17th APRIL 2011: As of this week I have decided to pull out of DEBUT contemporary for a number of reasons. It is not an organization that I feel comfortable working with. Due to being tied to the scheme through a three month contract, I have had to pay the £1200 fee for the first three months, but I am not attending the workshops or conversing with the gallery. It has been suggested that we leave on good terms, and naturally I do not want to burn bridges. There are number of issues that I had with the scheme. I am not going to lay them out all over the internet but if it is something you interested in discussing, please feel free to email me.
The blog below was written whilst I was attending, and although is sounds optimistic, I think I was trying to compensate for the huge amount of money I was spending.
The experience was not all bad, I made some lovely contacts, and the scheme has taught me about my own naivety as a young artist. I have questioned by personalism through making mistakes and have realized what is and is not important to me as an artist. This scheme may be suited to many artists out there, it is just not for me.
I have been selected as part of the DEBUT contemporary 2011. My degree at Wimbledon wasa very studious experience, giving me plenty of time to focus on my practice aesthetically and contextually however we only had minor units which lead us to question the professional aspect of our practice. DEBUT is a scheme which helps artist build a proffesional base around their practice and educates artists on the current state of affairs within the art world. We are the first artists to take part in this scheme which has created advantages and anxieties around the whole project. This blog is an attempt to document this experience to help others decide whether it would be something they would like to partake in.
I will start with how I found out about it. My peer Joe Mcelroy encouraged a few of us to work for the Affordable art fair for paid work, which we did for the extra cash. It was there that I met a young lady called Alice, who I then bumped into as a invigilator at Hauser & Wirth. She told me about Samirs Vyner street gallery and I signed up to their mailing list. They then sent the adverts out for DEBUT. - I am writing this because it demonstrates the importance of how networking really works. You have to out there, seeing people doing things, and writing stuff down. This is how one experience which really is not for you, can lead to another...which is.
So I filled out the small application form and was offered an interview. A pack was sent with the email, letting me know what DEBUT was about, and who was involved with the project. When arriving at the interview, I was told that I was going to be filmed. This completely added more to my nerves, as I had just realized others had brought actual pieces and I had only brought sheets from my portfolio! (I didn't even have my portfolio case, as it was at a friends - I brought it in a cheap 50p red folder - very unprofessional)
Things were not looking good. My mouth had dried up during the interviews and I became completely incapable on pronouncing my S's in front of Samir and Zoe. I felt like it was all over. But I think they saw something but they were unsure.
They made me wait upstairs whilst others were interviewed, which was an absolutely horrible experience. By this point they had said my work wasn't of high standard and I was shaking quite a bit from adrenaline. I finally went downstairs and they for some reason..said yes. On the condition that I make a completely new piece of work. I accepted the challenge, then received a £380 deposit invoice as I went upstairs.
I am mentioning this because it is a lot of money from an artist who has just graduated. I had no idea what this was going to be like, and I felt quite naive and sensitive after that grilling. However I left the gallery and cried on the street. Then walked to park near Queensway and cried for another hour I think. It was an emotional experience to say the least. I think it was a mixture between validation and learning how to deal with criticism combined with financial worries. - sometimes words can never describe the most chaotic of feelings. This was one of those moments.
I got home, and my mum and step dad sat down and we emptied our banks accounts to pay the deposit (I hope I get that money back). The next couple of weeks were filled out anxiety about what this whole thing was about, and how I was going to make a piece of work in 4 weeks. During this time I received another invoice for the £411 a month that we have to pay every month. If I am going to be honest, I felt angry and a little upset by the whole thing. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And I had no idea how I was going to afford it. I said yes even though I knew I did not have the funds. I had a lot of anxieties about the whole thing and there was just major uncertainty surrounding that period of time. I think this comes from working with an organization which is just starting out has you have no reference from anybody else as to how and what they do. That is why I am writing this blog. So that others know.
When the course was first advertised it stated that there was a cheaper option of £50 for a smaller amount of space. I wanted this space but was still sent the 380 invoice. After things had calmed down I wondered why it had changed from what I thought was the price to the new £411. I called Samir and asked him why and he said they had decided not to do accordance space as the lighting was weird in the gallery and it would be fairer and better if everyone just had the same rate no matter what. 2 weeks later, it was still being advertised at the possibility of doing it for £50. It was instances like this which lead to completely not trust them. Why are they STILL advertising it as that? To get artists in. One of my good friends has forwarded on an email about being 'talent scouted' by them. Unbelieveable.
