This time last week I was sitting down to dinner with Christina after a great afternoon at Supermarket art fair. This is the eighth year that I have visited the fair and each year is a unique experience! There is always slight edge about the whole thing and that is exactly what makes it vibrant and vital. Some stands host on-going projects that develop over the four days, others make slick presentations that make me wonder if they aspire to be commercial galleries or if they are pastiches of blue-chip spaces. Most booths fall somewhere these two extremes and I found myself drawn to these. It was great to have a good chat with Felipe Castelblanco of Mote 078 Gallery. It is always interesting to learn a bit about the person behind such an initiative.
I also caught up with some artists who I know from courses at Mejan, and saw work by artists from around the world that I found fascinating and inspiring. I might be re-assessing my resistance to the term ‘artist/curator’ not only were there great pieces and projects curated by artists but the whole event made me realise that I could be interested in organising shows or events – just for the fun of it! This might also be the result of no longer living in a city full of art and artists – there is an obvious lack of opportunity to see contemporary work here so the idea of filling that gap has a certain appeal (even if it has a very uncertain audience)!
It is the tenth birthday/anniversary of Supermarket – and not surprisingly there were both reflections and projections about the artist-led scene. One of the most pressing debates was about remaining independent – what does these mean today and how can it be achieved. ‘Independent’ of what? This is of course a key question. I realise that I have remained wonderfully independent (in some senses – no gallery, no external commitments or responsibilities, no-one’s agenda but my own …) however I do not think that this was the kind of independence that was being discussed. I am not always sure that my independence has been particularly rewarding – in fact I am pretty sure that it has been the opposite, it has been pretty expensive! Independence can be something of a luxury and while I whole-heartedly support every artist’s wish to remain ‘free’ I do wonder how sustainable it is and what it actually means. Independence here in Sweden has tended to mean independence from the commercial market, and at the same time it has tended to mean a dependence on state, or local, governmental support – either directly or indirectly. Sweden seems to be going through a slow but progressive shift way from socialism towards to capitalism, and of course this is being felt across the arts. This affects not only direct funding of the arts but also the attitudes of the private individuals that comprise a city, a town, the country. One of the longest established and most well-known artist-led galleries in Stockholm has been presented with a massive rent increase, an increase that they simply can not meet. At least three large studio complexes in Stockholm are on ‘demolition’ contracts and waiting to be replaced with apartment blocks.
Artists have a good track record of ‘rising to the challenge’ and finding ways to survive and thrive, and this is what makes the future exciting. It also makes networking, collaboration, discussion and cooperation essential. And these were abundant at Supermarket, and perhaps in the context of city’s feverish fetishisation of capital this is what made the fair feel even more vital. I wish that I had been able to be there for the full four days and to have taken part in more of the programme, I think that I need to put next year’s event in my diary now and make sure I do not agree to do something else at the same time!
It was lovely to open the Supermarket magazine and see my name as one of the production team. Although it might be obvious I had not thought of my work with translation, language/sub editing and proof reading as part of the publication’s production. I am very grateful to whoever put my name on that list – thank you!