A new project to develop and sustain the archives of 100 leading modern and contemporary British artists has been launched.
Each year over the next three years, between 30 and 40 artists will be selected for the programme, which will preserve the legacies of both artists from the Modern British canon (1900-2000) and contemporary artists active between 2000 and 2014.
“It has been three years in development,” explains Mark Waugh, head of research and innovation at DACS. “A transition in the law relating to the Artists Resale Right meant we were getting lots of enquiries about artists legacies – both from living practitioners and representatives of dead ones. We found there wasn’t much objective info out there.”
DACS’ research showed that although some artists had existing archives, somewhat unsurprisingly, they tended to belong to those with a certain level of critical and financial success. “Put simply, the more high profile the artist, the more resources they have to do it. For example, Tracey Emin and Gilbert and George have extensive archives but often artists who don’t have that level of success do not.”
‘Soft cultural heritage’
Art360 will hopefully offer a solution. Waugh describes it as a “Copernican Revolution for artists’ legacies”. He comments: “People understand investment in terms of bricks and mortar. We want to change this. There is a real need to understand our ‘soft cultural heritage’, or the things that can be easily dismantled and thrown away.”
An Art360 advisory board of six includes Peter Heslip, director of visual arts at Arts Council England; Caroline Collier, director of partnerships and programmes at Tate; and Sir John Leighton, director general of National Galleries of Scotland.
Practitioners will be chosen following three rounds of open submissions, which involves completing a survey of their current archive and legacy planning, as well as a statement on why they wish to be involved.
Submissions will be assessed by a panel of artists and representatives from the DACS Foundation. “At this stage we are keeping the list a secret – mainly to avoid them being lobbied! – but needless to say it is incredibly important that artists are part of the selection panel.”
Explaining why they chose an open submission model, Waugh says: “We wanted as wide a spectrum as possible and an open submission will provide a good base for the final selection. There was certainly a conscious decision to avoid a ‘DACS picks the 100 most important artists’ approach.”
Both living artists and artist’s estates can apply. “For the pilot we have been working with a number of living artists including Bettina Buck, Rose English, and Barbara Steveni, but also Jeff Keen’s daughter Stella to develop his archives.”
“I’d say we are aiming for around a 70-30% split in favour of contemporary artists,” adds Waugh, “but we are also keen for a wide representation of ethnicity and medium. Performance artists face possibly the biggest challenge and this is an area we are looking at.”
Successful applicants to Art360 will receive a £6,000 budget to cover a range of different professional advice sessions. These will include studio visits and meetings with experts including legal advisors, tax specialists, valuation experts and digitisation specialists. Artists will also work with the DACS Foundation to digitally archive their work.
“Some of the skills they will develop will be incredibly useful. One of the main ones is a knowledge of digital infrastructure. For example, we see lots of artists who have maybe stored their work on lots of different hard drives, but nothing that really brings this stuff together for the long term.”
Waugh says the project will ultimately help the wider artists community. “That is the long game. We will be developing a toolkit that will benefit as many artists as possible. It’s still at an early stage but we want to provide solutions for artists that gives a clear methodology for managing their legacy.”
This includes partnering with high-profile organisations including the National Archives. “They bring a level of expertise to the table that is invaluable. One huge benefit is that they can put us in touch with some of the best archivists nationally. The same goes for the Henry Moore Foundation and Art Fund who have massively enhanced the project.”
There is, says Waugh, a real necessity for Art360. “We need to not only invest in talent, but help sustain it as well.”
Applications for Art360 can be submitted until midday on 4 April 2016. For more information visit www.dacsfoundation.org.uk/application