When I became Executive Director in April 2015, I was acutely aware of a sea change within the cultural landscape. I am certainly not unique in this respect: Alistair Hudson (Director of mima) notes '...art and culture are under scrutiny as never before and the use value of art has slipped away from ordinary society'. At the same time however, we see artists working with people and spaces, in collaborative, dynamic and interactive ways. Artists operating outside the gallery have come to play an essential role in society, yet these activities appear misunderstood, poorly profiled and simply not valued at the level of practice supported and promoted by the gallery sector.
At Axisweb we decided it was a good time to ask some questions. With the aim of better understanding the experiences of individuals working beyond the gallery, we commissioned a new piece of research with a focus on how validation and visibility are (or aren’t) being gained.
Written by Professor Amanda Ravetz and Dr Lucy Wright of Manchester School of Art, the research is a response to our questions and through a series of semi-structured interviews captures the opinions and experiences of producers, commissioners and artists all operating outside of galleries.
The report substantiates feelings that many artists will be familiar with: exclusion, rejection, misrepresentation [galleries use the wrong language], sidelining and being unrecognised, all for producing ‘the wrong kind of work’. These are issues which have been aired many times, however we are determined that this research will be a catalyst for change.
We established working groups made up of artists, producers and commissioners to drive this process. These groups will develop collaborative mechanisms to tackle the issues raised in the research and consider and implement ways to improve advocacy and profiling work beyond the gallery.
By continuing our partnership with MMU and expanding this membership, we will explore and test new models focusing on use value, metrics and social signs that help champion, profile and evaluate artists and art beyond the gallery. Ultimately, we aim to connect and engage with a broader public to reinforce the value of art and artists within society.
Mark Smith, July 2015
Click on the publication to view the report, click 'Expand' to enlarge.