In: Instagram

Earlier this year Ai Weiwei released his new project in Berlin which involved wrapping the columns of the Konzerthaus in 14,000 salvaged refugee life jackets to raise awareness of the plight of displaced people all over the world. With life jackets taken from those who arrived on the Greek Island of Lesbos after facing the dangers of the treacherous Mediterranean sea, Weiwei has created a piece that both the world and Berlin cannot ignore. The sheer scale of the installation highlights the sheer amount of suffering that these people face and as the blaring orange of the lifejackets has captured the attention of the world, we can only hope that these people will try to do something to change the situation of those in need.

This is not the first time that Weiwei has been seen in the headlines for his art this year. In January, Weiwei revealed he would be withdrawing his work from a show he was currently involved in within Copenhagen after new legislation was implemented by Denmark’s parliament which would delay families from being reunited and gave the authorities the right to confiscate the possessions of migrants in order to dissuade them from seeking asylum. The law provoked international outrage from many people including an array of human rights groups and Weiwei himself released a statement saying The way I can protest is that I can withdraw my works from that country. It is very simple, very symbolic – I cannot co-exist, I cannot stand in front of these people, and see these policies. It is a personal act, very simple; an artist trying not just to watch events but to act, and I made this decision spontaneously.’

Photo by Rohit Chawla

Photo by Rohit Chawla

Through his actions, it is clear to see that Weiwei is a hugely important figure in showcasing that art is political and that it is not merely an aesthetic form. Art is not shallow or meaningless and when it is put into the hands of someone like Ai Weiwei it can bring political issues to a range of people. Weiwei himself is no stranger to political turmoil and disruption with it featuring throughout his life from being beaten by police officials to being held in jail for extended amounts of time with no official charges. Both Weiwei’s life and career has been shaped by political authority who have not only impinged on his right to freedom but on his creativity as well with the demolition of his studio in 2011 by officials showing how this is an artist who knows how it feels to persecuted. Weiwei has suffered at the hands of tyrannical regimes just like the ones that refugees are fleeing from everyday and therefore there is an affinity between the artist and the people who provide inspiration for his work, there is a shared suffering between the creator and the subject.

Interestingly, the artist has not only chosen to explore these important issues through large scale projects, he is also utilising platforms within the social media world and particularly through Instagram. The artist posts videos and photographs documenting his time spent with refugees which includes anything from images of the people he encounters to the conditions they have to live with. These digital expressions act as a juxtaposition from the work people usually associated with Weiwei but they relay instant and important messages. Through this platform, the artist can posts daily and continual images that highlight the struggle these people are facing, meaning that the issue can never fade out of sight. It would be impossible for Weiwei to erect one of his large scale sculptures everyday or have an exhibition in every city in the world, but through the Internet he can spread his political and artistic message and people are able to interact with it almost instantly with Weiwei’s Instagram page having over two hundred thousand followers.  You don’t need to be an art buff to recognise and acknowledge the suffering that the people in these images are facing and therefore by utilising social media, the artist can speak to a brand new audience and spread the message of their plight even further.

AiWeiWeiFinger

Ai Weiwei

The refugee crisis is important and it should not be ignored, and with figures like Weiwei the world is waking up and the permeation of this political crisis into the world of art shows that this issue cannot and should not be ignored. Throughout history, art has been there to express some of the most important moments that define the world that we live in and I think Weiwei’s work is no exception. Art and culture can hold so much power and through these sculptures, photographs and videos, this power is being harnessed and I believe it can go a lot further. Ai Weiwei is an artist who has taken on both his own suffering and the suffering of others and has managed to take a stand through his work, and if you enjoy Weiwei’s piece perhaps you should consider stepping up and trying to make a difference too. 

The second installment (see the first one here) of our top contemporary art galleries in London looks at the younger contingent of the spaces that now exist in the city; fresh, dynamic and often left-field channels which keep the arts scene buzzing with new ideas.

  1. White Cube Galleries

In a nutshell: Charles Saatchi may have attacked the White Cube’s namesake white-walled galleries in 2003, saying that they are “antiseptic” and “worryingly” old-fashioned but that did not stop the franchise making its way to the top of London’s contemporary art scene. The White Cube galleries may have even profited from Saatchi’s public diatribe, choosing to stick proudly to their white walls and continue their work, irrespective of his views. With its roots in East London, the first White Cube gallery in Mason’s Yard, associated with the neighbouring Young British Artists, and came to prominence when it gave YBA Tracey Emin one of her first shows. The gallery has, however, somewhat departed from its East-End/YBA origins, accepting the wave of gentrification that has flooded the area. A climactic moment in the franchise’s transformation was the graffitiing of “Yuppies Out” and “Class War” on the Bermondsey branch by anti-gentrification activists, this being the very space that is now one of Europe’s biggest commercial galleries. However, if you can forgive and forget, or don’t care, then the White Cube will provide you with a compelling contemporary program ranging a multitude of disciplines.

Where: Mason’s Yard SW1. Open 10am-6pm Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday //Bermondsey Street, SE1. Open 10am-6pm Tuesday-Sunday with late opening at 12pm on Sunday. Closed Monday.

