Last weekend I had work in two different exhibitions: Free Speech at DEMO and Art at the Marina at Milford Marina. I’ve been mulling over the contrasts between the two.
FUNCTION & PURPOSE
The function and purpose of the exhibitions was poles apart. DEMO is an artist-run space managed by the MFA students and faculty at Whitecliffe. The focus is on ideas: because it is run as part of an MFA programme, it is a teaching & learning space, a testing space, a space to enquire, to challenge, to investigate and to show work to an art-literate audience equipped to “read” it. The emphasis is on art as idea.
Art at the Marina was a fundraising exhibition shown in a space that doesn’t usually function as a gallery. The focus was on raising money: the purpose of the art was to appeal widely to an audience of potential art buyers and supporters of the Marina. The artwork needed to be saleable work that would be bought to go into people’s homes. The emphasis is on art as commodity.
At a fundraising exhibition the works need to be displayed fairly tightly (works need to be appreciated, but space is at a premium), works were displayed with an information / price sticker. The over all impression is neat, but somewhat crowded. Curation is mostly dictated by space and number of works.
At artist run exhibition the works are displayed so that they create an interesting conversation with other works. Artist and titles are credited on a gallery map, so that labels don’t distract from the experience of the work. Each work is given space so that it can be appreciated on its own, but the placement is considered because works can amplify each other when positioned with complimentary works.
An audience comes to a fundraising exhibition as a potential buyer. Their motivation for viewing the artwork is to assess whether or not they would like to have it in their home. This audience views the work on a primarily personal level, and first impressions count more: “Do I like this?” Despite the closeness of the works, the art is viewed individually.
The artist-run exhibition rarely shows artworks that are (overtly) for sale. The audience motivation is the experience of the art. The art is view individually and collectively. The audience motivation is driven more by interest and curiosity.
The motivation for the artist is in a fundraising exhibition is financial: either personally, or to support the cause, or both.
In an artist-run exhibition the artist motivation is to contribute to the art conversation, in a group show there is also the opportunity to see their work in connection to other artists work.