AS ARTICHOKE LAUNCHES THE GALLERY, A NEW KIND OF CULTURAL INSTITUTION WITH ONE OF THE UK'S LARGEST-EVER OUTDOOR ART EXHIBITIONS, IT ASKS: ‘WHAT DOES STRAIGHT WHITE MALE MEAN IN 2022?’
- On 19 July, Artichoke will launch The Gallery, a new kind of cultural institution, which will challenge traditional models of viewing art
- The Gallery is on the street and in your face, without walls and with plenty of attitude
- Seen on billboards and digital screens across our four nations, The Gallery will examine urgent topical themes through two exhibitions a year
- For The Gallery’s first instalment,10 artists from across the world have created works in response to the theme Straight White Male
- The project is a partnership with the Out-Of-Home advertising industry
- Season 2 will follow in January 2023 as The Gallery builds its collection of thought-provoking art
On 19 July, The Gallery, a new kind of cultural institution, will take to the streets. The brainchild of arts producers Artichoke, with creative director Martin Firrell, The Gallery will challenge traditional models of viewing art with a programme that’s bold, ambitious and unafraid. Founded on a belief that art should be democratic, accessible and engaging, The Gallery aims to reach millions of diverse Brits, showing exciting new work by diverse artists on the streets, in shopping malls and cinemas across our four nations.
This is a revolutionary new model of public engagement that goes beyond the traditional art gallery, bringing art to people’s doorsteps. The first of these artist-led outdoor exhibitions will explore the theme Straight White Male, through commissioned works by 10 artists from across the world.
The exhibition will appear across our four nations in towns and cities large and small and will reach millions of people over a four-week period: from Bournemouth to Belfast and Margate to Manchester, including Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London.
Launched in partnership with the Out-of-Home advertising industry, including Clear Channel and JCDecaux, the project aims to make art truly accessible in an outdoor gallery that thrusts thought-provoking pieces into the heart of public conversations.
The Gallery aims to become a new cultural institution without walls, exhibiting commissioned works twice-yearly across the four nations, and building an online archive for posterity.
Following an open call earlier this year for responses to the theme Straight White Male* more than 450 submissions were received from artists from around the world. The final group of 10 artists selected for exhibition have responded in remarkably different ways that the organisers hope will collectively spark important debates around race, sexuality, and gender.
The first cohort includes work by public artist and Creative Director of The Gallery, Martin Firrell, a highly regarded LGBTQIA+ movement veteran known for his provocative interventions in outdoor spaces. Martin has a long-standing association with the Out-of-Home industry, having been Clear Channel’s first Artist in Residence 2018-19.
Speaking about The Gallery Martin Firrell said:
“We asked artists to respond to the theme Straight White Male in an open call - open, as the name suggests, to everyone regardless of age, experience or location. We wanted to hear from artists who had something to say about the theme, however they identify. The artists in our first season are diverse, plural, and strong-minded (as all artists worth the name tend to be). Each brings different views to the table. Often the artworks disagree with each other. They demonstrate how well-expressed and contradictory views can illuminate the heart and soul of an issue. The Gallery has no building. No walls to keep people out. Or to keep the artworks in. The Gallery is able to be everywhere because it is powered by the UK Out-of-Home Industry (the media companies specialising in billboards, and digital screens anywhere outside people’s homes.)”
Artichoke’s CEO and Artistic Director Helen Marriage added:
“I’m really excited about The Gallery. It’s a major new project for Artichoke, dreamed up during lockdown with Martin Firrell, and with the incredible support of our Out -of-Home partners. Since the beginning, Artichoke has set out to transform our public spaces, producing art experiences that exist outside the walls of traditional theatres and galleries, experiences that anyone can access. With The Gallery, we are taking that ambition one step further, commissioning visual art on vital themes that will start conversations and be seen by all. While art on billboards is not new, it is the nationwide scale and breadth of this project that sets it apart, and by inviting artists to respond and challenge the way we think, we believe that we open the door to more sparky conversations.”
Martin Corke, UK CMO and Europe Marketing Lead at Clear Channel said:
“We’re delighted to partner with the team at Artichoke and Martin Firrell to showcase their bold and ambitious outdoor gallery project across our OOH estate. As a Platform for Brands and a Platform for Good, our medium is perfectly placed to bring art to communities all around the UK and engage people from all walks of life in public discourse around topics that matter to all of us.”