  1. Blain|Southernblain-southern-hanover-square

In a nutshell: Established in 2010, the gallery’s founders Harry Blain and Graham Southern regularly feature in ArtReview’s top 100 most important people in the contemporary art world. And this is no empty accolade; before launching Blain|Southern, the duo were at the helm of London’s Haunch of Venison gallery which was sold to Christie’s in 2007. Their time at Haunch of Venison allowed them to build up an impressive artists network which, by the time of its initiation, gave Blain|Southern a critical edge, associating with names such as Richard Long and Keith Tyson to name a few. While the gallery is only 6 years old, it has already hosted many acclaimed exhibitions such as the much touted survey of Lucian Freud’s drawings in 2012 – Drawings. And with its setting in Hanover Square being a stones throw from New Bond Street, a.k.a. auction superhighway, the location is a veritable arts hub.

Where: Hanover Square, W1S. Open 10am-6pm Monday-Saturday except early closing at 5pm on Saturday. Closed Sunday.

  1. Victoria Miro
    Victoria_Miro

In a nutshell: Victoria Miro, unofficially crowned one of the “grande dames of the Britart scene” can even boast that she had famous babysitters – Sam Taylor-Wood having done her the honour in Miro’s child-rearing years that “stunted her creativity”. Fast-forward a few years and a few galleries later, and her eponymous franchise has two locations in London as well as others worldwide, representing major contemporary artists such as Chris Ofili and Grayson Perry. In opposition (albeit unintentional) with one of its locations in the exclusive Mayfair area, the gallery’s Wharf Road space was set up in 2000 in Islington, and, like the Whitechapel and White Cube, it’s close proximity to Hoxton quickly linked it with London’s cutting-edge experimental arts scene. The 8,000 sq.ft. space is housed in a beautifully restored ex-furniture factory and has its own garden located next to Regent’s Canal at Wenlock Basin. The spacious and natural(ish) location often lends itself to exhibitions such as Maria Nepomuceno’s The Force (2011), so expect a nice departure from the concrete jungle.

Where: Mayfair, W1 // Wharf Road N1. All three galleries are open 10am-6pm, Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Sunday and Monday.

  1. Hauser & Wirth
    hauser and wirth

In a nutshell: Like Blain and Southern, Iwan and Manuela Wirth (two thirds of the gallery’s founding body) have been ranked in the top most influential people in the contemporary art world by ArtReview. The other third of the gallery’s foundation is Ursula Hauser who, together with the Wirth’s, set up their first gallery in Switzerland in 1992 and has since grown into an acclaimed global art franchise. The gallery’s London location has moved around a lot since its inauguration in 2003, from Piccadilly to Cheshire Street in the East End, to Swallow Street, Old Bond Street and finally, Savile Row. The gallery’s punch probably comes from its balanced representation of over fifty emerging artists and industry heavyweights like Louise Bourgeois and Martin Creed. It also gains its reputation from its publishing offshoot, having published over 100 titles since 1992 specialising in modern and contemporary art, such as Phyllida Barlow’s Fifty Years of Drawings (2014). The gallery’s worldwide locations include a fabulous rural setting on a Somerset farm in the West of England.

Where: Savile Row, W1. Open 10am-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.

  1. Unit London
    unit_london

In a nutshell: “WE EXIST FOR U”/ “THE WORLD’S FINEST” shouts the Unit London’s website. This might give you an idea of the gallery’s mission: to show dynamic and forward-thinking artists who are chosen for just those reasons, irrespective of of “reputation, culture or background”. The gallery is run by two young English guys – Johnny Burt and Joe Kennedy – who see social media as a as a “commercial tool”. In fact, their show Paintguide was Instagram-curated and certainly the first of its kind. Now, after 3 years of running Unit, they have buyers all over the world, showing the efficiency of this contemporary marketing method. They represent a roster of British and international artists including the likes of Paul Rousso and Cecile Plaisance. Their all-inclusive outlook could perhaps benefit from a larger female contingent, but the work on display is frequently changing and updating, a process you can follow via their Instagram.

Read our interview with Unit London founders Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt here.

Where: Soho, W1. Open everyday 11am-7pm.

 

On a particularly rainy day in London, I made my way over the slippery cobble stone to Unit London – an artist-led gallery space in the heart of London’s Soho district. Preparing myself to meet two successful art entrepreneurs who became tremendously successful in less than 2 years since the birth of their gallery, I was nervous and excited. The second I entered the gallery, I felt like at home. Needless to say, I don’t live in Soho and don’t have paintings covering every single wall (never say never), but the ambiance, music, and art made me feel relaxed; I could have stayed for hours. Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt, the founders of Unit, are both in their twenties, laid-back and absolutely easy-going. Sitting on the couch (and when do you find a couch in a gallery?), we listened to The Killers while they shared a few inspirational ideas and discussed how they built the Unit brand though their Instagram account.

Unit London

Installation Shot, Courtesy of Unit London

  1. Why art ?
    Joe
    : We always had a big passion for art. We are both artists and we’ve known each other since 11. We took the same art class at school, so that’s where it all started. We were also frustrated with the way gallery system works. So we wanted to create something different by making art more accessible. That is the key And the way we’ve done that is in large part by using social media.
    Jonny: We always wanted to do business together. We didn’t know it was going to be art. After the university I immersed myself with my own art, tried to build my portfolio, went to galleries for various reasons. At that time, a space became available in West London, and in the spirit of the moment we just went for it. It was a natural progression to start a gallery, though initially it was a pop-up. All was from the artist perspective and, yes, we wanted it to be different.
  2. Do you still make any art yourselves?
    Joe: Managing the gallery is taking over now, so we don’t have time for most things outside of running business, and there’s no time for actually making art. Though we do use our creativity in our shows: curating the space, the marketing, the campaigns…they’re creative processes, so we do feel we’re still creating, just not in a studio.
  3. When you started off, did you have any connections or was it just the idea?
    Joe
    : We had no contacts to go to, so we just did it the way we saw it and how we believed it should be done. We wanted something different, so we looked at all other galleries that are out there, focusing mostly on the UK, and saw that the majority are not serving talented emerging artists. That traditional contemporary art gallery model… You feel as if you’re not allowed to be there. Stuck in the old ways. All that old pretense that comes with what is essentially a painting on a canvas. And so we wanted to create an environment that was relaxed and friendly, welcoming for people, but at the same time showcasing incredible art. It is quite a simple idea. And it’s rewarding to see that it’s worked until this point.
  4. How did you start promoting your idea?

