A Black Book of Established Art-World Connections; a social calendar chock-full of private views; a list of artists who give you 30 to 50 percent off the sale price; attending art shows around the world. So far, the road to opening and running a commercial gallery has been well trodden. Yet a new wave of individuals, disillusioned with the system, creates new spaces that merge art purchases with more philanthropy models, and combines an eagerness for creative experimentation with political fire.
Former model and Courtauld graduate 27-year-old Charlie Siddick drafted Postelein gallery in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020. “Being of mixed race heritage, watching the disturbing footage unfold in the US while I was locked up, was unable to did not protest, encouraged me to raise an art fund for Blueprint for everyone [formerly the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust], ”Says Siddick of her bi-monthly online shows featuring works of art ranging from £ 500 to £ 3,000, donating 25 per cent of sales to a list of philanthropic businesses. In Purslane’s model, the artist takes 50 percent, and the gallery 25 percent (unless the artist donates their percentage to charity, in which case Purslane does too). Exhibitions included those of painters Joana Galego and Amy Beager, self-taught ceramicist Alma Berrow and abstract painter Jessie Stevenson, whose work explores our relationship with nature – and many of the works sell out within 24 hours. “Successful businesses do not have to be entirely profit-driven,” says Siddick. “I want Purslane to support young artists. And there is always an opportunity to give back. ”
Sophie Wood was also encouraged by events of 2020 to set up a gallery, Between the pines, which weaves philanthropy into the structure of its business. Support a minimum of five percent of profits Mount Kenya Trust, which aims to preserve the elephant corridor between Mount Kenya and the Rift Valley. It’s a very personal project: “I just want complete freedom to represent work that gets my pulse pounding,” she says. Well-known artists involved include textile artists Ptolemy Mann and Margo Selby, ceramicist Celia Dowson and painters including William Balthazar Rose.
For two London galleries, at home, founded by British photographer Ronan Mckenzie, dedicated to the exhibition of the work of BAME artists, and Guts Gallery, compiled by Ellie Pennick in response to her own financial problems as an art student, feels the restructuring of the system is particularly political. “The traditional art business model reflects socio-political austerity,” argues Pennick, who grew up in the Yorkshire working class. “A system that disproportionately benefits people who do not experience racial oppression, incapacity, gender and class discrimination – to name a few. We turn the traditional power dynamics between gallery player and artist. ” Her business specifically aims to “champion” rather than represent British artists who are statistically struggling in the art world. Artists Victoria Cantons and Sophie Vallance Cantor are two names to keep an eye on.
“Artists are often left out of the philanthropic conversation,” says New York art historian Clara Zevi, who founded Artists Support last year with Oscar Tiné, a French multidisciplinary artist. “They are constantly asked to donate work, but they are never asked what charity they want to support.” On this platform, collectors donate the total selling price to the artist’s chosen goal. All profits go to charity, and the project is managed pro bono. Artists involved include blue recordings such as Hiroshi Sugimoto, Stephen Shore, Michael Craig-Martin and Rose Wylie; emerging figures such as ceramics artist Katy Stubbs and textile artist Charlotte Edey; and artists such as Lorna Simpson, whose recent collage raised £ 35,000 for To Freedom, an organization that fights institutionalized racism in America.
“Our initial motivation was to help the city we lived in and create a fundraising structure that could function beyond the pandemic,” says Tiné. With the launch of NYC, the duo raised more than $ 75,000; A London launch followed and an LA outpost will open in February. “The art world creates so much wealth that it only seems logical to allocate some of this to help communities,” says Tiné.
The art market is notoriously tough, with the players involved focusing just as much on transactions, investments and status as on the art itself. It is this fatigue with stage management and killer energy that has inspired new gallery owners to start something that works differently. “I felt overwhelmed as an art consultant trying to keep up with all the artists and exhibits that come in my inbox,” says Alexandra Ray, co-founder of San Francisco and London-based Virtual Gallery Eye of the Hunter, which was launched in September 2020. “I thought it would not be wonderful to have just 15-20 wonderful moving or important works sent to me that I might actually want to buy as a collector. A kind of wish list of desirable works. ”
She has partnered with art advisor and curator Catherine Loewe to create a website that offers quarterly exhibits of these 15-20 cherry-picked works. In collaboration with the female-run virtual experience design studio and CGI firm INVI, the physical gallery space is being replaced with a moving video, accompanied by music. Their magical second performance, Her dark materials, was compiled by gas curator Philippa Adams, in an unused railroad warehouse in Buckinghamshire, and featured works by the likes of multimedia artist Charlotte Colbert, Max Mara Prize winner Emma Talbot and abstract painter Trudy Benson.
“It’s a new way to experience art, and we want to stay at the forefront of this medium, both technologically and creatively,” Ray says enthusiastically. Who knows if a new art world order is on the horizon? This unconventional ways to buy art at least paint a different picture of the future.