Anyway so the piece was made, and delivered to the gallery on time. It is called 'The Mona Lisa' and I have gone into more detail about it in the 2011 section on my blog. I have to be real honest with this because it strongly affected my experience at DEBUT. The day before the show, I called Sophia about delivering Fruit Bowl Painting on the day of the show to keep in storage. She had stated the piece needed some white paint, I thought this was from fault of my own but they actually didn't wear gloves when handling my work and got black fingerprints all over it. I was not impressed. But I have let it go. Life is too short to hold grudges, but things were not looking up at the time, I was looking towards to owing DEBUT a lot of money and I had expected top notch service for that price tag.
WEEK ONE: Curator’s Mind // Sarah Raza, Independent Critic & Curator
Sarah Raza gave a really good talk. It was very informative, and she dipped into different biennials, dOCUMENTA, D.I.Y projects, and gave amazing tips on how to approach people in the art world. She teaches at the Sothebys Institute which is a school for the elite. She not only gave facts about the art world but gave us her experience of how she got to where she is today which I think is so important because it doesn't make the whole world so unapproachable. It gives you a general frame of how your career will progress. The biggest thing I got from this talk was Asia's importance in being a super power and how that will affect and is already affecting the art world. It is GLOBAL, and the worries of my practice in my bedroom seem quite small in comparison to Samirs and Razas view of the art world. I really began to think about what the art world as a whole, rather than just little me inside it. The internet and globalisation is really changing this world and even just to start thinking about that, can really change the way you approach everything in your practice.
Samir also gave us talks about self confidence and having respect for ourselves. Why shouldn't we do what we love for a living? Zoe told us a story about how she approached Calvin Klein offices asking for Calvin, later finding out everyone calls him Mr. Klein. The point is its about wanting it. And letting people know you are worth investing in. This is something I could definitely do with having more of.
WEEK TWO: Private Collectors’ Mind // Jean Philippe Vernes
This was a very different experience to Sara. Jean is a French collector, and is very set in art as being a commodity. He doesn't like conceptual temporal art, which is my favourite. I just did not believe in all the things he had to say, but as Samir reminded me, collectors come in all shapes and sizes. The most important lesson learned was that art is made because collectors supply the money. It is an important relationship and quite professional - it is not a friendship. We are all very different artists on this scheme and all of us have our own collectors and pockets that we will fit into, we just have to find which collectors they are. That is comforting.
I had my first 121 session with Samir and they were some advice that I took and other bits I disregarded which is the case every-time you get advice. Samir asked me to look at my practice in two different sections, the art and the professional side. You which focus depending on what experience you are having which helped me a lot as I have no money to make because this scheme is taking all my money. We made a plan for payments which relived a lot of stress. And I am now looking at this experience as a focus on me as a business. The blog itself is getting much better, and I am focusing on how I am going to get my work out there, but how to make work. Samir and Zoe's enthusiasm and belief are also starting to rub off on me. I think I am starting to believe that my art is worth putting out there, and I am beginning to think of ways of how I can convince people that I am worth investing in. Rather than just making something and sticking it in a space, I am starting to think about how I can be accessible, for people to find out about. People want to know WHY you are worth it, and you need to work out HOW you are going to let people know that.
WEEK 3: Courthauld Tour // Darren Coffield & Matthew Reeves
Unfortunately there was a pension strike on at the institute when we arrived, so we were unable to get the tour around the institute. We did find out about the gallery though, and broadened our understanding of relationship between curator and artist. Darren Coffield told us that at our age, he was on the dole making paintings. How would we afford DEBUT on that kind of money? We wouldn't. But the art world is not like it was, it is much bigger and we have to approach it differently. Matthew Reeves did offer to take us around personally on a different date so will keep you posted about how it goes.
After that I arranged for us to go to 176's 'The shape we're in' to critique the work together in the hope of getting to know some of the other DEBUT's. Five of us went to Mark Scott-Woods house (a fellow DEBUT) and we had lunch and talked about our experience. It was nice to hear that everybody is in the same boat and shared the same anxieties. However we are all in it for something different. Some want to sell, whereas I'm not so bothered about that side of things. The critique went really well too! It was nice having a mix of art school kids, and not art school and how that changes how work is perceived. I have written a review on the show in Reviews if you would like to know more about the show.
