While the arts industry is struggling to cope with the post-pandemic rules of public engagement, there are also examples of institutions adapting well and even thriving under the New Normal. Throughout 2020 my reporting highlighted the rise in demand for video art and transition to virtual reality formats as well as establishment of curators as arbiters of culture at large. Recently, I came across a story that at first seemed counterintuitive: a network of contemporary art galleries specialized in physical pieces expanding into new markets despite international movement restrictions and volatility of global financial markets. How does one secure a creative business in our turbulent times? Since 2007, Boccara Art Galleries has been fostering a type of organizational model previously reserved for larger iconic institutions like Louvre Abu Dhabi or Guggenheim Bilbao: several branded locations co-managing multiple agendas. With presence in eight major cities on three continents, Boccara is becoming a known force of intercultural diplomacy. I reached out to the Boccara Art Galleries founder Liubov Belousova and Julia Bogichevich, co-founder of the Boccara Moscow outpost, to see how current cross-industry conditions are impacting their vision, strategy and daily operations.
Many art institutes are closing. You are opening new locations. Tell me, what kind of magic do you practice?
Liubov Belousova, Boccara Art Galleries founder (LB): There is no magic. I’ve never done anything but sell art since I was 18. You just get better at your job with time. It’s the only thing I know how to do and the only thing I want to do.
How does an 18-years old start to sell fine art?
LB: It was destined, I think. [Laughs] In 2001, in my second year at the university, I had to create a website to pass my computer science exam. Most people made personal pages but decided to use photos of art works from several artist friends. Out of the blue, I received a phone call from an international development company with a huge office in the heart of Moscow. They wanted to buy four featured works! My student project, in fact, became one of the first fully digital gallery in Russia. Now everyone wants to take art business online, but we’ve been doing this for twenty years already.
Is the art market embracing e-commerce as readily as the fashion or music industries?
LB: Sure, it’s possible to buy art which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars from your sofa. The Internet has reduced the distance between the artist and the collector. People don’t need galleries, because they can find whatever they want. However, art collecting is not about transactions. In today’s world “trust” is the most precious commodity. Most people need to understand what they are buying and why before they make their decisions. People need emotional connections, so physical galleries become important in a different way. We don’t expect all who come in to buy something immediately. Most people follow their curiosity first. They may discover an artist and buy their works online later.
Did multi-space approach prove to be a liability or strength during the pandemic?
LB: Since our first place opened in 2007, we invested significantly in following the collectors and engaging local art scenes in popular destinations. I said early on, “We want to be everywhere!” It is our strength that you can look up a Boccara gallery in most major art cities and find one. Every gallery of the group shares their local talent with the other branches. It helps to give a better visibility to our artists who can be seen literally around the world. We also participate in a dozen international art fairs each year. Having our own space in some of those host cities is another plus! I think that’s part of a much deeper question. How do we see the future of the art business? In this new reality is there a reason for physical shops? For us, so far, the answer is absolutely yes!
How do you see the global art scene changing post-pandemic?
LB: I have spoken with many colleagues over the last months and the only thing everyone agrees on is that there are more buyers today than ever before. We have a lot of new buyers who have never bought art online before. Buyers today have much more freedom to choose and they are much less influenced by trends and headlines. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with works for under $5.000 or competing in the $500.000+ niche. Overall, the market has become much more affordable and transparent.
Is art still considered a risky investment?
Julia Bogichevich, co-founder of the Boccara Moscow outpost (JB): Quite the opposite! There is a growing recognition of art as an investment asset class by investors as well as people becoming more educated and sophisticated in their estate planning. Not so long ago, there was a perception that fine art was reserved for the rich and the very rich. Now a much larger and more diverse community has started to be interested in collecting. The art market is not as sensitive to collective panic cycles. During the 2008 financial crisis, for example, art indexes fell by 4.5% while those of the S&P 500 plummeted by 37.5%. The current socio-economic climate also creates a demand for ‘real assets’ because many see the ups and downs of tech industries or bitcoin as unreliable.
How do you choose the artists to represent?
JB: It is a matter of personal taste and understanding global trends. We are working a lot with Korean artists right now. Traditionally, Korean art was about harmonizing with nature and refraining from expressing extremes. The new fusion wave from the Gangnam Style hit to last year’s Oscar winning Parasite is consistently challenging the conventional boundaries. We introduced Hyun AE Kang to American audiences with an exhibition at Muzeo Museum in Anaheim, California and now bringing the show to Russia in March. Kim Seungwoo’s work with coins and buttons is a fascinating critique of monetary relations within the arts. We love the dreamlike installations by Kim Jeong Yeon, too! The fantastic mother- daughter Cha Yun Sook & Hayeon create beautiful textile and paper-based pieces. Meanwhile, Krista Kim is a founder of a revolutionary new art movement called ‘Techism’… There is so much to explore there!
