“I’ve learned a lot in the last few weeks,” Sam Ross says, in one of those tones where you can’t quite tell if he’s excited, ecstatic or exasperated, but after the last couple of weeks, he’s had we’re leaning towards all three.
He’s just come back from Paris from the Off White show, “It was really stressful, we went with the boys [Ib Kamara and Gareth Wrighton]- that was their first show,” he shares.
The Editor-in-Chief and Art Director of Dazed respectively are not only Ross’ closest friends, but most prominent collaborators; “We went obviously to support,” Kamara was announced as the brand’s Art & Image director earlier this year, with Wrighton as Art Consultant, “but you’re still trying to work and keep the pace up so that was the most stressful part, to be honest.”
And he has been incredibly busy: alongside producing fashion week shows, viral Dazed cover shoots and stylish ad campaigns, Ross has been curating his own major showcase not only to showcase his artists’ work but a testament to the community he’s been building since New School was founded in 2021.
“You can’t say that you represent artists if you don’t display their work.” – Sam Ross
“Major”, the agency’s debut exhibition brought together works from the artists New School manages along with close friends and collaborators including Kamara’s striking Uncomfortable furniture pieces and Wrighton’s auric Stronger. Along with Campbell Addy’s photo series Am I Paining You, installation pieces by set designer Ibby Njoya, Crunchy Cheeto bodybuilder sculptures by Lydia Chan and photographer & stylist Joseph Lokko’s larger-than-life photographic cutout Untitled.
“Calling the show ‘Major’ was kind of cunty,” he laughs, the name Major itself being so easily quotable and irreverent; a way of fitting the creative force of the works on show in a single phrase and a tribute to Ross’ sparkling sense of humour; it set the show up to be a major success from the very start.
“Probably 70% of the work was created just for this, I think it’s important to give an artist that,” Ross continues, there was power in giving Major’s participants space to do work however they want which manifested itself in the display. Doing what makes them happy without a client to please or a brief to meet; shifting the focus from commercial potential and internal showcases to platforming talent in its rawest form on a public scale. “Most people in the show, they’re used to working brief by brief so it’s great to say to someone, just do whatever you want […] you can’t say that you represent artists if you don’t display their work.”
Opening in October 2022 the show was held in the Sutton Street galleries, one of the many exhibition spaces at the mythic 180 Strand building, which is where coincidentally New School’s office is located along with Dazed Media’s HQ. “This building is incredible, I keep saying this to people. Mark, the curator, he fully created this.” The ‘Mark’ in question is Mark Wadhwa, the property mogul and entrepreneur who after purchasing the 180 building in 2012 transformed it into the cultural centre it’s known as today.
“Everyone [in the industry] is so untapped, held back because of existing relationships or whatever hierarchy they’re in.” – Sam Ross
“I think so many people have been approached and are on the fence about moving here. I mean I turned up here when Ib started at Dazed. I’ve done the whole working from someone’s garden in East London, it’s so detached. Here you’re a few doors down from everyone, you’re somewhere that’s alive. There are negatives of course, but for the most part, it’s incredible and it really can accelerate people’s careers as it is literally a podium. It’s like an arena for people to perform in through a collective mindset and community. It’s a destination.”