Mark Bucknell, Chief Commercial Officer at JCDecaux UK said:
“We are delighted to be working with Artichoke and Martin Firrell using the power of the public Out-of-Home screen to champion this important and thought-provoking new art project. Out-of-Home plays a unique role in the daily lives of people in cities across the nation, making it the ideal medium to showcase the work of these talented artists to an audience of millions. As a public medium that drives fame and creates attention, Out-of-Home can also help bring communities together, providing a nationwide platform for artists to transform the public space.”
The biannual exhibitions will bring transformative art into everyday life centred around urgent, topical, and thought-provoking subjects. Each exhibition season will be produced by Artichoke and sets out to nurture and develop early and mid-career artists, giving them a platform and guidance on producing art in the public realm.
The public will have the opportunity to purchase their favourite artworks with prints available to buy with 60% of all profits going directly to the artists. The exhibitions and artists will be further supported by a nationwide media campaign, a dedicated website and digital archive.
Notes to editors
Founded in 2005, Artichoke is one of the UK’s leading creative companies and a registered charity, and is part of Art Council England’s National Portfolio. The company’s aim is to work with artists to create unique, large-scale experiences that appeal to the widest possible audience and to use art to disrupt the everyday to create a new kind of world that we’d all like to live in. They believe the arts should not take place behind the closed doors of theatres, concert halls or galleries. Instead, they work in the street, public squares, along the coast and in the countryside across the UK, bringing communities together through learning and participation work leaving a legacy of skills and new-found potential behind. Previous projects include The Sultan’s Elephant (London 2006); La Machine (Liverpool 2008), Antony Gormley’s One & Other commission for the Fourth Plinth (London 2009) and Deborah Warner’s Peace Camp commission for the Cultural Olympiad (UK-wide 2012). Recent projects include Sanctuary (Bedworth 2022), Lumiere (Durham 2021), and PROCESSIONS (UK-wide 2018).
Artichoke.uk.com | @artichoketrust
* Straight White Male: Artist Brie
The commission brief was as below. The call was open to all practitioners aged 18+, working at any level, including students.
This initiative exists to champion ground-breaking artworks made by emerging or early career artists (first 10 years of practice), with tailored opportunities to giving successful applicants the exposure and resources to support them in their practice.
Theme initial brief by Artichoke responded to by over 450 applicants
The theme for the first exhibition is Straight White Male. What do these words mean in 2022? Do you relate in any way with the theme, and if so, what would you like to say about that? Alternatively, does the theme sit uneasily with you and how would you wish to challenge it?
We’re inviting artists to respond to the theme, with the aim of commissioning 10 artists working in varying mediums and from diverse backgrounds with widely differing views about the central theme.
The intention is to engage the public in a meaningful conversation about art and its role in addressing questions of identity, society and culture.
About Helen Marriage - Artichoke Founder and Director
Helen’s previous work includes a seven-year period as Director of the Salisbury Festival, described by The Times as ‘miracle of modern British culture’. She created the first Arts & Events programme for Olympia & York, the developers of Canary Wharf in London, and was an Associate Director of the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT). She began her working life at Artsadmin where she managed a variety of independent artists in the early 1980s.
In 2012, she was awarded a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard Graduate School of Design, a prestigious fellowship awarded to individuals working in the area of urban design and planning. Her appointment was an acknowledgement of the impact Artichoke has made on the way mass public art events are negotiated and staged. She was awarded an MBE for services to the arts in the New Year’s Honours list in 2016.
About Martin Firrell – The Gallery Lead Artist
Martin Firrell is a British-French public artist whose works challenge unjust power systems of all kinds, including patriarchal power, the oppression of women and non-heterosexuals, and the heteronormative status quo. He uses language to engage directly with the public, provoking dialogue about more equitable social organisation. His aim is 'to make the world more humane'. His work has been summarised as 'art as debate’.
The Gallery is Supported by
The Gallery is supported by founding partners Clear Channel and JCDecaux, together with Alight Media, Mass Media, KBH Group and Redbus Media. The Gallery is also supported Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Colwinston Charitable Trust, Esmé Mitchell Trust, Idlewild Trust and The Ashley Family Foundation. Artichoke has received funding from DCMS Culture Recovery Fund.
The 10 artists in the first season were selected from over 450 applications by a panel including
- Helen Marriage – Founder and Director, Artichoke
- Martin Firrell – lead artist and Creative Director, The Gallery
- Bren O’Callaghan – Curator, The Gallery
- Bakul Patki, – Curator and Producer
- Greg Bunbury – Graphic Designer, curator and founder of Black Outdoor Art Project, podcast host of Design for the People
- Zafeerah Heesambee – Founder, Paintbrush&Co, Fine Artist, and Production Co-ordinator, Artichoke