    Joe: Social media was probably the main channel. We didn’t know anyone at all, so we had to go and create our own audience. Basically shout as loud as we could to anyone who wanted to listen.
    Jonny: We opened social media accounts, but at that point you have no followers, you kind of begging your friends to follow and share. We made flyers and walked around a local neighborhood posting flyers late at night … that’s what we had. But it was the first show “Looking for you” that at the time was amazing, and some of those artists we still work with today. It was a good crowd at the end, and we got modest reviews in press, but it was still mostly friends and family, which is expected at the beginning. We ended up doing three shows there, and by the third show we already had our voice. And investing in the social media following was essential, because about year ago that was all we had. Now we have a network, but it is largely because of social media we are where we are today.
    Joe: It was always about putting as much as possible into the brand, not the space, because the spaces we’ve had up until this point were pop-up spaces. We were very economical with our finances and were putting all the effort into building the brand, because people will follow the brand. That was the strategy.

Mr. Jago Solo Exhibition, Courtesy of Unit London


Mr. Jago Solo Exhibition, Courtesy of Unit London

  1. Why call it Unit London?
    Joe: We went through a hundred names before we had this one (laughing). It was initially called “The Unit London”, because we wanted to create a collective, like this unit of artists. Then we decided to drop “The”, so it sounds less like a boy-band and more like a gallery. Our slogan is “We Exist for U”, and the U part of it is about us actually engaging with the public in conversation. A lot of the time galleries don’t like actively going out there and finding new networks, but we are eager to engage with people, so when you say “Unit London” the first thing you hear is U. We are trying to build a community around this model.
    Jonny: It’s a community of artists, individuals, enthusiasts, collectors, everyone. We’re trying to draw everyone into this network and we are not catering for just a limited niche. Some galleries might invite 30 private collectors to a show, but we are trying to invite and welcome as many people as possible for ours. It all goes back to accessibility; we are not trying to cut out anyone.
    Joe: It’s also about educating people who have never been to art galleries, helping them become new collectors. Social media helps to facilitate that, as you can connect with anybody across the world. In fact, some of our biggest clients are people who have never collected art before and they’ve stumbled upon the gallery, either they’ve come to the space or they found us online. They love this journey of discovery and understanding the art world. We try to create an open environment with no boundaries to entry, and new collectors – they are like the life blood of the gallery really.
  2. What is the difference between a traditional dealer-based gallery and an artist-led space, such as Unit London?
    Joe: I think it is more in the way we market our artists and ourselves. We don’t do any of the fairs and we don’t have plans to participate in any right now. We don’t really need to at the moment. We have around 200-300 people every day coming to the gallery and a lot of the galleries don’t have this luxury. A lot of people who come in are just people from the street, who would never think about coming to an art gallery, but because it’s here in Soho and so accessible, people feel free to come in. I think we operate a slightly different model to what other galleries have. Many galleries’ sales revenue would come from art fairs. We get ours from the gallery trade and our marketing techniques.
    Jonny: For us that should be the standard. People perceive us as fresh and new, but for us it’s just treating people with respect and not wanting them to feel uncomfortable walking into the gallery. Our door is wide open; music is playing. We constantly get feedback how relaxing and enjoyable people feel here. And it’s quite rare to find this in the industry, which is sad in a way. That’s what motivated us.
  3. So do you think that’s where the art gallery world is going, shifting from big dealer names to easy-going artist-led spaces?
    Joe: That could do. I also think collectors are changing. 50 years ago it was more the elite classes that could buy art but now it’s more the upper working class, entrepreneurs, people who run their own businesses. People who work for their money. They don’t necessarily come from an elite cultural background but they have a lot of money, and they want a more relaxed atmosphere to enjoy amazing art. In that sense, consumers are changing; so that’s where we’ve been able to fit in, cater to that new collector. We are trying to lose that elitist approach, and we have a broad range of prices, so we do cater to different audiences. On our Instagram account, for example, anyone can get involved in the conversation about a piece. Some of our big collectors might comment on Instagram and then we’ll get a young artist from the UK replying to their comment… It’s an open and very public forum, which is a new prospect for this industry – being ultra-responsive, agile and being able to manage the community. For us it’s natural.
Torso II by Jake Wood-Evans, Courtesy of Unit London

Torso II by Jake Wood-Evans, Courtesy of Unit London

  1. How did you build your artist community?
    Jonny: I was doing a blog when I was pursuing my art and writing about other artists that inspired my work. But I also managed to build relationships with those artists. One of them was Ryan Hewett and as a result we managed to get two pieces from him for our first show. We had 6 or 7 good London-based artists to start with and since then it evolved organically. As the brand grows, so do the artists. Now we get a lot of submissions and some of them are really good, but mainly we are on Instagram. Going through timelines and looking at emerging artists.
    Joe: We’ve quite a varied roster. Artists come from all different ages, countries, backgrounds, but they’ve a similar aesthetic, which we refer to as Neo-Contemporary or Progressive Contemporary. But it’s also works that are similar to ours and we are so passionate about each artist we represent.
  2. Do you have a particular medium you tend to showcase in your gallery?
    Joe: Not necessarily a medium. We are naturally drawn to dark pieces, as it is more reflective of our own work, like abstract portraiture by Jake Wood-Evans, Henrik Uldalen and Ryan Hewett. We have paintings, sculpture, digital art … what we haven’t done is installations. To be honest, we are not enthused by conceptual art. 

