Ben Heslop is the creative director and owner of Landmark Street Art based in the North of England.
After studying photography at the age of 18, Heslop has discovered a real passion for visual arts, contemporary modern, urban art and street photography. He then founded Landmark Street Art in October 2017.
Landmark Street Art works directly with prominent graffiti and street artists like Ben Eine, Banksy, The Connor Brothers, Pure Evil, AME72, Mr Sly and Tabby. Heslop is making a great difference by creating a real bond between him and the artists & the clients.
“I had seen an increasing gap between how I wanted to be treated as a customer and what I felt was happening in some of the larger galleries and at some of the shows and the way I thought it should be done. ” expresses Heslop.
In their first year, the gallery has sold art all over the world from South Korea to Norway, Italy to Canada. They have also curated two complete collections for a client in London and Washington.
“If we don’t love it, we don’t show it.”
You can now discover and purchase art from various artists such as David Shrigley, Lucie Flynn, Banksy, Wrabel, Rourke and more!
Please visit the Landmark Street Art’s website for all the details.
Introduce yourself. What's your story?
Hi, my name is Ben Heslop and I am the creative director and owner of Landmark Street Art. We are based in the North of England and from our humble back street gallery we are lucky enough to have built a worldwide audience who love and believe in the artists we work with and how we develop the personal side of the relationship when buying art. It is vital to me how that should feel for both artist and client.
Tell us a little bit about childhood. What were you passionate about?
I was always outside and my parents were really great at getting me out experiencing nature and allowing me to meet and interact with a wide range of people both in age and social situation. This lead to me developing an intense passion and love of human interaction and adventure! It built me a real sense of instinct from an early age and I have always been very confident in following my gut instinct about the situations I get into and the people I meet. In short, I was very lucky to have a very warm, loving and happy childhood and I am always mindful of this and extremely grateful for. It’s so important to be helped to develop a strong sense of self at an early age and something that lasts you a lifetime.
When did you start feeling connected to the arts?
"The arts' makes it all sound very dramatic and high brow! I love looking at interesting beautiful or challenging things. That can be in the mountains, in a book, in someone’s facial expressions when they talk, in a broken building or a stunning painting. Connection with visually interesting and wonderful things happens minute by minute on a daily basis if you choose to seek it. I never proclaim to be an expert on any one type or genre more someone who is prepared to explore and be open to what is out there in all its varied formats.
When did you start getting involved in the arts?
I have always been a closet gallery geek! Whenever I traveled I would make a point of visiting galleries from grand nationals to small community centre projects all over the world, it genuinely didn't matter to me if i was confronted by old masters, local sculptors or hobby painters or graffiti on the journey to the building! I wanted to see it, experience it and form an opinion on it. I never ‘don’t like’ something as it all has its place in forming my opinions, a lot of things don’t interest me and I wouldn’t have it in my own collection but that’s the beauty of it, that same piece could be someone’s jewel and similarly they may look at what I love and totally not get it, how fun is that!
You studied photography. How does photography impact your work today?
Any form of art is all about documenting something in my opinion, be it a feeling, an opinion or a metaphorical or physical view point and photography does that so well. My love of photography has always been based around the streets, I have a massive collection of photo journalism books as I love the way photographers like Martha Cooper Abbas, Susan Meiselas and William Klein can capture raw life, no edits in the shot only the selection, just life happening before the lens in all its brutal glory. Sometimes these images can be very uncomfortable others times heart warming but I find it fascinating to see life through their lenses. I love documenting my own life through the camera and believe such strong memories and journeys can be chronicled through imagery. I photograph my children regularly and build it into a book which one day will be there’s to enjoy and hopefully reminisce with fond memories of their journey. I know we are in the age of video but I’m all about the photo! That still, frozen snapshot in time is something even more magical than a moving picture for me.
You started Landmark Street Art in 2017 by yourself. What made you want to start this project in the first place?
I was increasingly disillusioned as a collector as to how some of the sales of the pieces I had bought had gone. Don’t get me wrong I have a very small budget and wasn’t expecting the red carpet to be rolled out when they saw me coming! However I also loved what I was buying and wanted someone to share in that and not just treat it like it was a purchase of bread and cheese from the local corner shop! I thought I could do it better and would concentrate on the relationship side of it both with the artists I dealt with and the clients who bought from me...and it is always commented on by both parties and seen as very refreshing. Each time I get told this it spurs me on to keep going in this vain, because it obviously does matter and it isn’t just me who feels this is important! Business is business, we are not a charity, but that doesn’t mean it has to be cut throat and clinical. From the first call to the hanging I believe it should be fun at every stage for all concerned, the process should be part of the memory that makes you smile when you stare at the piece on your wall.
What were the biggest challenges when you first started this?
I look back and think I must have been crazy! I basically wrote down a long list of artists I collected and loved (or wished I had in my collection!) and went about contacting them! It's crazy to think that I started in this way, simply getting the numbers and picking up the phone! I still have the list and look back at it now and again. Some didn't work out and some were super hard to find... Some I still have not found but I am totally humbled at where I have got to and it would not have been possible without the support I have received from people believing in why I am doing this and appreciating the whole ethos behind it, especially Ben Eine, Tabby, Ame72 The Connor Brothers, Tina Zigler and the Whole Moniker Art Fair crew and a total one off dynamite energised client and close friend (you know who you are!) and of course my family who, by now are used to supporting me and my crazy plans!
