at the Foundation.

      …mbg: Where is Kenny and George’s art advisor based?

      JG: She’s based in the U.K. and right now they’re continuing to focus on collecting YBA’s.

      …mbg: So far, your curator has only organized single person shows. Are you planning on doing any group exhibitions?

      JG: We probably will. It’s just that we’re such a young organization. This is only our third exhibition. These one-person shows allow us to show the core of the collection.

      …mbg: Let’s turn our attention to your scholarship programs. It sounds like you have big plans for the program.

      JG: This year we offered our first Texas-wide scholarship and we sent out announcements to all the art teachers in the state. Ultimately we’ll do a national scholarship as well, but next year we are focusing on expanding the Texas scholarship.

      ...mbg: Will you expand the program to the college level?

      JG: Quite possibly, if we have the funds. For Kenny and George, although they want to showcase the collection, they’re primary goal is to educate and give back to the community.

      …mbg: What does your programming look like this fall?

      JG: Well since we’re still kind of limited on space, it’s going to be on the smaller side, but we hope Sarah [Lucas] is still going to do something for us. Also Michael Craig-Martin, a friend of Kenny’s who basically helped start this whole thing, has said that he would like to come to Dallas and do a lecture for us.

      …mbg: You mentioned buying property and building a space. Do you have a time frame on that project?

      JG: Yes. Our goal is to have the property secured within the next several months. We’ve already met with the architects and have a plan in the works. The actual building process will probably be about two years from start to finish. When the building is completed, we’ll probably do a really big group show and publish a Foundation catalogue. In addition to exhibition space, we’ll have our library and classrooms and perhaps a sculpture garden.

      …mbg: Does the Foundation have a board of directors?

      JG: At this point, it’s George, Kenny, my husband and I and our attorneys in London. But we will expand and we already have people in mind that we’d like to ask. But as yet we’re still in our infancy stages.

      Claire Ruud is Editor of ...might be good.

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