The artists we represent built their craft over time, there’s a technical ability and skill in the work and that’s what we value.
    Jonny: For us it has to be an undeniable talent and skill. We want to be inspired by work we represent and that transmits to people.

    Untitled (Flowerfield) by Zhuang Hong Yi, Courtesy of Unit London

    Untitled (Flowerfield) by Zhuang Hong Yi, Courtesy of Unit London

  1. Due to globalization progressing more and more severely and people being online for longer hours, do you think it’s still important to have an actual physical gallery space?
    Joe: Absolutely. Art is experiential. We are heavy on social media, but we always use that to market our physical space. Since we started we always had a space for people to visit. A gallery that just lives online doesn’t do the work justice. In a way, it would be a sad world if in 20 years people are sitting in front of screens, clicking on artworks and not going to shows. It’s not the same social experience. For collectors half of the importance of buying a piece is the context of how and where they bought it.
    Jonny: Ultimately, social media helped us to attract large crowds of people. Even though we are trying to provide welcoming environment in our gallery, people might feel less intimidated looking through images online. We had people we’ve been talking to online for over a year and then they could do this big step and come to the gallery. One has to come in to fully experience art.
    Joe: It’s the same with music. You can listen to it in your headphones, but you still want to go and see concerts. Same with football: If you’re a real fan, there’s never going to be a substitute for going to the game and having that experience. The social element is crucial.
  2. You represent a number of international artists. Are you thinking about going global and bringing your idea to an international crowd?
    Joe: It’s on our radar. Also, a lot of our clients are international, and it makes sense for us to go overseas.
    Jonny: Ideally we want our artists in museums. That’s the main goal: to build the brand, but most importantly promote the artists and help them build their careers.

    Open by Ryan Hewett, Courtesy of Unit London


    Open by Ryan Hewett, Courtesy of Unit London

  1. Who is your favorite artist?
     Joe: Lots of favourites…probably Ryan Hewett.
    Jonny: Same. He is the first one we started working with and he is a massive talent. He’s constantly evolving his work, that’s what is unique about him. We have a big solo with him at the end of the year as well and it will be the biggest show we’ve ever done.

    Paint guide Opening, Courtesy of Unit London


    Paint guide Opening, Courtesy of Unit London

  1. Tell us about the first ever Instagram-curated exhibition “Paintguide” that you had last year.
    Joe: One of our artists, Henrik Uldalen, has built his own career through Instagram, but he also started another account called Paintguide, where he would share images of other artists that inspired his own work. It took off two years ago and started growing very fast. He invites other artists to takeover his account for a week and share images of other artists that inspire their work. It’s a huge global phenomenon. He wanted to do an exhibition and we thought it would be an amazing collaboration to host at Unit London. It was an incredible show: we had 60 artists and curating that was crazy. During the opening night we had a line around the block and it was testament of the power of Instagram. It was a massive success and the reach was phenomenal.
  2. Do you have any advice to young entrepreneurs?
    Joe: Work very hard. Have a good idea, believe in it and work hard. That’s what we’ve done really. For the past two years, it’s been 24/7 for us. We made our own sacrifices to make it work. So as long as you believe in your vision, you can get there.
    Jonny: There isn’t really a secret. We’ve had highs and lows. It sounds cliché, but it is true. There is no substitute for hard work. And when you do get rewards, then you know anything can happen.

Next exhibition at Unit London opens this week:

3rd March | Spring Group exhibition | Featuring a selection of works from the gallery’s most exciting global emerging artists.

Traveling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”– Ibn Battuta

It’s true – I’ve had the fortune of traveling all over the world from a very young age, and most of the time I cannot write down my experiences for weeks or months after my return.  Throughout my travels, I meet certain people that make my time even more precious, and here I have the pleasure of introducing to you all a true storyteller.

Last year, I studied away in Florence, Italy for a semester.  I did not know anyone who was going to be there, all I had was a list of five names who would be my suite-mates.  I sent off friend requests via Facebook to get to know (by stalking their profiles) the gals I’d be spending the next 3 ½ months with.  My roommate, Madison McCormick, was late to the game in responding because she was in Morocco.  Riding camels and exploring the world.  Over the course of the semester, my first impression of Madison remained the same, if not grew over time: I was in awe of this smart and embracing lady, who said yes to every adventurous opportunity no matter how busy she was.

Now, back in New York City for our senior year, Madison has created a sticker initiative to bring to light the European Refugee Crises.  What she is doing and what she has accomplished is quite impressive, and now you’ll get to see what she’s been up to and how you can get involved from my conversation with Madison while she was conducting research in Greece.

