The hooligan art dealer

Gallerist Tania Wade talks to Workingmums.co.uk about falling into the art world, being Noel Fielding's art dealer and being a single mum.

Tania Wade is perhaps just as colourful as the art she sells. Having come to art almost by accident after a career in acting, she has been dubbed the “hooligan art dealer” by Noel Fielding, one of her artists. One of the galleries she shows art at is a historic patisserie in Soho, right in the centre of theatreland, which attracts an international artistic clientele. She shares the space with her sister who runs the patisserie and whom she describes at “a mix between Margaret Rutherford and Joan of Arc”. They seem to have a typical fiery sisterly relationship. “She bosses me around and I swear at her like a teenager,” says Tania.

The Maison Bertaux patisserie has a history of working with artists, but Tania has updated the gallery. “It’s quite an unusual, eccentric place,” she says, adding that her sister has acted as a bouncer for some shows. This has resulted in some interesting situations, for instance, once she almost turned Kasabian away because she felt they were not dressed right. Another time her sister took down some of the paintings in a show just before it was due to start because her chef disapproved of them.

Tania’s role tends to go beyond what might normally be expected of an art dealer. She relates, for instance, how she was asked by Noel to collect porn adverts from phone boxes for one of his works.

Her explosion into the art world came almost by chance. “Being an art dealer came out of the blue like a volcano splodging out,” she says.  “I don’t pretend to know a lot about art. I go on instinct and only take on artists whose work I like.” It must be some instinct because she appears to have selected her artists well.

She started in 2007. Tania had trained as an actress at RADA and had worked for several years until she had children. She did some adverts, but could no longer tour when her children were on the scene. As the main breadwinner in her family and for several years now a single mum of two teenagers, she had to find a way of earning money. 

Noel Fielding

Tania's first show went very well and she managed to sell everything. There she bumped into Noel Fielding who told her he was an artist and asked if she would do his show. She said no. At the same time, she was trying to get The Observer to do a profile of her first artist, but they wanted to feature her as a rising star gallerist. She was so angry that they had turned down her artist that she said no at first. Then she thought she might be able to get some of the artist’s works in the background. During the interview she mentioned that she was doing Noel Fielding’s show. She then texted Noel and told him what she had said. “He texted me back and said ‘well, we’d better do it then’,” she laughs.

“It was a bit chaotic. Noel would turn up with his art in a plastic bag with bits of it torn off,” she says. “He stuck one painting together with glue.”

His show was a great success. He gave her the name “hooligan art dealer” and the two work well together, plus he attracts a good crowd to the gallery. In part she is able to live up to the hooligan art dealer tag because she works on her own and so there are no boards to go by and no rules. “I work directly with the artists and there are not a lot of lengthy negotiations,” she says.

Her work involves everything from curating shows and promoting her artists in the press to sending art works around the world since many of the buyers buy off her internet site. She does shows at Maison Bertaux, but also in other places such as Liverpool and has done some pop-up shows.

Tania has always liked going to art galleries and has become more and more immersed in the art world over the years, with Maison Bertaux becoming a meeting place for many people from the art world. Most of the time artists approach her to be their dealer – several are well known names and from the acting world with which she is so familiar, such as the actor Timothy Spall and comedian Harry Hill.

Asked how she manages all this with looking after her children, she says that she was only able to start on the art work when they were old enough to go to secondary school, a boarding school outside London. In the last year, Tania, who grew up in the West End, has started doing some more acting work. Noel wrote her a small part in a comedy show and she has a profile in the acting Bible Spotlight.

In the meantime she is focusing on her next show, Alright, Sweeart? by artists Sarah Graham and Kim Haskins, which opens to the public from Friday the 24th October.

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