Flowers, coffee, juice bars as art galleries and treating artists the right way…


The next set of gallery shows from the now nomadic Cultivate will be happening over a period of six weeks in a small East London gallery space just off Columbia Road, a space right by the flower market (and everything that that involves). A six week take over of a gallery space and a whole load of shows and events done the Cultivate way as summer becomes Autumn. Cultivate for those who don’t know was an art gallery based right in the middle of Vyner Street, East London, a gallery set us by two artists looking to run a space that respected artists a little mote than most gallery types were doing at the time, Sean Worrall and Emma Harvey still run Cultivate, Vyner Street has gone now, the once rather special gallery-packed street fell to property developers a couple of year ago and after five rather successful years down the street, Cultivate is now nomadic. Since we left Vyner street there have been Cultivate shows in old warehouses, in formal galleries, installations in Edwardian dress shops, out on the street under railway bridges, there’s been shows in empty office spaces, there’s been all kinds of things in all kinds of places

And so we’ve hired an East London gallery space for six weeks and once again we’re going to come together as a group of working artists and put on some shows in that space, once again we shall be artists sharing the costs and doing it all together, once again Emma and I shall be running the space, doing the hanging, the publicity, the social media, the running of things, the invigilating for hours and hours, the weeks of work that go in up front, the cleaning up afterwards. We shall be asking artists who we invite and who are ACTUALLY TAKING PART.IN THE SHOW to contribute to a share of the costs. We NEVER ask artists to submit to open calls, we are very much against the practice of charging fees just to submit an e.mail to an open call, we are very much against the way that artists tend to be treated here in London, especially the way younger new artists or artists from out of town who ate trying to find their way, We do not look to make profits out of artists, we just look to make things happen The last gallery we hired to put a show was earlier this year over in Dalston, each one of us, including Emma and myself contributed £30 to cover the costs, the £30 each of us paid covered the rent exactly (or it would have done, if one of the artists hadn’t failed to pay his share), we absorbed the costs of publicity and the hours of time spent on the show ourselves. .

Our shows are always in carefully selected spaces, we don’t put shows on in bars or cafes and then call them gallery shows or claim them to be showcases, no badly lit spaces with tables and chairs and people eating and getting annoyed while others are trying to push past them to see the art, we don’t have loud DJs or parties or bands in the way, it is all about the art on the walls (and occasionally a short performance piece).

I encountered a cafe today, some kind of smoothie place, a coffee shop in East London, charging artists a £30 fee per piece of art (for each piece of art mind you), actually it was brought to my attention by another artist and then more artists (there;s quite a bit of a backlash on Facebook now), when people find these rather cynical things then tend to tell us about them now. not sure why? The people running a coffee shop by definition, make their living out of selling their coffee, they make their money out of their food, out of staying open late and and feeding people, their spaces have tables and chairs, there’s people eating, these aren’t practical place to go view art, they can’t charge a fee and claim they are showcasing art. Sure hang a piece or two on your walls if you want, sell it and split the money 50/50 if you want, fair enough but don’t claim to be an art gallery doing young artists favours, don’t pretend to care about artists and don’t take the piss with your cynical fees, don’t use us artists to try and make an extra buck and then tell us you care about us. The artist who found the East End Coffee shop’s call for artists, found it on the Arts Council website, shame on you Arts Council, but then when have the Arts Council ever cared that much about working artists, the artist who found the call brought it to my attention So said coffee smoothy place claims to do lots of publicity for the £30 per piece fee, not a hint of any of this publicity on their website though, no mention of art or artists or events or anything, just some cafe selling smoothies and coffee

what we do is a million miles away from what’s very obviously going on in this back street East End cafe. At Cultivate, we are artists who come together,and hire decent spaces (not cafes) and together we share the costs of that hire,,no one makes any money out of the artists, everything is shared between all of us, us being the participating artists, we are forced to do these things to avoid these situations we see all the time , the last space we hired, a gallery in Dalston, cost us £500 in rent so yes, we all chipped in £30 and all put on a show together, worked out far better than handing over our cash to some cafe who don’t even appear to do any publicity for their “events”. There;s a million differences between a well publicised gallery show put on my artists and handing over £30 for a bit of wall space over a table and chair in the corner of a cafe that’s busy selling coffee.

What we need here in East London is a decent union of working artists that has some teeth (sw)


One thought on “Flowers, coffee, juice bars as art galleries and treating artists the right way…

  1. Well said Sean, I totally agree about hanging art in cafes etc. [and in the spirit of Rothko and his Seagram Murals].
    Goog luck with all your projects…I wish I were nearer!

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