  1. Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Madison McCormick and I am an NYU Senior pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Global Liberal Studies and a Master’s degree in International Relations. I am originally from California, San Francisco and Los Angeles. I am passionate about all things travel-related, from meeting new people to learning about and living in new cultures. I also have a deep passion for french fries …

Recently I have been very invested in a personal project of mine, a sticker activism research project that has taken me to Turkey and Greece this January to study street art in times of crisis.

Drawing

  1. How did you become interested in street art?

Having lived in small suburban towns for most of my life, the move to NYU Paris my freshman year was really a shock, in a good way, and opened my eyes much more to the world around me. You could say that my small town ‘bubble’ had been popped. So from the beginning of my NYU experiences, I traveled and explored new cities in Europe and the United States and came across beautiful and intriguing works of art on the streets. I have also always been one to notice the little details; from a small stencil painting in an alleyway to a dumpster dive treasure on the side of the road, you can bet I have spotted it. My fascination in street art took a more specialized turn two summers ago when my friend and I began to collect and search for interesting stickers in lower Manhattan on street signs, telephone poles, mail boxes, etc. From then on I began to collect stickers during my travels and keep them in my sketchbook/journal. I would also begin to notice the same stickers in different cities, so it was a way of having some familiarity and comfort on the streets of an unknown place.

Sticker

  1. What brought you to the attention of refugee crises?

I spent my junior year at NYU Florence and became much more aware of the European Refugee Crisis as it was in the news each week of the boats arriving and/or sinking on the southern coast, really heart breaking news. NYU Florence also offered educational dialogues on this topic and I attended them to learn more.

  1. Now, you’ve traveled an impressive amount within the past four years… Is there a certain city that stands out in your mind for its street art?

Yes, I have been very fortunate to have studied abroad for two years and travel while doing so. I have pretty much loved everywhere I have been and each place is unique in its own way for street art, but I would have to say that Athens and Copenhagen stand out the most to me at the moment. Athens because it is so saturated with all kinds of graffiti, tagging, murals, poetry, propaganda, etc. and carries a lot of political and social commentary and this has all emerged in the last 5 years or so since the financial crisis. In Copenhagen, there is a self-proclaimed ‘free neighborhood’, Christiania, that is pretty much as close as it gets to a hippie commune. I love the street art there because it is so free and colorful and emotionally expressive, much less political.

Athens

  1. Why use the medium of stickers to bring awareness to such a political and social statement?

I think that stickers are a seemingly harmless form of street art and can be used in various ways to spread whatever message they carry, if they have one at all, and spark dialogue. For example, a sticker can be stuck on a pole next to another sticker belonging to a leftist political party and if it is in support of the same message, they both are now in dialogue with each other. Now if that sticker was instead placed on top of the other sticker, then this would be considered ‘crossing’ and would be more of conflict. Stickers can also have a place off the street, like on one’s laptop case. Say you are sitting in a cafe typing away on your computer and the person next to you asks where you got said sticker. You would then be able to refer them where to find and learn more about the sticker, like the Instagram page for my sticker for example, and you are also engaging in a possible discussion about the sticker’s subject matter. Lastly, stickers can be easily commodified, which has been a negative outcome – street art becoming a market- in most cases. However, if the stickers are sold to raise money for a specific fund, like mine are, then this furthers the politicization of the sticker and draws more attention to something that is the size of your palm and can easily be overlooked. Stickers are small in scale, but they are not bound by physical space and can be spread quickly!

Turkey

  1. What was the inspiration behind your first series, “Crumbling Borders”?

As part of my thesis, I felt it was necessary to participate in the street art I am researching and so I chose to do something that touched upon the Refugee Crisis because it has been something that has resonated with me for a while since studying in Florence. I realized that this issue is massively important, nonetheless relevant right now, and felt very distant and out of touch from New York. So, I felt that it was important to use street art to literally make this issue visible on the streets in the form of stickers.

  1. Do you think that in combination with the use of social media your project has been given more attention from when you started?

Yes absolutely. I had always intended to use Instagram for this project because I am researching how street art and artists have cultivated a new ‘imagined community’ (s/o to theorist Benedict Anderson!) where localized street art made for a specific community can become global with the touch of a button through Instagram. So, with the @TagAndSeek instagram, which is ultimately named after the fact that I ‘tag’ stickers and those who come across them ‘seek’ to find out more about the sticker through the Instagram page, I have drawn the attention of a much larger, global audience that grows every week.

Sweden

  1. Where can someone go to learn more about refugee crises, what your initiative is all about?

I am in the process of creating a website, but until then, the best place to go is the Instagram page: @TagAndSeek. I have been posting my process tagging the sticker around the world as well as providing education information on the Refugee Crises and outlets for people to learn more if they’d like.

  1. Are you selling your stickers?

Yes! I was hesitant at first to sell them because of the whole ‘commodifying street art’ thing..but then I figured if people were willing to spend a little money on these stickers, I could make it go a long way and raise the money for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and International Rescue Committee – two organizations that are on the grounds helping with the crises. I am selling the stickers for $1 each and all proceeds go towards these two organizations. Additionally, if anyone wants to tag their city and spread the message of #crumblingborders, then I am more than willing to send some stickers their way. My friends have been taking the stickers with them in their travels and I will be reposting them all on the Instagram page. I am really excited because this project is becoming very much global!

Make sure to follow Madison’s journey through her Instagram account, @TagAndSeek.

