On the second floor of a pub in Birmingham, something very different is being attempted with an art exhibition.
A group of seasoned curators are bringing internationally renowned artists to a city-centre Birmingham pub, all of the work for sale at knock-down prices starting at £2.
This is an art exhibition offering a new approach to buying and selling art in Birmingham, helping artists better connect with the daily lives of the public and with their potential customers. Clarke Griffiths Levine (the three curators) will also be offering artist surgeries to help artists find the skills and contacts they need to further their development.
And Clarke Griffiths Levine are not short of skills and contacts. Elly Clarke is the founding director of Clarke Gallery in Berlin and has curated exhibitions in Germany, the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. Caitlin Griffiths was the youngest Artistic Director of Hereford Photography Festival and has worked with artists including Bill Viola, Vanessa Winship and Wang Qingsong. Finally, Charlie Levine, founder of TROVE, has been selected as one of Saachi’s top 100 international curators and named as the Guardian’s One to Watch.
In the case of Elly’s portion of the exhibition, sales are not only possible but integral to allowing the exhibition to move forwards. When one work sells, the curator replaces it with another work, and so on throughout the exhibition. This exhibition at the pub theatre above the upmarket Old Joint Stock pub marks the beginning of a larger project in the city of Birmingham, FRAME, wherein white frames will be placed all over the city – in locations diverse as Birmingham Cathedral, Cos clothing store and the Presidential Suite at Hotel Du Vin – on a similar cycling system of renowned artists displaying their work under an ethos of visibility, accessibility and affordability.
This commitment to world-class artists at affordable prices will ensure a quick turnaround and an ever-changing gallery, and the quality of the artists on display was reinforced shortly before the opening by the award of one of the biggest art prizes in the world, the $100,000 Basil Sellers Prize, to Melbourne artist Jon Campbell, who created an opening piece for Clarke Gallery. The award triggered frantic discussions amongst the curators as to whether they should make an exception to the initial price ceiling of £650, but eventually they decided that they would keep the asking price to the limit and ethos they set out with.
And so work by Tate-exhibited and world-renowned artists hangs in the foyer of the Old Joint Stock Theatre, to be admired by the pub-theatregoers of Birmingham. Though the choice of launch venue is no coincidence – this initial exhibition came to the Old Joint Stock when the Theatre Manager of the venue met Elly Clarke and, hearing about the project, convinced her his theatre foyer was the best place for it to start since his venue, a grand Grade II listed Victorian pub and studio theatre in the heart of the city, was for many years in the 19th century the home of the Midlands’ Joint Stock Bank – essentially the Midlands’ Stock Exchange.
Now one of the most popular pubs in the business district, The Old Joint Stock highlights its banking history on the walls downstairs and in the many retained features (including an island bar made from the original bank-tellers’ desk and an opulent back room with fireplace, which was, of course, the bank manager’s office), while Clarke Griffiths Levine extend this idea of financial exchange upstairs.
In the current economic climate, with less disposable cash around and ever-more-severe cuts to arts funding, artists – as everyone – need to think of new ways to exist in the world, find innovative ways to produce, present, promote, commission, display and sell art, both online and off. Test-driving Clarke Griffiths Levine’s mission to bring Art to Buyers and Collectors, The ‘Joint Stock’ at the Old Joint Stock Theatre showcases exciting international and upcoming art talent in Birmingham – which is all for sale.
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