A new report is highlighting the practices of artists who either eschew the gallery network or feel excluded from it, by asking: ‘How do artists working outside of the gallery system receive validation of their practice?’

Commissioned by Axisweb and written and researched by Dr Amanda Ravetz and Dr Lucy Wright of Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), Validation beyond the gallery captures the opinions and experiences of 11 artists (including two collaborations) and 11 producers and commissioners. The researchers sought views on current routes to validation and asked opinions on whether existing structures enable or impede artists’ visibility and success.

The findings demonstrate an ad-hoc and informal approach to validation. Commissioners, producers and artists agreed that the responsibility for seeking and maintaining validation falls largely to artists, with Dawn Giles of Bedford Creative Arts explaining: “Other people need to know you exist. I think the hardest thing I find is that artists don’t really realise how hidden they are.”

Artist Sarah Browne, however, explains that getting your practice known and seen is not straight forward for those working outside the gallery context. “There isn’t a template,” she says, “and there’s so many situational factors.”

Artists featured in the report are also keen to cite the importance of other factors such as different value systems and ethical reasons for their particular choices. Kate Genever of artist duo Poly-Technic explains: “I’m not interested particularly in the market so the idea of making things just to sell them doesn’t appeal to me.

“I’m choosing to step out of something that I was never even given an open door to, and I’ve made that choice for ethical or moral or whatever reasons.”

Ania Bas agrees, adding: “For the work that I want to make, or the type of questions I want to raise, it feels more productive in the learning or education departments than to aim for having a show in a gallery.”

Catalyst for change

Announcing the research as part of an ongoing campaign and consultation process around the issues raised, Axisweb executive director Mark Smith said: “The report substantiates feelings that many artists will be familiar with: exclusion, rejection, misrepresentation, side-lining and being unrecognised, all for producing ‘the wrong kind of work’.

“These are issues which have been aired many times, however we are determined that this research will be a catalyst for change.”

Smith added that working groups made up of artists, producers and commissioners had been set up to drive this process with the aim being to improve advocacy and profiling of work beyond the gallery. “Ultimately, we aim to connect and engage with a broader public to reinforce the value of art and artists within society.”

Join the debate on social media using #BeyondTheGallery

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