And we need YOU to keep this going to make a wave within the street art community and get Madison’s message out there!  If you’re interested in tagging your streets, message her through TagAndSeek’s Instagram to purchase stickers and donate to the cause.

October 4, 2015

Dr. Woo, Who?

For someone with a name that sounds like he’s a character straight out of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Brian Woo (aka Doctor Woo) is a total badass who makes you pine for a tattoo in the worst way.

DR Who 3

Dr. Woo has become a sensation in the tattoo and visual art world in the past few years.  He’s based in Hollywood, California, working at the Shamrock Social Club.  Woo was born in North Hollywood to Chinese immigrant parents and discovered his proclivity toward visual arts doodling in the margins of his notebooks at school.  Now, I was a huge doodler and still am, but my doodles would certainly never be translated onto someone’s body.

Woo is trained in what is called the single-needle style which produces such fine, thin black lines that they appear gray.  He was offered an apprenticeship at the age of 24 with Mark Mahoney, who’s considered the “founding father” of black and gray art using a single needle, and a living legend who’s tattooed the likes of Lana Del Rey, Johnny Depp, Lady Gaga, and the list goes on and on.

Just look at Woo’s inimitable designs; I don’t think I’ve seen cleaner lines.  His tattoos are flawless and precise, going for the strategy of “less is more”, producing fine lines and limited color.  Instead, he builds on texture and the outcome looks like a pencil drawing taken right off one of the pages of a sketchbook.

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What I love most about Woo’s tattoos is the simplicity of them all.  I think that a lot of times, tattoos aren’t considered amongst the traditional sense of art, when the making of them have 100x more of a consequence then putting paint on canvas or taking a photograph.  Tattoo artists are given the task of making a permanent piece of art on someone’s body that’ll be with them for eternity.  If that doesn’t make you sweat a little thinking if that was your responsibility, then you have nerves of steel.  Woo turns people’s ideas into pieces of art that they proudly display for the world to see.

His Instagram feed is filled with his art, and his family is featured rather often.  Woo has 2 beautiful sons; the cutest, droopiest puppy you ever did see; and his gorgeous wife Jayme.  And together, they make the hippest family I’ve ever laid my eyes on.  Like, I’m 17 older than his eldest son, Lyon, and the kid’s already cooler than I’ll ever be.  Just his name screams cool.  Lyon.

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Are you hooked now?  Have you decided that your next tattoo has to be done by Dr. Woo, or for all you first-timers out there, that your first has to be a Dr. Woo???  Well get in line.  Dr. Woo has a year long wait list so if you want one, book your appointment and your ticket out to California now and you’ll have plenty of time to come up with the perfect piece for you.

Follow Dr. Woo on Instagram to see a constant feed of his tattoos and his adorable family, plus check out his website for more inspiration.  All hail Dr. Woo, maybe I’ll see some of you in the Shamrock Social Club’s waiting room…in a year or so.

“I just got to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where do I go?” Not a single sign to be seen anywhere.

“Photoville is at Pier 5.”

“Where?”

Ten minutes later and I am still walking down the pier watching couples go by hand in hand, children playing along the mini sand beaches, groups playing basketball and soccer in the large recreationally converted piers. “Damn, this is a ways down.”

imageThis happens to me everytime I go to Photoville. You would think that after two years of going I would have the walk down by now. But every year it gets me. The only people who seem to know how to get down to the river effectively, most likely live in the area and scoff at all the tourists and Manhattan-ites who come over on select weekends for special events such as this one.

However, the walk is a very scenic and lovely late-September stroll. Photoville is open until the late evening, so the best time is to go at sunset and get the perfect view of the setting sun over the Hudson. The Statue of Liberty is illuminated in a hopelessly romantic kind of way while the warm glow causes the skyscrapers of the Financial District to sparkle.  

Photoville 5I walk along a fence covered in large photographs and then see the containers… FINALLY, I’ve made it to Photoville.

Every mid-September for the past four years United Photo Industries has come together at Brooklyn Bridge Park to create a small village out of shipping containers, fill them with photographs and share the fun [for free] with all of New York City. It’s a simple concept and absolutely fantastic.

As described in the Photoville Chronicle this year, “UPI has solidified its position in the public art landscape by consistently showcasing thought-provoking, challenging, and exceptional photography from across the globe.”

Photoville 3This year Photoville lasted from September 10th-20th and had over 400 artists participating with more than 80 partners. Companies and organizations such as Instagram, National Geographic, The New York Times, The Peace Corps, EveryDayClimateChange, Getty Images, Crusade for Art Brooklyn, NYC Salt and many more funded and organized the exhibitions within their respective containers.  Universities showcased their senior thesis projects and department projects; included were Tisch’s Photography & Imaging at NYU, FIT’s BFA program, the BFA Photography and Video Department at SVA, and Parsons the New School.

The festival has a great variety of photography to offer –from documentary style, to experimental, street scenes, natural landscapes and portraits. As I made my way through I noticed that some containers have heavy and somber messages such as New York Times’ “Scenes from the Ebola Crisis,” “Blast Force Survivors,” “American Exile: Detained, Deported, and Divided,” and “The Geography of Poverty” to name a few. Photoville’s smart though and knows that while socially trivial topics such as these need to be addressed, documented and seen, people who come to a festival also want to see some cheerful things. National Geographic also had an outdoor exhibition “Presenting: Weed,” which detailed the daily cycle of marijuana and affords you a nice chuckle, because everyone loves art about weed. “The Mash-Up,” a graffiti work done by two celebrated street artists took up two containers stacked on top of one another. The bright colors, swirling letters and cartoon-esque figures offer a fun, upbeat relief from image overload. “Luminaries” gave all of us comfort as you approach the container and see Uzo Aduba’s (aka. Crazy Eyes) ecstatic face beaming out at you. What other goodies could be inside? The familiar faces of Pharrell and Snoop Dogg, Nicki Minaj, Peter Dinklage, Meryl Streep, and others greeted us. Who doesn’t love to see a striking headshot of Peter Dinklage?

