April passed in somewhat of a blur. It concluded with a very pleasant low-key and covid responsible opening of Mr Dandy Blue’s Lepidopterarium in Flat Octopus’ Exhibition Case.
It was really nice to meet people in person after months of online events. And it was really really nice to get such a positive response to the work. I have to say that it looks very good – the professional vitrine lends it an elegance and, for want of a better expression, showcases it perfectly.
Yesterday was also the last day of the wonderful Elena Thomas’ online exhibition Drawn In for Glitter Ball showroom & projects. Elena is the first artist to have an entirely digital show with Glitter Ball and I am pleased to say that it worked well – especially Elena’s songs which have received a lot of attention. If you have not already checked them out then pop over to Glitter Ball’s website where you can still find the link to Elena’s Soundcloud playlist and her online show. Thank you too to Sarah Goudie for her great review which you can read here on a-n.co.uk.
Yesterday was, I am sure, a day marked in most Swedish artists’ diaries (and the diaries of other artists working in Sweden). Midnight was the deadline for proposing new acquisitions to Moderna Museet – the equivalent of Tate. In an unprecedented move Moderna have invited artists, curators, and galleries to submit a portfolio of five works in an Open Call. The museum has been given an additional 25 million kronor* to buy art as part of the government’s artists’ support scheme during the covid pandemic (*about two millions pounds). This opportunity was the subject of much conversation last night – a few artists admitting that they were going to be applying later that evening and wondering what prices they should put on their work. I think pricing is always a complex question for artists (unless your Hirst or Emin!), even more so when the potential buyer is significant international institution with a sudden windfall. Of course we all want to be well remunerated for our work: the hours we put in, the materials, our skills, our imagination. But then there are also those non-financial rewards of being certain collections. From the little I know of the commercial gallery scene I understand that one of the gallerist’s skills is negotiating the ’right’ price for an artwork – getting an artist into an important museum might mean offering an attractive price. A good gallerist would know what kind of price an artist could expect – pricing is another challenge facing those of use not used to the commercial scene.
On Wednesday I and several other artists I know presented our work to another panel (committee?) charged with buying work. Regional councils have also received additional finances and also made an open call to artists working in, or with a connection to, the county. It was the first time that I have ever made such a presentation: I had fifteen minutes to speak about the portfolio of five works that I had submitted. It was conducted via the share screen feature of Teams – not that it was my screen that was shared rather one of the selection panel who I had to ask for ’the next slide please’. I was really pleased to see one familiar face among the four panelists who had their cameras on – I was aware that there were several more participants whom I could not see – I do not know how many more as I was too focussed and busy with my presentation to have time to call up the participant list. We had been told that the presentations would be accessible by curators and other arts professionals as well as the committee responsible for purchasing work for Uppsala county. The thinking was that presenting to a larger audience could result in an artist being contacted by another county, museum, or public art consultant. It is a great idea but made me more nervous that I already was. The fifteen minutes went very quickly and I was very pleased that I had made a note of how many minutes to spend on each work along with those key things to mention. Of course there are always other things that could have been said, or things that could have been said differently, especially as I make work that has multiple points of engagement, but I felt that I had gotten the main points across. Now it is just to wait to hear if Uppsala want to buy something!
Sweden’s Public Art Agency (Statens Konstråd) also received extra funding and also made an open call to artists … This agency operates nationally and has it’s own collection of artworks available for public exhibition and long-term placement in public buildings. It was also commissions specific public art projects. On Monday I found out that they selected one of the five works I proposed to them. I had to read the email several times to make sure that I had understood it correctly! It is really exciting and means a huge amount to me to be in a national collection – I still cannot quite believe that something that I made now belongs to Sweden!
The news of being bought by Statens Konstråd was perhaps even more unexpected as it came only a couple of weeks after Louise (arts officer for Tierp) asking to buy Eugènes ringar for the council’s collection. It seemed just too unlikely that I should sell two pieces within weeks of each other – especially as until then I had never sold a single work. Selling to Tierp will always be my first ever sale and will therefore always have a very special place in heart.
My artistic identity at the end of April is not what it was at the beginning of April: I am now an artist who has sold work, and more than that I am now an artist who has work in a local and a national Swedish collection! I really cannot describe what this means to me, I can say that it feels as though I have achieved two very significant goals – goals that I barely dared to name in case that I never achieved them. Thank you Louise, and thank you Statens Konstråd!