Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Art Crowd

Jenia Ravcova follows up on Jenny Judova's Art Map London project and considers the value of crowdfunding in the art world. For more on Art Map London see also Benjamin Bridges article 1 Day 4 Makers.

You may not have heard of ArtMap London yet, but soon you certainly will. ArtMap is an independent art events listings website dedicated to promoting the arts community and events happening in galleries and artists-run spaces around London.

Armed with enthusiasm, vigour and entrepreneurial spirit, its founder Jenny Judova is on a mission to make ArtMap London the go-to resource for seeing art in the capital. Gone are the days when the city’s art aficionados struggled to find their way into private openings, artists’ talks or screenings, ArtMap brings them what they needed – a curated, consolidated and freely accessible list of art events across town.

The website started several months ago when, having moved from Glasgow where she studied art history, Jenny discovered that London did not have either an online or a printed arts listings resource. Soon after what had started as a methodical approach to managing her own diary grew into a full-time job.

ArtMap London founder Jenny Judova with a work by Adam Slatter, 
one of the artists supporting her Kickstarter.

Jenny would share information about events with her friends on Facebook and Twitter and, as appreciation and positive feedback began coming her way, she realised there was a need for a listings service amongst London’s art-loving crowd.

‘When I started I found it hard to believe that London did not have a resource for art events. It has websites and magazines that do the general cultural listings, but when it came to art, most concentrated on listing exhibitions in big museums. Thus emerging galleries and artist run spaces were underlooked,’ says Jenny. This meant that London’s rich scene remained unknown to the wider public; its audience was limited to those in the know.

Fast forward only a few months and ArtMap London boasts a lengthy list of galleries, artist run spaces, foundations and fairs that list private views, late openings, talks, screenings and brunches that happen on their premises. More than just an information resource, it has grown into a dedicated and growing community that reaches its audience through a variety of online platforms.

However, ArtMap is about more than just providing a convenient and much needed service for art enthusiasts, connoisseurs and professionals. What Jenny hopes to achieve is to change the way Londoners enjoy art, engage with it and consume it.

‘Everyone deserves to see great art,’ she insists. ‘ArtMap is about breaking the stereotypes about how art is viewed in London. There is a prejudice that London galleries are closeted and don’t want people to go to their openings, which is not true. Galleries want people to come and celebrate the exhibition and the artists with them. ArtMap is not just a website, it’s a statement that the gallery scene in London welcomes all.’

By making information freely available and convenient to use, a project like ArtMap aims to encourage a wider community to see and enjoy more art, while at the same time allowing London’s smaller galleries to reach a broader audience and achieve greater exposure.

Moreover, it seeks to democratise the art world itself, transforming the popular idea of an art gallery as a glamorous, secluded environment into that of a friendly and welcoming place. ‘Gallery going can be a great experience on many levels and it’s not always just about the art. Private views, talks, lectures and other events are attended by a lively, buzzing crowd, where one can make new friends, engage in successful professional networking or just enjoy a pleasant evening accompanied by free booze. What’s not to love?’

This intent to democratise the art world was central to the panel discussion organised by ArtMap London at Ziferblat café, marking the launch of its Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a new website

Part of this democratisation process sees artists and creative individuals bypassing the traditional channels to reach their audience. Speaking at the event were three young women who have all successfully crowdfunded for their creative projects using the Kickstarter platform: Irina Turcan, co-founder of Art-i-curate, Lucy Sparrow, whose Cornershop raised over 500% of the asking sum, and Miriam Elia, author of We Go To The Gallery, a mock-Ladybird series book and a satire of the contemporary art world. The day after the book was published, Miriam was charged with breach of copyright by Penguin Publishing. The case attracted so much attention to her work that the book now sells for around 50 times its original price. The charges were not sustained and Miriam now plans a second edition of the book.

The case of We Go To The Gallery is illustrative of the tension between artists and the establishment that’s at stake. The agonising bureaucracy of application procedures alongside the emphasis on obscure criteria of accessibility rather than quality and originality of artwork prevents artists from getting any real return for their efforts and serves only to discourage them.

Contrarily, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo allow artists to reach and interact directly with their target audiences, receive valuable feedback from and the immediate support of the community. Essentially, crowdfunding cuts out the middleman, the bureaucratic machine, and lets the public make the call about which ideas they want to come to life. ‘If the project is good, if the idea is good, people will want to see it materialise and will support it,’ Miriam believes. ArtMap London’s campaign is another excellent example of this, with 100% of the asking sum gathered in less than two weeks and funds still coming its way in a steady flow.

This said, despite obvious advantages, crowdfunding has not yet become a common trend in the arts. The business and tech worlds have long since been taking full advantage of the model, with some products becoming real success stories, such as Kickstarter-funded Oculus Rift recently being bought by Facebook for $2bn.

Jenny Judova and her Kickstarter artists 
(from left to right): Adam Slatter, Guy Haddon Grant, Gary Russell and Lara Thomson

However, the situation might be changing sooner than expected, with a real heavyweight entering the game. On June 17, 2014 The Art Fund has launched its own crowdfunding platform. Art Happens allows museums and galleries around the country to put forward proposals for exhibitions, conservation, restoration, reconstruction and other projects, and to seek support from the public. In the austerity era of ever increasing government cutbacks on art and culture, asking for more money from the public seems like a reasonable alternative.

In keeping with the times, the Art Fund sees crowdfunding as a fresh strategy in their mission to make art accessible to everyone, whilst at the same time nurturing a new kind of relationship with the public allowing, in the words of Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, ‘anyone to be a patron as well as beneficiary of the arts.’

The perks of supporting such campaigns are, in this case, also the rewards that the donors receive, including museum memberships, original artworks and unique experiences, such as going for a burger with the Chapman brothers, whose exhibition is being campaigned for by the Jerwood Gallery in East Sussex. Jake Chapman is really hopeful for success ‘not least because we can get back to Hastings to see our mum and dad.’ That’s really sweet, Jake, but I’d rather save a Van Dyck for the nation.

Jenia Ravcova

No comments:

Post a Comment