Annie Nelson from Woolgather tells us about preparing hundreds of miniature art works that will be sold for £1 a pop from Art Vend machines at Duncan Street this month. And she asks lots of questions. Answers on a postcard please.
"Woolgather are an artist led organisation formed in 2008 who most definitely have a tendency to woolgather. That does not mean we are out in the fields collecting wool, the word Woolgather actually means ‘to engage in fanciful daydreaming’.
Eighteen months ago we launched a project called Woolgather’s Art Vend, simple in essence the idea was to place contemporary artist multiples into vending machines in public spaces to reach a widespread public audience.
Katie Etheridge & Simon Persighett
We commission artists to make 150 artworks for £150 and each artwork is then available from one of our vending machines for £1. We wanted to create a system where artist’s work could be bought in a more casual daily environment, in a more immediate and accessible way.
Our projects have always been a reaction to the current cultural or social environment and what we would like to see happen as artists ourselves. Art vend touches upon: commission opportunities for artists, the presentation and consumption of contemporary art, opportunities to show or sell contemporary art, the physical or digital dialogue between the artist and the audience (you), and the responsibilities that lie with the artist and with you.
Pockets For Girls
In the past we have been forced to the streets, outside or other alternative platforms to present work, with this project we have created our own compact space that can sit in the corner and interject into your spaces and we hope we have handed some power and responsibility to you who can choose to buy an artwork or not, like our consumerist society it only works if people buy more but you have that choice.
We have instigated Art Vend for some of these reasons, not to answer or solve but to present questions, hopefully with enough leg-room for you to come up with your own questions. Some of the questions whirring around our heads have been:
Is a piece of art equal to £1?
Can you place a genuine monetary value on art?
Is this a correct platform for presenting art?
Is an artist able to suitably make 150 works for £150?
Is it wrong to commodify art in this way?
Does a member of the audience value the work from this process?
How are we going to pack all of these art vends?
Although we don’t have answers, we do see results; the artworks that have been produced are phenomenal, from paintings to temporary tattoos, t-shirts, digital i-dents, conceptual works and karaoke.
More than 80 artists have been commissioned, and over 10,000 artworks produced. The unassuming nature of art vend is different to other one off projects but its reach has been far more widespread and it will continue to exist in the corner for some time yet.
Here we are, days from the definitive exhibition and publication launch, and trying to find some grand closing statement, but in fact realising it is more about the journey, the process and the wonderings.
As we put the final touches to the publication, the designer had left a note on one page –
For us he had summed it up perfectly, a question about a question.
Woolgather’s Art Vend definitive exhibition launches on Friday 5 December at 15-17 Duncan St (Opposite the Corn Exchange) 17:00-late with a big p(art)y, and then the exhibition runs everyday 12:00 – 18:00 from 6-21 December. We hope you can make it, and take away your own answers, if not a load more questions.
You can see the project's journey over the last 18 months and join in by checking out #ArtVend online.
Main image: Betty Lawless