WEEK FOUR: Artist & Auction // Paul Barthaud
This was quite a painful week for me, it put me in quite a bad mood. We were taught about the first and secondary market today and the secondary market sounds like a very horrible place. We were told about ways we could protect ourselves and how to work with the secondary market rather than the secondary market deciding our fate for us. Things like 'what is a piece of art worth? - whatever someone is willing to pay for it' were being said which really are NOT my cup of tea and art is way more than that to me. But I guess they are telling us about it, because it exists and because we need to know. And it is better to be aware of how it works so you can play along rather than your fate being decided for you.
This week I have realized how much the DEBUT experience is having an impact in the way I approach my practice. I have become very aware of my internet presence and have been working hard trying get myself available on all internet sites and working hard at making those pages good. My name is now the top thing that comes up on google thanks to DEBUT which IS good exposure! I have come to realize that its not just about you believing in yourself but about convincing others that you are worth investing in and you do that by getting information out there and being available when they do come! And it works! I worked really hard on my linked in and the director of Arcade gallery added me the other day! I LOVE Arcade gallery! In all honesty i doubt he knows of cares about my work for now but that is still pretty amazing. Still getting used to Twitter, and am planning a new website so we will see how it all goes.
WEEK FIVE: Financial Planning and Business Advice// Affinity associates
This week was a really good week. We learned so much about how to financially support ourselves and what we are and weren't entitled to when being self employed. We learned all about claiming tax back and were given just really good advice. The romantic vision of sitting in the studio waiting for a collector to come find me are long gone. If you want to make money from it, you have to start thinking about how the money flows around. And the sooner you do it the better you get at it. This doesnt mean to say that I now value money over the power of art. Its not about that. Its about being able to sustain and look after myself without people thinking they can take the piss out of you because you dont know whats available to you. They suggested getting an accountant which sounds crazy at this stage, put why not. I realized how much money I spend back into my business and I have not claimed a single penny back this year. Next year I will be able to claim so much because my whole life is pretty much spent on art. It was just really useful, they gave us their contact and offered to help us if we ever needed help.
These last two weeks I have really started to notice how DEBUT is changing the way I am approaching my practice. I am starting to realize that is not just about you believing in yourself, but about trying to convince others to invest in you. And thats what this all is, learning how to make yourself accessible and making people believe that you give a shit and are serious. Its important that you have put time into yourself, when people invest in you, you become part of them, and they want to represented well. Its all starting to drop into place.
Have been really focusing on my internet presence this last 2 weeks. A fellow DEBUT Robert West is helping me redo my website for free which is an amazing help. This is how having contacts can help you. I find all that stuff very difficult and he is helping me a lot so thank you Rob! I have been putting a lot of time into my accounts and it is ALREADY starting to pay off after one week! The director of Arcade gallery added me, its a given that he doesn't know my work, or care yet, but I spent a lot of time on that page, and he can see that and he has added me I think. It will probably lead to nothing but it is a start.
I tried to squeeze in the Courtauld institute as Chantell kindly rearranged the tour, but I was a bit late and I could not find them. I think I was in the wrong section, which I am gutted about, but I am sure they would of had an amazing time!!
Went to Limoncello and spoke to the manager today who was lovely. In my DEBUT interview Limoncello was my five year goal. Katie invited me to send my work in, which does not mean I am in there but does mean that she will see it. And they will be watching me. Hopefully. If they do like the work. I feel like I belong there.
WEEK SIX: Social Media & the arts// Erin McDonald
This week Erin McDonald introduced us into the world of social media and how it could be used to promote ourselves. There seems to be a major importance in creating this internet presence but it seems to take up a lot of my time. We were taught tricks on how to make our Facebook page stand out with Facebook hacks and it was explained to us how Twitter is used and how it exists in the realtime etc.
It was an okay talk, but it was too plainly based around social media as a general tool within business rather than how it has been utilized especially for the arts. David Theobald, an artist which is part of the DEBUT screen, contributed to conversation by adding that Vimeo was the way forward if one was to be taken seriously. He explained that he opens up his video temporarily for half an hour, letting the galleries stream it for free, and then closes it up again. And that this method of downloading is now replacing CD exchanges etc. I found the most valuable bit of session from an artist himself, not from the talk. Which is strange considering you would expect top value advice at £411 a month! I found this workshop not tailored to the arts enough, in fact, I find a lot of these workshops being about business tools rather than art business tools.
I have since not returned to the gallery.
I have forwarded on my emails, the contract and experience etc the tutors and people I trust in the art world and they are all pretty disgusted. You will find people that had a good experience I am sure. But I know the art world is not particularly impressed and I have been informed that news travels round fast from word of mouth as the world is pretty small. Please google Charlie Tuesday Gates and Sarah Maple who I am sure will be more than happy to share their experiences.