Signifying the second European event and the 5th annual event of 2017, the full-day programme titled “Artists Take the Lead” on Saturday 25th November at The International Arts and Culture Organisation (TIAC), exceeded expectations by welcoming an estimated 80 international guests. Arranged in association with TIAC, guest speakers joined us from all over the world including China, Singapore, Australia, Italy and the UK.
To start the full-day programme, the context of the day’s discussions lay in innovation, entrepreneurship and self-sustainability within the arts ecosystem. Within an increasingly competitive environment defined by the range of initiatives, international agendas, acute timings, and a fight for attention, it comes as no surprise that the morning address by Lynn Guo, Co-Founder of TIAC, mentioned “create jobs yourself by knowing the ecosystem, the way it works, and own a business to make it financially worthwhile.”
Keynote speaker, Samir Ceric, CEO and Co-Founder of the Art Coach, shared similar thoughts. With years of experience in the art industry, advising on the decisions and career opportunities taken by emerging artists and designers, Samir quoted artists “ought to take the lead”.
Notably recognising the industry’s working dynamic with galleries and auction houses referred to as the so-called “gate keepers”, the audience was encouraged to look past the market figures and find comfort more-so in the intrinsic value.
Acknowledging the eminent importance of financial power, lifestyle commonalities and the vital relationship between ideology and commodity, award-winning fine artist of the Sulmona prize, the Presidential Medal of the Italian Republic, Armen Agop, quoted:
“As an artist there is no clear mission. Art has always served tradition, with a focus on an establishedpractice and ideology. Now it’s harder because artists have to create their own beliefs and add value to them. There are more artworks, more artists – we don’t know what to do with them all. The only thing we all agree on is money. It’s the only value we have in common regardless of nationality and focus.”
And with that introduction to the art market and currency exchange, Barbara Tagliaferri, Brand & Communications Leader of Deloitte referred to several key findings featured in the latest Deloitte Art and Finance Report. Evaluating the 2016 online art market at US $3.75B, she referred to the resilience shown by the drastic rise in number of art-tech start-ups, and a prominent involvement by some of the industry’s top tier names. Sotheby’s and other auctions increased their online engagements by 34%, as well as made the most of social media distribution channels.
As players enter the digital age, technology is quickly unlocking possibilities and introducing the democratisation of art. With an increase in buying power by the middle market, the key lies in data.
Despite the availability of information in the secondary market, the issue that continues to persist, and poses the largest risk, is the opacity of the primary market. Notoriously known for its privacy, and transactions made behind closed doors, the art market and the importance of data was addressed by Art Historian, Andrea Forenander, in the context of processing art history.
Crediting data for its synthesising power as a medium, coding took to centre stage. Referring to software, hardware and computing, art genres (notably computer art) was explored for its historical importance, its influence, and its relevance to art forms taking stance today. As a medium, “using digital processes is ubiquitous. If not used in your practice, it’s in the emails you send or in the photography you pursue. Creating artwork is different in digital, I’m not sure if it loses the tactility but building with code is similar to moulding clay.”
In one of the leading cities of the world, known for its cultural significance in classicism, the discussion which picked at its relationship to digitalism was only natural. Other than addressing curiosity and ease of re-imagining special arrangements or tonal gradients, when the question “How much is tech art driven by traditional means?” Forenander responded, “It is very influenced. It is used as a tool and cannot replicate physical media.” Despite it being a medium that can easily be replicated, it boiled down to fetishizing the object, preservation and its contribution to process, technique and marketplace efficiencies.
“A pencil is cheaper than a laptop, but a laptop allows me to achieve more when drawing,” said Emiliano Galiani, Director and curator of the Cartasia International Biennale.
Digital means being inevitable, the discussion adopted the latter from an institutional point of view. With an array of recognised institutions in Florence, the panel discussion welcomed three reputable professionals from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, the Annigoni Museum and the Cartasia International Biennale.
With preservation of heritage being at the core of every institution, the importance of the past started the discussion. When asked “What is heritage and is it worth preserving?” opposing views set the scene. While it was unanimously agreed that heritage is not only material things but culture, Emanuele Barletti, Curator of the Annigoni Museum stated it is “fundamentally something spiritual, and preserving it is what takes us to the future, passing through generations.”
To counteract that, and challenge the latter, Galiani quoted:
“I don’t believe in heritage if it needs to be preserved. Italy has a lot, and it’s a weight. There’s a difficulty in working with that – it doesn’t let you experiment. With time we are entering a new relationship where artists are in charge of creating heritage. The thing to understand is the importance of rules before we break them and breaking them is something every artist wants to do.”
The ‘new relationship’ continued into the final discussion of the day, where distinguished guest speaker, and Chinese master artist, Chen Danqing, discussed the changing attitude of audiences towards art. Crediting the preservation of heritage for the benefits of tourism, the frustration lay in a viewer’s eagerness to visit the exhibition for the purposes of posting it and mentioning it online.
“Today is the best age for travelling and viewing museums but the focus is shifting – it is not about the art but the experience of seeing it,” Chen Danqing.
As our first international event to feature an exhibition of near-completed works (by master artist Danqing), the curation of the space, and the dynamics of the discussions kept audiences standing for an additional two hours past the suggested closing time.
To conclude, and to summarise the day, the current environment is defined by its competitive nature. It demands a proactive attitude, an aspirational drive for achieving, and a confidence in your own artistry. With a growing number of artists pursuing their own initiatives, and to consolidate the day’s attitude, Armen Agop stated:
“I don’t know why I started creating. As a kid I always enjoyed playing and painting, colouring in, and there was no good reason to stop. I don’t know why the others did.”