How art's coming to a wall and phone near you

6 mins
13 Oct 2022
How art's coming to a wall and phone near you

Yup, you can look at paintings, sculptures and other art without being a billionaire!

image Tschabalala Self / Avant Arte

words Rhys Thomas

To begin Frieze, and perhaps to symbolise the art world's odd entanglement with money, Damien Hirst decided to start burning physical artworks. He had given buyers of his artworks' NFTs the option for the originals to be flame-grilled and destroyed so only these faceless rich types could have the originals. With an estimated £10 million of oil on canvas still smoking, the art world was in full debate over this stunt. Hirst argued the value was already in the digital pieces not the physical ones, while others felt the money (and raw material) being literally burned during difficult economic times, was distasteful.

Thankfully, Frieze London 2022 has a lot more to focus on than Damien’s silver gloved (check that picture at the top again) disposal stunt. The main event in Regent’s Park, London, is dedicated to all arts modern and contemporary. Whether you’re into ecological surrealism or the bold portraiture of Mr. StarCity, those two big tents will have it all on display. People can even purchase works at the event.

Historically, the art world has excluded a lot of people.

But say you can’t really afford the £125 ticket price, or you’re busy, or you’re not in London? How might there be more accessible ways into the art world for you? Well Avant Arte is absolutely dedicated to making art accessible. They work with artists to offer them more exposure while also offering younger art enthusiasts access to new talent and less expensive ways to collect and view art.

Given how great that prospect is, Woo decided to have a chat with Avant Arte’s chief curator, Gemma Rolls-Bentley Wilde about Frieze and everything else art and accessible right now!

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Hi Gemma, you’re at Frieze right now! Where’s good for people with less disposable income there?

Frieze London goes way beyond the fair in Regent’s Park, it’s a really exciting moment for art in the city more broadly. There’s public installations, we’ve actually worked with Tschabalala Self, who is probably one of the most exciting young artists in the world, on a public sculpture which people will be able to see over at Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross until January 2023. It’s her first ever public sculpture. There’s also museums and commercial galleries putting on their best shows of the year around this time of year, because they know Frieze attracts a lot of art enthusiasts. They’re often free, so both are good places to start.

Amazing. Who should people keep an eye out for at Frieze London 2022 itself?

There's loads to enjoy! Lindsey Mendick and Navot Miller are both at the Carl Freedman gallery, and Hayden Dunham's works at Company Gallery have lower priced works being exhibited that are well worth checking out both from a collecting perspective but also just to enjoy. There's also Anthea Hamilton's Pumpkins, which are at Thomas Dane Gallery. All three galleries have a booth at Frieze's fair in Regent's Park.

Nice! And how accessible does the art world feel to you right now?

Historically, the art world has excluded a lot of people. It has made a point of building value through exclusivity, which has meant a lot of people have been left out of the joy art brings. There’s been a lot of work recognising and trying to change that over the last decade or so. Avant Arte is part of the change, a new system within the art world. We’ve been trying to connect with the younger art lovers, the Instagram has 2.4m followers at the moment. Most are under the age of 35. It’s people who want to buy affordable art and learn more.

That’s a big following! Why are people into Avant Arte?

Well we make very gorgeous editions of very good art, which people can own. Some editions start at €200. We also work with over 80 artists that we think are fantastic and soon to be huge, so people can keep up with the best talent around if they’re thinking about collecting or just looking for inspiration. The art does go up into the tens of thousands, but everything is valued well, it also comes in a beautiful box, you get gloves and a tote bag as part of the presentation box too. It’s a nice introduction for many people.

How do you decide on the value of art? Especially when trying to make it affordable

We consider a lot of different factors. We look at demand, how much their work has sold for previously, the materials, the amount of labour that has gone into creating the work, and also the scale. From there we also think about how many editions of the work we might sell. The more editions, the cheaper, but also the less editions, the more exclusive they are. The size of the edition can vary too, we’ll make smaller editions which are cheaper. So it’s a fine balance but we make sure we always have a broad range of price points to make sure it is as inclusive as possible. Sometimes we sell editions for a limited amount of time as opposed to having a set number of editions, and that can make it much more affordable too.

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Ultimately, what does an accessible art world look like to you?

For me it’s when everybody gets to live with art. Whether it’s in their homes or their neighbourhoods, also on their phones and televisions. It means turning existing systems on their head and doing things in a radical way, but that’s exciting and good. Using digital media better is important too because a lot of people consume culture on their phones. The physical connection is important though, which is why free exhibitions are so important, so the more art and the more diversity of art we can get across the country the better.

Where’s good for people to discover new art?

Instagram is a great way to discover and find new artists. I round up queer artists I really like on my account every Friday, for example. Any free galleries and museums are great too, the Tate galleries have free exhibitions. And of course, sometimes galleries feel intimidating, but every artist wants many people to see their work, so you should definitely try and visit them.

Why does art make you feel good?

I think art is a very powerful tool for education, empathy, joy, connecting and building communities, and tackling challenging questions and ideas. I feel incredibly privileged to spend my life looking at art and learning about artworks and the people behind them.

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