Conversations: Dario Illari of Jealous Gallery

20th of August 2018

Dario Ilari is as memorable as the works on display at his Shoreditch based gallery/printing Studio - Jealous. With a background in ceramics, Dario’s entry into the art world was less of a step, and more of a cliff jump into a ravine - eyes closed. His dedication to himself and to his path is beyond admirable, and extends to the artists he collaborates with at Jealous. And yes — it’s definitely a collaboration, because not one work in the gallery is free of Dario’s handiwork. Because for Dario, real art isn’t about the money, it’s about that intangible, incomprehensible, insatiable idea of always taking things just one step further.
In conversation with Dario, we talk about growing up in Shoreditch, and the gravitational pull that Shoreditch has on him and the art community. We also talk about art - and lots of it. How to keep the dream alive, and stick it up to the man while you’re at it.

Tell us a little bit about yourself what you do/your idea/your business does?
I started Jealous ten years ago. When we started Jealous, it was more to do with being part of a collaborative process with artists and to create something that really hadn't been around before. Whenever we have a show, I make the work with the artists. So many galleries are in it to produce products and that’s not art. A lot of people buy art these days not because they love the work, but treat it more like a blue chip investment. While I don’t have anything against that, I do believe that there is more to it than that.

What was the spark or Eureka moment for you? Tell us where the idea for your project/business came from?
I once went to this old collectors house, and he actually died in it. He was found dead in the bath with this incredible Goya set hanging in the bathroom. They were mouldy, the paper was f*****, and they lost their monetary value. But if you think about it, he hung them there knowing that they would value less. That didn’t really matter to him because that’s where he wanted to view his collection — now that’s a proper collector.

I guess we chose the word Jealous because it’s a biblical word. Collectors like to show off what they have, but its more about the pride of having something special. We wanted to make art that made other people jealous. It's a strong word, and in a way people have said that it's a negative word. Over these last ten years however, I feel that we've owned that word and people recognise us for it.

Do the spaces that you work and spend time in play a part in influencing your thought processes and ideas?
Our Shoreditch location is really very important. I grew up and went to school there, but then I went to Camden because that was where the art and music was. We eventually went back to the area and Pictures on Walls opened up, Banksy moved down, Tracy Emin, Patrick Hughes, so many other artists moved to the area — and it was a very good area for us to be. Space is very important, because creatives draw in other creatives, until a place becomes a hub. It promotes healthy competition, but then everything you do will be scrutinised. You just have to follow your own path. The moment you start looking at what other people are doing, you are reacting and not creating.
In what ways do you push the boundaries and try to be ‘less ordinary’ with what you do/your company does?
I want to push boundaries but I'm not naive to the fact that you have to bring money in to keep the dream alive. What that means for us is that I only do 50% paid work, and the other half allows us to do special projects. I suppose we try to not do things based on the money, so that when we do projects, we make sure that they are culturally and socially important work. We do a lot of work with primary schools, the V&A, and we also have the Jealous Needs You program where we promote new talent. For me, pushing boundaries is staying true to yourself, regardless if you are able to cover yourself for the next month. Being able to say no to stuff is just as important as saying yes. It’s more about not being diverted from your path and doing things for the right reasons.

Where in London would you say has an emerging creative community right now?

As a kid, I lived in Homerton and back then Hackney Wick was quite rough and not very cool. Now Hackney Wick is like a hipster area. Artists flock to an area because it’s cheap, but the artists make an area more desirable. Because of that, other people go there and hike up the prices so the artists have to move out and find a new area. It started in Shoreditch, then Dalston, then Clapton, and went all the way to Walthamstow. Now in South Tottenham, there are craft-breweries and art studios moving there. That’s really where I see a lot of interesting things happening. I’ve got a studio there where I make ceramics, and now I’m starting to see nice cars driving around — and that’s how you know a place is on the up and up.


"You just have to follow your own path. The moment you start looking at what other people are doing, you are reacting and not creating."

What trusted ‘less ordinary’ place in London do you find yourself going back to time and time again? (restaurant, café, bar, pub, venue, hangout or other)?
There are a few places I like. In Soho for example, I like Bob Bob Ricard. Whenever you go in there, you feel like you’re in a fantasy world. It looks like a 1930s film set and there’s a lot of gold and mirrors everywhere. I like that it is very aware of itself, very tongue-in-cheek. They do things like caviar but also do things like fish and chips, and the food is really good too. You sit at the table and use a button for champagne! It’s a bit ridiculous, but it’s the kind of place that you don't take too seriously -  you’re there just to enjoy the atmosphere.

What are your ‘less ordinary’ hidden gems in London (places to sleep, eat, drink, hang) Why do you think its special? 

I’m from Italy and so I like cooking a lot. In Brecknock Road, there’s an Italian deli called Salvino’s run by the two Salvino brothers. They always offer you a little coffee and invite you to taste some-thing new they have made. There’s something genuine about a family run place, because the people are invested in it and they want you to have a nice time. Not so much to sell, that’s not the way to do things in life. I suppose it’s a pretty boring one, but it’s useful — and it’s real.

Which ‘less ordinary’ B&Bs, hotels or apartments have you discovered and fell in love with in other cities you travel to? 
We just came back from doing a project in Miami for Art Basel. If you ever go to Miami, you gotta go to Deuce Bar. You get all kinds of people there. You get a lot of artists, Hells Angels, old school people, and probably even some hobos. Everything in there is totally graffitied. They have a pool table, a juke box, and a bathroom where you can’t even see the toilet. Art people show up dressed real nice, and bump shoulders with alcoholics, fans, and everything in between. Once you're in there though, it’s like you become part of this weird gang, and you just know that you belong.


Words by Hannah Tan-Gillies

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