Open Forum event with Matt Roberts, BlueMonkey Network and Transition Gallery

The Open Forum event was with, Alex Michon (Director at Transition) and Judith Alder (BlueMonkey Network). Supported by Pallant House Gallery and Unity Arts Trust.

Panel aim was “to use our experience to provide advice to artists in regions where the commercial sector is developing and less visible”.

In Chichester we have two small commercial galleries with highly polished popular wall art, niiice.

Pallant Gallery support contemporary artists, and pioneered the Outside In programme amongst others. IAMJOY gallery gave emerging artists an opportunity to show work and network in the centre of town. Fanstastic – I had my first solo show there.

When I graduated no-one explained what the options were, no-one mapped out the terrain for how to be an artist, how to build and sustain your practice, so I co-founded ChArt with Tim Sandys-Renton and Lucy Greenfield. An artist led Do-It-Yourself network and have organised the kind of events that I wish I’d had when I graduated.

So the Open Forum did their bit in citing landmarks in this mysterious territory today.

First question: How do you do commerce?

Transition said that the art and the artist was at the heart of what they do, not fairs or sales but the work itself. And they were always looking for ways to develop new commercial models. Success of the artist was not seen as confined to a top tier gallery representation and sales. An example was consultancy – one of her artists lives in a wealthy London area and organises tea parties where she talks about artists and their work, introducing potential buyers to artists and artworks. She generates market.

Judith talked of two artists that had reached commercial success, the main reason being a clear developed art product that was targeted at the right galleries for the work, that relationships had been built up over years. Matt added how galleries don’t like cold callers, does that mean they need wooing? That they need to be sold to and warmed to your work to help them see what’s in it for them? Is that it I wonder? It was still an elusive answer – you just go to the galleries to see if what they do fits your work, you network you’re arse off and don’t get pushy.

(Chris Gilvan-Cartwright recently advised that he’d found the key had been in having a combination of three things: the thing you love, the thing you’re good at and the thing that makes money – the combination of all three meant you had something self-sustaining.)

How do you generate income?

Judith said it was about having multiple strings to generate income. My multiple strings have sometimes felt like a bowl of spaghetti. These could be income from residencies / sales / prints / talks / writing articles / workshops / consultancy / commissions / competitions – ooh competitions were a top target…VITAL. The more prestigious the better (John Moores coming up soon), to choose ones that suit your work, to watch out for the exploitative¬† ones (cost a lot but not much profile). If you get shortlisted add it to your cv. Don’t be shy if you haven’t won, it still can make a difference.

How do you find other galleries – do you have to trawl through Google?

Matt suggested using online directories, that Arts Council have a list of NPO’s (National Portfolio Organisations – those that get regular funding) 118 visual arts galleries, producers, support networks – they all have a public remit so you can see whether their aims meet your needs. He also suggested South London Art Map, Artcomments, ArtRabbit, New exhibitions of contemporary art, Re-title, Axis,

What else can they offer?

Tours – apparently Whitechapel Gallery offer a networking night and tour (with drinks) first Thursdays. ZAP also offer walking tours of galleries around London.

What else can you do?

He also suggested using sites like Axis to find artists, ‘find work that you love, see who made it, which gallery shows their work, and make contact with the artist and see what happens’

What’s changing in your organisations to address these issues?

(AM) Said that whilst she wasn’t making art, her practice had become working with artists closely to support them making theirs (helping them with funding applications, writing, supporting them in the gallery.

(JA) talked about how she works in cycles of research/thinking, making and then getting her work ‘out there’. She was incredibly honest saying that she still seeks ways to make her practice as an artist and artist supporter more sustainable. She took a year out from developing BlueMonkey to work on an MA, to feed her practice, and is finding success with both. She also added that with all the people she’d met and worked with, she wished she’d continued her relationships with them, with an email update now and again or a call. That one rang true – I’ve worked with people on different projects and just lost touch. Some amazing people.

The art fair tiered cake..

Apparently there is a system in London. A tier, like a wedding cake. Apparently the likes of Freize are at the top which is a show of galleries and that their artists generally don’t have their own websites, making them even more exclusive. At the middle of the tier are the likes of Art14, Zoo and then Sluice. Not sure what was on the bottom? If it’s anything like here my guess would be artist led events?? Like Artel. But maybe it’s not best to wait around looking pretty waiting to be discovered or rescued and, as was the underlying theme of the Forum, to Do It yourself.

So, I’m going to get even more events sorted in this area…watch this space.

2 Comment

  1. This is a helpful resume of a very useful event. It gave a very realistic view of how hard the artist has to work at promoting themselves and their work, alongside actually maintaining their studio practice.
    Looking forward to more events like this through ChArt!

  2. admin says:

    Thanks Sehila – oh yes…lots more in the pipeline! Tiff

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