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Apart from photographs and containers, Photoville also has a host of special events, activities and workshops for everyone to engage with the images. Panel discussions, presentations and conversations with well know photographers went on everyday. This year David Burnett was featured. Visitors were able to swap prints with each other, learn how to spot great image shots in the Street Photography workshop, have a fun family photobooth [dog included, of course] and learn the basics with the Science and Tech Expo.

Photoville 2Even though I’m quite the photo-enthusiast, half-way through the photo village my eyes were starting to glaze over the images. It was time to reboot. Oh, what’s this right here, a beer garden? SCORE. After some Brooklyn Lager and delicious treats from the adored vendors of Smorgasburg, I was brought back to life and ready to take on the remaining containers. One of my favorites by far was “En Plein Air,” featuring Edoardo Delille and Gabriele Galimberti. This series showed images from Rio de Janeiro shot from an aerial perspective, illustrating that “sports are life and life is not a spectator sport.” From the Photoville Chronicle.

So, if you’re ever in NYC during September make sure to head over to Brooklyn and check out Photoville. It’s educational [but not in the annoying, overbearing kind of way], eye opening, inspiring and a great social event for a group of friends or just you and bae.

http://www.photoville.com

 

When looking at Chris Burkard’s Instagram feed, two things will cross your mind:

1. Amazing, and

2. I want this to be my life.

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Chris Burkard is a self-taught photographer who went from sleeping in his car just to be closer to his internships to stacking up 1 million Instagram followers and a steady studio spot out in Grover Beach, California.  He’s made a name for himself in the surf and outdoor industries, working with top brands such as Apple, The North Face, Patagonia, and many many more.

I actually don’t remember how I came upon Burkard’s account – I’m an amateur photographer myself so I’m always looking through the various hashtags connected to outdoor photography for inspiration; even though I don’t remember, I’m sure glad I did follow him because I’m given a dose of daily awestruck.

His Instagram feed mainly covers his landscape and adventure shots, but it’s nothing to snuff at.  It seems that every picture he takes is perfect: from the lighting to the framing, every moment is captured at exactly the right time.  While I can sense that this is dedication at its finest, I can’t help but wonder at how he could possibly take these photos.

CB4The colors and images are insanely crisp, and his stills look totally unreal.  Whenever I see a new photo, I can’t help but be jealous – Burkard’s whole life is surrounded by this immense beauty and his job is to capture that.  One look at his website shows his passion for his work, specifically within this quote, taken from his thoughts on being a photographer and having photography as a career, “Remember the camera is just a tool. What is more important is how you look at the world. Curiosity and a desire to explore, as well as passion is huge necessity when it comes to photography.

CB2In regards to this dedication, Burkard held a TED Talk this past March regarding one of his main (and craziest) past-times: surfing in ice-cold waters.  I can’t even fathom jumping into freezing water just to get the right shot, but that’s an entire level above that Burkard is on.  You can see what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera in the making of these incredible photos, and seeing the conditions that he sometimes works in makes you shiver like you’re out in -10 degree weather right along side him.

Chris Burkard started as a 19-year-old who found he had a talent with a camera and turned into a recognized photographer among many communities.  I can’t get enough of his images and look forward to seeing the next each day.  The most memorable posts have been from the past few months on his trip to Iceland, which has been a huge throwback for me; I got to take a trip there during the summer of 2013, but just missed the Northern Lights by a week.  Sure enough, Burkard posts this rad and almost haunting image of these spectacular green lights and I turned green with jealousy myself.

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Make sure to follow Burkard on his Instagram, check out his website to see more of his work, and keep an eye on his Facebook – if you’re interested in photography and live near his studio (or in my case, willing to move to work with him…) he updates his site on internships, though they’re booked out far in advance.  He also has workshops and prints available for sale, and recently gave out thousands of free prints (10,000 to be exact) for getting 1 million followers on Instagram.  Talented and giving, what more could you ask for?

Adventure is out there and Chris Burkard is running right along side of it.  Find your muse or your next travel destination through his work, and I promise you won’t be sorry.

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Already follow the Whitney, Artforum and Hyperallergic? Looking for some new art world instagram accounts to add to your following list? Check out these five instagram accounts you may not know about:

1. Brett Gorvy (@brettgorvy)
As the Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s, Gorvy’s instagram is something to drool over… and will make you turn slightly green with envy. His life, and the art he interacts with on a daily basis, is extraordinary. However, Gorvy’s instagram demeanor is down-to-earth. His passion for art leads to long narratives for captions that feature tidbits of information only an insider like Gorvy could know. Beyond giving his followers a first look at some of the most incredible Post-Modern and Contemporary Art locked behind the doors of the world’s richest collectors, Gorvy often shares glimpses of his personal life, such as his fantastic summer home on Tuxedo Lake only 45 minutes from the city.

