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Matthew Swift, Founder and Director

About Gallery Director Matthew Swift

In 2013, I founded Trident Gallery with the intention of bringing to Gloucester a gallery offering the high quality, the professionalism, and the excitement of the ambitious programs of leading galleries in larger cities, while keeping it a welcoming and vibrant center for the region’s extraordinary arts community and its visitors.

In 2019, after six years and fifty exhibitions under the name Trident Gallery, I renewed the gallery’s lease and continued under my own name as Matthew Swift Gallery.

As Director, I choose the artists and which of their works of art to show and offer for sale, and I advise and serve many kinds of art collectors, corporate clients, and art professionals in the matters of acquiring, displaying, and owning art.

As a student, professor, and then gallery director, I have spent most of the last twenty-five years learning and thinking about art and in dialogue about art with artists, scholars, students, friends, guests, and the public.

My professional training is in art criticism. In my view, the work of a critic is to feel, analyze, contextualize, ground in experience, articulate, and communicate passionate responses to art. It all begins with the emotional response, which takes on authority and power as it involves the mind and factual knowledge of the world, and which then demands — and is enriched by — amplification and interpretation within the context of the critic’s personal experiences and communal values.

My first goal as a gallery director, therefore, is to create a space and a mindset for visitors which encourages a powerful, direct experience with art. This begins with the quality of the art and includes the maintenance of a comfortable and reverent gallery space, the work of selecting and presenting art in such a way as to reveal its excellence, the provision of rich supporting materials, and often leading viewers with personal conversation into a rewarding personal dialogue with art.

Having accomplished these, I aim to make the processes of selection and acquisition of art clear, efficient, and responsive to the needs and preferences of each client. Living with a work of art is rewarding, often profoundly and in unexpected ways. But making excellent choices with confidence is not difficult or elusive for a client working together with a professional who shares the client’s perspectives on the rewards of engaging with and living with art.

Education
  • Bachelor of Science, Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Master of Arts, English, Hollins University
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Interdisciplinary Literary Studies, The University Professors Program at Boston University

I spent the first fifteen years of my adult life at universities. In graduate school, I became an interdisciplinary Modernist, researching and doing coursework in the philosophy of physics and in art criticism. I spent seven years researching and writing about the novels of Samuel Beckett. While trying to catch up to him, a genius artist and one of the most learned men of the 20th century, I received a broad education in many subjects and areas of western thought — psychology, philosophy, history, religion, music, and theater.

Early Years

My eyes opened early to the richness and power of what art could do and be as I grew up in Washington DC in a home with Old Master prints and drawings, Chinese and mid-century modern furniture, and contemporary art, much of it Modern and abstract. Many of my relatives and role models have been visual artists, musicians, writers, architects, teachers, and professors of art, history, and literature. My father, Carleton Swift, and his first wife, Mary Davidson Swift, were art collectors and museum trustees, and she edited the Washington Review of the Arts.

Gloucester

My ties to Gloucester go back to my father’s grandfather, Arthur G. Leonard of Chicago, who built a house called Druimteac (“Drumhack”) on Eastern Point in 1920. His wife, Mary Josephine, was a painter and art collector who made purchases (now in my collection) from the new art associations that formed in Gloucester in the 20s. Their grand-daughter, Lila Swift Monell, married and raised four children in Gloucester, all of whom have stayed in Gloucester. I visited Gloucester every year when young, then lived there seasonally and on weekends for twenty years while living in Boston, and in 2009 I joined my Gloucester cousins and others from New York to become the latest of Arthur Leonard’s descendants to settle in Gloucester and raise a family.

My Collection

An experienced collector wisely asked me once what I collect. I am still working on documenting my personal collection, but here is a sample.

Acknowledgements

Among those giants who have personally raised me up, spoken truth, set standards, opened doors, or otherwise mattered a lot, I thank, in no particular order, David Vogan, Alan Brody, Harriet Ritvo, Richard Dillard, Jeanne Larsen, Jürgen Renn, Abner Shimony, Sahotra Sarkar, dissertation readers Sir Christopher Ricks, Sir Geoffrey Hill, and Rosanna Warren, Roger Scruton, Jeffrey Mehlman, and Young Soo Ha. Many more must remain unnamed — teachers before university, mentors and shining stars of personal life.