Any advice for emerging artists trying to succeed commercially?
JB: Concentrate on growing your name and becoming better and better in what you do! Find your unique vision, your own techniques and cultivate them to perfection. Important to have an international way of thinking because in our days there are no borders for art and collectors are able to find you everywhere in the world. The attention will come.
LB: Remember, there are no more rules! [Laughs]. There is absolute freedom for creating and finding new ways to connect with audiences. Don’t be afraid to reach out directly to different galleries to ask their opinion. Keep on re-inventing yourself. It is our business motto, too!
Oak Bay sets aside $27,000 for Indigenous art at muncipal hall – Saanich News
Oak Bay’s newly renovated chambers will feature a new piece of public art commissioned from an Indigenous artist.
The district allocated one per cent of the budget for the hall renovation, $7,000 to public art. Combined with the annual public art allocation, the district has $27,000 to spend on a work for municipal hall.
The move to work with a local artist, specifically from the Lekwungen speaking people on whose land Oak Bay sits, was unanimous among council members.
“This is a rare opportunity to have the resources to do that and as the renovated municipal hall reopens, have that be one of the centrepieces,” Coun. Andrew Appleton said during council discussions July 12.
Still in the earliest of stages, conversation surrounded the how of the project.
Oak Bay is between arts laureates, but liaison Coun. Hazel Braithwaite said the public arts committee is taking on that leadership role.
Coun. Tara Ney lamented the district’s lack of policy or set protocol for engaging in such initiatives.
She voiced a need to create pathways for engaging so it’s not done piecemeal, and instead with confidence and in culturally appropriate way.
Mayor Kevin Murdoch, who is routinely in conversation with local First Nations leadership, said the district is doing well in the absence of policy, always seeking guidance and building relationships in small ways.
Council agreed working toward something more formal is something they could pursue.
“This does require more formality and we need to start to establish those connections so we’re consistent and so we’re completely aware and sensitive to their needs,” Coun. Cairine Green said.
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‘Lynn Valley LOVE’: artist collaborates with public to remember victims of stabbing tragedy – News 1130
NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Earlier this year, the tightly knit North Vancouver community was shaken after a stabbing claimed the life of one woman and injured six others.
One local woman says, since the incident, the community has had its security threatened, which is why she is behind the newly unveiled art project “to bring some love and positivity back into that space.”
Modern quilter, Berene Campbell, has worked on projects across the country and world, but her latest artwork “Lynn Valley LOVE Project,” was sparked by the tragedy right outside her home.
“This one was just down the road from my home. So for some reason, it just felt like I had to respond to that since I’ve done it for other communities. And now there was a tragedy in my own community. I felt like I needed to do something.”
So, Campbell went to work, collaborating with residents in the community and people across the country.
Today, if you walk into the Lynn Valley Library, you’ll be greeted with quilted panels spelling ‘LOVE’ “hung there to represent the general community to bring love back into that space.”
Banners made by hundreds are hung over the library stairwell.
“People do it to give back to the community to make them feel good [and] it’s also very healing for the participants to be creative and to make something beautiful and also to be a part of the bigger whole project and to feel a part of the community. So when you see that many people participating, it’s amazing.”
And Campbell says the turnout of participates was unexpected but incredible adding, she couldn’t have done it on her own.
“There’s something incredibly powerful about bringing multiple people together, and the healing of collective energy is much more powerful than one person making all of that work themselves on their own.
“There’s something just amazing about people working together for the greater good.”
VIDEO: Greater Victoria master carver says Indigenous art a way to restore culture – Oak Bay News – Oak Bay News
For internationally recognized master carver and lifelong artist, Temosen (Charles) Elliott, his art is a way of communicating with the public that First Nations Peoples are restoring their culture, once lost to colonialism.
A member of the T’sartlip First Nation, Elliott’s works are cherished in collections worldwide.
As a child he practiced art in many forms and when he attended T’sartlip Indian Day School, he won a drawing contest meant to advocate for awareness around tuberculosis.
It was through carving small pieces and drawing daily that he knew art would be a part of his life forever.
“Every evening in our family home, I’d wait until dishes were done and I’d sit down after dinner and draw and draw,” Elliott recalled.
His work can today be found at the University of Victoria, the Saanich Peninsula Hospital, Butchart Gardens and many more places across B.C. and in private collections worldwide.
“When you’re doing the artwork, you’re just putting the words to images,” he said, explaining that his work stands as a silent ambassador for First Nations Peoples.
Elliott has also mentored many emerging artists, including his own children and grandchildren who he said will carry on Indigenous artistry as part of their family legacy.
“I want younger First Nations Peoples to pick it up and do it, because it’s like speaking your language and holding your culture in place,” he said. “Don’t be discouraged; if you are, keep going because there are teachers around like myself who want to share their knowledge.”
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