2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Photo Studio (@metphotostudio)
Honestly, this account is way better than the Met’s regular @metmuseum instagram. Followers get to see artworks from the Met’s archive that aren’t on view in the galleries, as well as behind-the-scenes photos of the collections, special exhibitions, and how it all comes together.

3. Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz)
This may be the most familiar name on the list, seeing as how Saltz has seemingly dominated the art world and beyond with his in-your-face attitude and sarcastic take on just about everything. When he isn’t making fun of the Far Right, Donald Trump or the art world itself (his posts during Art Basel tagged #BaselSaltz insulted every major person attending the fair and entertained us to no end), Saltz gives his followers small insights into his life as an art critic, always accompanied by a dose of sarcasm. Note—if you are easily offended, you may want to stay away, as Saltz has a habit of posting some NSFW content (think Medieval pornographic works on paper…)

4. Andrea Rosen (@andrearosengal)
The dealer, ever-recognizable with her long bleach white curls, posts a lot from her personal life, which is interesting enough in itself. However, our favorites are her #style posts, in which Rosen snaps (stalker style) pics of unaware pedestrians dressed in crazy get-ups… and this is New York so you know they have to be really pushing the limits here. Sometimes, they aren’t really dressed in anything at all. Rosen even blessed her followers during art fair season this past spring with an #artfairstyle hashtag edition. It was a winner, that’s for sure.

5. Scott Indrisek (@uniandchloe)
Executive Editor for Louise Blouin Media, Indrisek’s name is all over Blouin’s many publications such as ArtInfo and Modern Painters. While you would think his instagram would be art and more art, Indrisek entertains followers with his on-going #mattressesofnewyork series, lots of cat photos and dry sense of humor. He also doesn’t hesitate to throw in a selfie every now and then. Oh, and some art.

WARNING: this is a total fan-girl post. Furry Little Peach is one of my ABSOLUTE favorite Instagram accounts, top 10 hands down. But don’t worry–you’ll love her too.

I stumbled upon Sha’an d’Anthes aka Furry Little Peach during one of my late-night insta-creeping sessions and was immediately captured by her vibrant use of color and fun representations of flora and fauna motifs. Her feed is filled with unique sketches and watercolors of forest critters, cacti, sea creatures, portraits, and tons more.

The 22 year old Sydney based designer, illustrator and storyteller’s work speaks to a whimsical aesthetic that evokes pure childhood imagination. D’Anthes incorporates natural and space-inspired elements, such as forests, trees, constellations, nautical imagery, and much more. Like a true artist and instagrammer, she shows us her full creative process. Her feed is filled with her merchandise, sketches, cluttered work space, and the only other thing important to Instagram: food. Every now and then she’ll gives us a #onthetable snap of the yummy meal she’s having.

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D’Anthes always keeps me entertained and scrolling with her variety of images and documented dedication to her craft. Instead of only posting finished works she almost always includes a sketched version or multiple variations of her design. This lends a closer look into various elements of her image–a detail shot of an intricate drawing, what kind of materials she’s using, how many sketches she’s done before finally deciding on a style, etc. It’s refreshing to see the creative process behind her beautiful works. Not only does it make me like and appreciate her art even more but I feel that I am getting to know her on a more personal level.

She gives us even more clues to who she is with posts from her everyday life adventures. When she isn’t drawing and painting she travels around Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and Japan, posting stunning nature and landscape shots. And of course, making us all jealous and hate our day jobs even more.

Who would’ve thought that a cactus could look so cute and cuddly?!?

With succulents being all the rage these days, they’re popping up all over different creative mediums. D’Anthes gives her own take on these prickly plants with her most recent project, Prickly, from this past July. Presented at Goodspace gallery in Sydney, Prickly is her second successfully exhibited solo show.

Unlike d’Anthes previous bodies of work, this show is formed around a plant oriented subject matter. Bringing fun and freshness to this nature-inspired aesthetic, she remains true to her signature watercolor medium. Goodspace describes her approach to this exhibit as “focusing solely on the audience’s reactions to colour, texture and visual devices…The artist’s new collection evokes the feeling of nostalgia, stimulates the imagination, and upholds her use of ‘childhood’ as a theme.”

Her cacti are truly inspirational…as weird as that sounds. They’re simple in form yet d’Anthes creates them with a subtle complexity that is simply mesmerizing. After all, a cactus is a very strange looking plant. Actually, they’re completely un-aesthetically pleasing. They’re also sharp and can physically hurt you. But d’Anthes paints them as charming, playful and even delicate. In some works they are crowded together like one happy cuddly cactus family and in others they stand alone, as proud representatives of their oddball plant species.

Perhaps Prickly lends the message to embrace what is unconventional and that everything can be beautiful, all preconceptions and stigmas put aside. Or maybe d’Anthes just really like cacti and thinks they’re fun. Either way the exhibit is unique, vibrant and happy–an emotion that is at times underrepresented in galleries.

One of my favorites from the show is a three-part timelapse series where d’Anthes depicts Dawn, Noon, and Dusk with canvases crowded with cacti in three different hues: purple-pink, green-blue, and red-orange.

When d’Anthes is not producing art in her studio and working on Prickly, she works for Cypha, a self-described “boutique Creative Technology studio” as a designer.

Here are my personal favorites: foxes, whale-constellations, and bears.

D’Anthes sells prints, totes, bedding and other fun stuff on her Etsy.
Check out her Instagram (most important), Tumblr, and Twitter.
I promise they will brighten up your day.