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Lauren Prakke was recently named the chair of the Whitechapel young patrons group, First Futures. She comes to the position after five years heading the Tate Young Patrons program. Prakke is a delight to speak with, and incredibly enthusiastic about learning about and supporting contemporary art. In addition to her work with Whitechapel (and she’s still involved with the Tate), she’s a collector, writer, curator, and lecturer. We spoke with Prakke at the Riviera South Beach during Art Basel Miami Beach.
WHITEWALL: You founded the Tate Young Patrons program, which soon became the fastest growing young patrons program for contemporary art. After five years you’ve now moved on to chair the Whitechapel patrons program and launched First Futures. Can you tell me more about that?
LAUREN PRAKKE: I love creating projects, developing them and then moving on to the next when the time is right. I still meet with the Tate a couple of times a year to make sure the group is moving in the right direction and so they know I haven’t abandoned ship!
I’m now chairman of the Whitechapel patrons program. We’ve appointed fantastic two co-chairs of First Futures which is the younger group, along with a brilliant committee, and in less than a year are at nearly 100 members. Now this is fastest growing group. It’s a little less expensive than Tate, which helps. We’re launching higher levels over the year, the next being the third week of January with dynamic Sigrid Kirk at the helm.
WW: I remember speaking with you years ago at Frieze in London and while you weren’t officially involved with Whitechapel, you were a big fan, insisting I make sure I visited during my stay.
LP: Yes that’s right! My heart was always partial to Whitechapel because of their education program, which is incredibly strong. I also admire their Max Mara Art Prize for Women which is so important. Laure Prouvost won this year and just won the Turner Prize on the back of that this week – talk about prescient! Whitechapel has a history of being the first to identify and give shows to future important artists like Pollock, Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Picasso etc. They take the risk and put their neck out there early on. I also like taking risks, throwing things out there, not sleeping for weeks on end, and finding something actually worked out in the end. It’s what makes them tick and it really resonates with me.
I, of course deeply respect Tate in many ways which is why I’m so very, very close to it. I love creating something new, but you do it one at a time. You pick one, you do it well and make an impact, and in a couple years you can move on somewhere else. You don’t spread yourself too thin.
WW: And for actual individual patrons, do you recommend that they stick to one membership too?
LP: No, on that front I would never say don’t support as many as you can, as you might get different things from different groups. No one institution can cover everything and they all have different shows so explore as much as you can. You go with what resonates with you in the final analysis. It depends o your interests, energy levels, and thirst for learning as well.
WW: We’re talking here in Miami – are you taking any groups around while you’re here or is this your time to look for your own collection?
LP: I find that at this point in my stage of collecting, I do better on my own at the fairs. I can just fly off and can get lost in the art. If I want to spend 20 minutes talking to one dealer, one artist, I can do that without holding anyone up.
WW: So you have your collecting hat on while you’re here at the fair?
LP: Yes. I love Art Basel and Frieze. Its actually not that common for a work to really resonate with me. I’m always so excited about the one that I can’t get off my mind. And those have proven to be my best additions to my collection.
WW: Have you found anything that you wanted to take home?
LP: Yes, I have actually but I didn’t get there in time! I must wear my running sneakers next year [laughs].
WW: When you started collecting did you have a program to be a part of?
LP: That was actually how this all came about. I went to a couple of patrons visits with Tate and thoroughly enjoyed both the visits and the patrons but I noticed that everyone was much older. I thought that it would make a lot of sense to have a group of peers at the same stage in their collecting and learning. I also felt that this group would be very important as they are the future supporters of the museums. Luckily both the Tate and Whitechapel recognised this gap as well. My hope is that art can become more accessible to many people at the same time that we support these venerable institutions that do really need it. And have some fun along the way!