Spent the morning going through all the submissions so far from the next Mixtape show (well the one’s we hadn’t already responded to), had some good art in from a painter based in Cambridge today, and from an artist working in Brazil, I do keep saying we like the way this on-line shows take us beyond London. Personally I love going through the submissions and finding new exciting artists, really not sure why galleries and curators charge artists to make submissions, it really is a quite a buzz to go through it all and go searching through the websites and social media feeds of artists we don’t know or to see what some of the artists who we haven’t caught up with for a bit are doing, it is all part of being a curator, really really don’t get why galleries think artists should pay to just make a submission.
So far this year, as an artist, I’ve been approached by two magazines asking me to pay them to write about my art (how can anyone trust a magazine when their only reason for covering an artist is money? Kind of makes everything they say rather redundant doesn’t it?), I had another publication wanting us to pay for a feature on Cultivate (so when I see then writing about other galleries, I’m going to think well that means nothing, the gallery paid for the coverage). We’ve already seen a number of open calls and galleries demanding payments just to make submissions in 2023, including one particular (Arts Council funded) gallery being championed by our rather hypocritical neighbours over the road at Space (here in Hackney) who are demanding thirty quid just to submit an idea for a show! Well out of order! This really is not how it should work, galleries and curators should not be seeing us artists as cash cows, they should not be making the act of squeezing money out of us artists part of their business plan, they should be working with us, not looking to exploit us. Besides anything else, it cuts a whole load of working class artists or artists who may not have the money, out of the picture. Art is fast becoming a middle class pursuit. I can understand a artists coming together to rent a space and putting on a show asking those who are actually talking part in that show to make a reasonable not-for-profit contribution to the costs of putting on that show and I have no problem with a gallery making a healthy profit out of a commission when they sell a piece of my art, bit this exploitation and seeing artists as cash cows is just not on. The Arts Council really do need to have a look at who they fund and who they don’t.
Hopefully everyone who has made a submission in terms of the next Mixtape exhibition so far has had a response fro us now (or will have had by the end of today), I think we’ve almost caught up with all the submissions today. Never a pleasure saying no to fellow artists but it is part of it all, we do try to explain why we’ve come to the decision (nothing I detest more than a cold-hearted cowardly cut’n copy rejection e.mail, that’s not how you treat artists who have taken the time to make submission). A lot of the time it is just down to our personal taste, sometimes it is because the work, however good it might be, just doesn’t really work in terms of an on-line group show. Yes, we are very picky about the art we select and if we do say no, it is mostly because what you’re doing just isn’t quite right for us and ultimately, we have to feel right about the art and the artist making that art to include it in one of our shows, we want to be able to shout our big mouths off about it, “hey look at this!” – if we do say no, please don’t take it personally, it is all subjective.
When we’re not running Cultivate, we are mostly making our own art, we are first and foremost working (working class) artists. When there is time some of us also write about art and exhibitions and other artists (and music) and going to shows. I say some of us, it is mostly me (Sean) who writes Organ. Organ actually started back in the last century, back in my art student days, I do try to write about a piece of art or a show or a piece of music everyday and I did write a bit round up of the best art encountered in 2022 for Organ yesterday, yo can find the full article here and here’s a taste of the piece by way of the introduction, do read the full piece on the Organ website. We’ll be kinking in with some 2023 art coverage any moment now… ORGAN: The twenty art things that stood out in 2022 – Upfest, Ken Currie, SaiakuNana, Caroline Coon, Kevin Sinnott, Lee Maelzer, I Just Can’t Think Straight, Jeffrey Gibson, Miss Bugs and…
The new art year is up and galloping then, well maybe not quite galloping but we did go to our first openings of the year last night, the first Thursday of 2023, the fifth day of the year. We’ll be along with some coverage and a typo or two in a moment. As we’ve said before, we do feel these things should be recorded in some kind of way and quite often it feels like if we don’t do it ourselves here on these fractured pages then who will? It feels like all these great art shows that come and go should at least be recorded in some way, that something should be laid down before they’re lost forever in a haze of cheap red wine and where were we last month? Too many great art shows just come and go…
“I love Sean Worrall’s writings, his tireless writings in his ‘Organ Thing’ journal/blog. Here is a fine text about the exhibition at Angus-Hughes Gallery. At some point in the not too distant… one has the inkling (more than an inkling, I foresee it) his wonderfully written texts/reviews, will be an absolutely go to historical resource, and I look forward to some intelligent/clever publisher throwing him a book contract to put the best together under one cover, again one hopes, in the not too distant …” (Paul Sakoilsky, Artist, October 2018).
So 2023 kicked off last night with the now almost traditional start to the London year that is Cacotopiaat Annka Kultys Gallery and we’re already looking at where we’re going to be in terms of art this weekend, we’re itching for art and galleries after the way-too-long end of year break, we’re already previewing forthcoming shows and looking forward to new exhibitions. Before all that though, before the business of dancing around the architecture of 2023’s art kicks in, a look back and one of those obligatory lists, the best of 2022’s art. And yes, we are based in London, East London, most of the art shows we go to are in our own town, and no, there’s no claim here that we’re covering everything, of course we’re not! We go to lots of art exhibitions and events, I visit a gallery or two on more days than I don’t, not everything we see is brilliant, far from it, not everything is worth covering, not everything needs our tine, space and coverage (not everything deserves it). This is certainly not a list of the best of 2022, this is a round up and a look back to the best of the art we encountered during what felt like a very (very) long year.
Was 2022 a good one in terms of art here in London? Well yes, there’s always good art, how could there not be with so much going on? But 2022 did feel a little undercooked didn’t it? Did the year lack a certain spirit of adventure? Was there a lack of artist-led positivity? Attitude? Did the underground or the alternative (or whatever you like to call it) offer much during the year or indeed during a rather quiet Frieze Week? Frieze itself, on the whole, was disappointing, was it even more conservative than ever this year? And there was very little in terms of shows around Frieze besides Lee Maelzer‘s very painterly show at D Contemporary or Gina Birch‘s ambition over at the rather unfriendly Gallery 46, nothing anywhere near the challenge and the excitement laid down by that big Factory Project exhibition in that very big Docklands warehouse during Frieze week in 2021. There was a lack of artists pro-actively coming together to make things happen in 2022 (whatever happened to those car park shows?), if there was artist-led activity then was mostly tied up in tediously conservative art school attitudes, does it feel like the formal establishment has tightened the grip? That the potential for danger, adventure, real challenge, has been diluted by conservative art school attitudes, has curation become way too formal? Are art schools strangling art? Is the East End dead? Is Cork Street king again? Is it all becoming a middle class sport? Did you need to have money to be an artist or a curator now? Who’s kicking against the pricks? Where’s the bite, the attitude, the danger, the desire? Why has the year been so damn polite? Dare we say predictable? And where did street art go? is it all just about way too slick “urban art” shows and print releases now? Oh come on, we need more in 2023.
There were good things though, of course there were good shows, exciting exhibitions, that feeling when walking in to Ken Currie’s Black Boat at Flowers Gallery, on the Kingsland Road or watching Hazard one’s piece evolved in the Upfest field in Bristol, Jeffrey Gibson, Caroline Coon‘s West London morning light, those Kevin Sinnott paintings, that Muss Bugs opening, there were good shows, there was genuine excitement, surely there was? Here then, for what it all be worth, before we kick in to 2023, are our art highlights from 2022… Read on