How can art institutions contribute to meaningful dialogue?
This week on ArtEvolve we were joined by Baiqu Gonkar, Founder of Art Represent, a non-profit enterprise dedicated to empowering displaced and conflict-affected artists to drive positive change in the world.
Art Represent is Articheck’s holiday charity partner and we wholeheartedly recommend browsing their bright and beautiful online shop for unique gifts this holiday season. Click here to shop the Art Represent Collection.
Art Represent works with over 50 artists, as well as cultural institutions and non-profit organizations, many of which are based in conflict-affected areas. Having connections on the ground allows Art Represent to better understand what needs an artist might have, whether that be, for example, exposure outside of their immediate geographical region or support dealing with museums and other institutions.
Baiqu highlighted some of the artists with work available to purchase right now:
Born and raised in Damascus, Imranovi fled Syria to avoid conscription into Bashar Al Assad’s army. His unique visual style developed from a background in computer science and graphic design, and his works communicate real events the artist was observing around him.
Much of Nortse’s work focuses of the commercialization and internationalization of Tibet and of Tibetan culture. Issues such as global warming, environmental degradation, and establishing identity are not unique to the region but Tibetan artists will, of course, address them in unique ways.
Born in 1988 in the city of Kerch, in the Crimea peninsula, Maria Kulikovska is an artist in exile. Kulikovska uses her own body for the shape of some of her pieces, molding its form into architectural structures made from natural materials such as soap, salt, milk, and sugar.
Not only does Art Represent bring exposure to otherwise underrepresented artists, it also encourages the development of new art audiences. Though established institutions (across various industries) have often argued that there isn’t an audience for something new, or outside of established cultural norms, evidence shows that if you do cater for a new audience they will indeed show up.
The wide price range of pieces in the Art Represent collection also makes collecting art more accessible to a wider segment of people.
How can we improve diversity and help drive positive social change?
It’s not just the art world dealing with these very same intrinsic issues right now. The same conversations are happening in other sectors so there’s lots to be learned from each other.
- Make individuals feel empowered to make change. That could mean doing more and better research into artists from underrepresented communities, going to a wider range of exhibitions, and communicating with groups outside of what is (currently) considered mainstream.
- Vote with your purse. Consumer spending power really counts and buying works from artists who are displaced or conflicted-affected, like those in the Art Represent collection, demonstrates there is a market for it.
- Telling and re-telling stories. When you see works of art or discover an artist that moves you, tell people about it! Sharing stories helps us connect and highlight the commonalities we all share. Art institutions must also directly engage with the communities they’re trying to connect with, to get their point of view and value their experiences.
A special thank you to our guest speaker Baiqu Gonkar, Founder of Art Represent, for joining us.