What's the best thing about being your own "boss"?
Making your own rules! I always had a definite vision for what I wanted to offer people, especially in the way they were treated and the relationships I built when working with them. It can be a lonely place and even with great support and amazing advice it’s all on you which is pretty daunting! But the challenge of keeping to my vision and the joy when it all plays out how I envisaged is truly priceless.
What is your number one goal with this project?
Have fun and share in the joy of the mad crazy wonderful rewarding world of art! It never stops turning and morphing and throwing up new exciting avenues to discover...my goal is to walk down as many of them as possible with a smile!
One of the main goals I could list is to get street art integrated into my home city as there was none! In the last year I have got 3 international street artists to come and paint in the city and two more are planned so far to arrive in 2019. It would have been inconceivable 12 months ago to think that the city I care so passionately about could be now home to 6 world class street pieces with more booked in! That makes me most proud and fills me with joy! The response has been phenomenal and I love knowing I helped facilitate that for people.
Could you tell us a little bit about the artists you're working with? What makes you want to collaborate with them?
I keep it a small tight circle and always deal directly with the artists. I’m not interested in the secondary market at all, if a client wants me to source something I will but as for where our real energies and passions lie, it is definitely in that journey from the studio straight to wall. It allows us so many privileges and insights into the inner workings when I know the artists as friends rather than ‘just a gallery’ and I get to take that to the client and let them share in the joy and the intrigue...and it allows me to get our hands on really interesting pieces as well, which is always a bonus for all concerned.
What are the things you are looking when working with artists?
I have a mantra: ‘if we don’t love it we don’t show it’, it has to start with a love of what they do and how they do it. Without that I feel like a fraud. From that point it moves to the immovable mechanics of who else do they work with, can I get In touch with them and are they interested in building a relationship? If all that is in place the rest is easy as it’s just humans talking to humans and interacting with each other and building a shared respect of what each other can bring to the table.
What would be your definition of an artist?
It's a funny one, I don't know I could define it, a lot of my favourite artists became artists by accident or still don't consider themselves artists, maybe the key is not to try be an artist! If someone makes work that they want to, I mean the stuff that they need to get out of their system which is as strong as the need to breathe or eat then that often does it. An artist I love called Babak Gangei once said ‘art is the thing no one asked you to do’ which I really like!
What appeals you the most about creativity?
I like 'different', 'different is always good! I have so much respect for anyone who is creative, succesfully or otherwise. It is super hard when seemingly everything has been done and there is nothing new under the sun to produce something unique and creative. What’s that quote, good artists copy but great artists steal right! But if they steal creatively then wow that’s exciting to me but it can so often be miss judged or worse still when done badly end up in them just stealing ideas. But if they know what they want and make it happen even if it is not commercially viable, critically acclaimed or even widely recognised, but they still want to do it, then I think that’s amazing. The other thing I like about true creativity is it is unregulated and that’s ace in 2018! If someone is truly creative they can often be perceived as anarchic or failing it can be years later or only by a small group that their true talent is noticed.
How would you describe art in the UK?
Exciting! I am in no way shape or form an 'expert' on the Uk scene or even a small part of it, but from where I am and the journey I have taken I can definitely say there is a lot happening and I can only see momentum for the kind of art we deal in growing as it takes hold to a wider audience.
What do you want to accomplish in this world?
Wow that’s too big a question! I could make a list but it would seem endless and impossible to order! When I leave this earth I want to have used my time wisely and leave behind memories for people that they cherish and enjoyed being part of. Happiness is so underrated in this consumer based society. To die and be able to look back at what you experienced and be happy is a beautiful death to me, weather it is next week or in 50 years. That’s what I want to achieve most, so far I’m on track!
What are the things you are the most proud of?
So many, not in a 'look at me' way but I think it is really important to be happy and realise what you've done, I have been lucky enough to live, what I consider to be, a really interesting and rewarding life that has never had a straight path and I love that! I am proud of being a father and a husband, I'm proud of the risks I have taken in business, I'm proud of doing it my way and where that’s got me and the thrills and spills it has given me on the way. I love reflecting on all these things because I see so many people who don't value the experiences they have had or always focus on what they haven't achieved or what they still want in a negative way. Not one of us, me included, is truly grateful enough for the lives we have, people lack empathy and often don’t figure it out until they lose something. I try realise while I still have it.
In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?
If everyone took more time for themselves and each other. I love life in 2018 but its a fucking crazy place where its so easy to lose sight of what’s around you and what matters. Social media is an amazing tool but it has a lot to answer for, it can be a total drain on real life, it can make people feel wrongly over or undervalued which is really sad.
What's your purpose?
Who knows, I certainly don't! I guess I try to live my life enjoying the journey and trying to take as many people along with me on the way!