Art Start

As you may remember from the previous post on our latest exhibition, Agora Gallery‘s current display of artwork is proud to include a piece by Art Start student Jamai. This seemed like a good opportunity to explain a little more about what Art Start is and what it does, so that you can appreciate just why Agora Gallery is so pleased to be supporting its valuable community work.

Art Start has been running since 1991, when a small group of artists in New York City got together and began preparing and holding regularly scheduled art sessions specifically targeted at at-risk young people around the city. The idea was to get the children and teenagers involved in something that was totally different to their everyday lives, and introduce them to art in a way that they would never otherwise experience.

Jamai's work

The experiment was as successful as anyone could have imagined; soon, children ran to greet the volunteers as soon as the shout ‘Art Start are here’ rang out, beaming and competing to be able to help the adult in charge. Since then, a variety of programs have been set up to complement the original project, across a range of media, including The Hip Hop Project, which was the subject of an award-winning documentary, to engage more children and teens, and give them greater flexibility in finding the art that best suits them. Field trips relevant to particular projects are arranged, and the young people have the opportunity to share their work with a wider audience through exhibitions, performances and publications.

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Exhibition: The Chelsea International Fine Art Competition

Agora Gallery proudly presents a collective exhibition for the selected artists of the 2009 Chelsea International Fine Art Competition.

Charles Imbro, 13-A

This spectacular collective exhibition will take viewers through surreal explorations of human experience. Through vibrant fusions of Realism, Symbolism and Expressionism, where geometry of architecture meld with scenes of urban landscapes or subtle nuances of natural light, the audience can explore new ideas and investigate novel combinations and contrasts. Travel into exaggerated perspectives and anachronistic juxtapositions and where objects from pop culture meet vintage keepsakes.

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The Art of Barter – Trading Art

Nowadays we are all well versed in terms such as currency, cash flow, economic dividend, exchange rate, and so on – they are words which have become a part of daily life, and they all mean money. They are the ideas we use when we want to acquire goods or services, and they are a major element of the way the world runs. Because of this, we are apt to forget that sometimes there are other ways of gaining or giving items.

After all, money – meaning coins, notes or other legal tender – as a universal form of exchange is actually a relatively recent innovation. Even not so long ago there were rural areas where money was looked upon with suspicion. Certainly it’s not something that comes automatically and immediately with the growth of every community of people. So, what was the earlier alternative? Well, bartering. Exchanging a certain number of sheep for one cow, or offering to tend someone’s field in return for their skill as a physician. Bartering has a respectable history in the art world, too; Matisse and Picasso exchanged early works, for example, while Andy Warhol once managed to trade a self portrait for a home-video camera.

Andy Warhol, Self Portrait

But now it’s becoming a popular trend in the wider world as well. Craigslist is a well known internet arena for such exchanges, and places such as PaperBackSwap exist online to enable the easy finding and trading of books or other items. Kyle MacDonald famously began with one red paperclip and managed, in a series of trades, to end up with a house!

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The High Line

Chelsea is best known for its art galleries; hundreds of separate galleries, including Agora Gallery, are based there, making the area one of the richest in the world in terms of sheer diversity of contemporary art. Its success as an art district has been such that people visit the area just to stroll around and enjoy themselves doing a bit of ‘art tourism’.

But now there’s a new reason to spend time in Chelsea; the new High Line park project has become open to the public, and so far it seems to have been an instant hit. The process of renovation started in 2006, and excitement has been growing since then – you may remember an article in ARTisSpectrum about it and other West Chelsea developments, and in fact the past three issues of ARTisSpectrum have all featured the High Line on their front covers.

View of the High Line from the outside

So, what is the High Line? Well, originally it was a railway line, going from 34th Street to Spring Street – connecting factories and warehouses that produced or stored all kinds of goods, including meat, milk and manufactured products. What made it unusual was that it ran up in the air – hence its name. It was developed because of the great danger involved in transporting such cargo by means of freight trains along at street level – in a busy city like New York, even before cars were commonplace, you can imagine the potential for disaster. So many accidents occurred that 10th Avenue was for a time called ‘Death Avenue’ in recognition of this. The High Line was the answer – a safe way to transport goods, high above people’s heads and well above street level.

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Art and science

I recently saw an article about a section of a building where the walls, ceiling and floor were all made of glass. This was fairly striking it itself – though for the more faint-hearted among us (me included) perhaps also slightly scary – but what particularly struck me was that this feat is part of a wider movement of artists, engineers and architects who are pushing the boundaries of what we thought we could do with glass. If you’ve ever been inside an Apple store, you’ll probably have noticed the transparent steps that lead up to the next level, climbed by hundreds of people every day. They aren’t plastic. They’re glass.

There are more possibilities than most people imagine contained in the world of glass, though artists are beginning to explore the potential of the medium – which you can see by taking a look at the collection of contemporary glass art housed in the Museum of Glass which, incidentally, encourages artists to get creative with glass with the help of their resident ‘Hot Shop’ workshop team.

Baby Squid, Celeste Nelson

Of course, glass as a material is particularly intriguing, because no one really knows what it is – liquid? solid? – and few people understand how it is usually made. But as part of the wider picture, art’s new forays into the world of glass are representative of the increasing, fascinating links between art and science more generally.

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Collective Exhibition

Take part in exploring and interpreting the messages so brilliantly expressed through the power of color; discover unbridled visionary painting; be confronted with poetic visual puzzles and graceful statements about the human subconscious; be touched long after viewing these stunning paintings.

Maciej Hoffman - Conversation (small)

Beginning July 21, Agora Gallery will host a collective exhibition of contemporary art consisting of four parts.

Literally reaching out into the abyss, Labyrinth of Color features artists as they approach the deepest regions of our real and imagined space. Radiant colors shine forth, as each artist travels into the unknown, bringing back surreal visions of our universe to share with their audiences.

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Art reaches out

Recently, I’ve been admiring the new exhibition area that opened up in Times Square last week. Admittedly, this is partly because the opening exhibitions are pretty impressive – you can see the 3.2 million year old fossil known as Lucy and a 47 million year old fossil primate, learn about Ethiopian culture and how it contributed to civilization as we know it, and if that wasn’t enough you can take part in a Titanic experience which includes touching an ‘iceberg’ which remains at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 0 degress Celsius), to get an idea of how cold it was.

But this is only part of the story here. What is more important in terms of the bigger picture of contemporary art is that this new space represents a trend becoming increasingly popular – taking the art out of museums to put it where people might bump into it, so to speak. This is something that was discussed in an ARTisSpectrum article a little while ago, but it has become more marked since then.

Marieke Russel Dragonflies Funeral (small)

Of course, galleries and museums will always have properties that other exhibition spaces can’t have. They are where tourists head for the ‘art experience’ of whichever city they’re in, they are usually the first places collectors and critics will go. If someone wants to explore the art of their city, they’re going to go to a gallery or museum for the day. Galleries and museums are crucial to an understanding of who we are, individually and as a society. They provide us with space and time to reflect and enjoy. Exhibiting in a reputable art gallery or even museum, especially in one of the art capitals of the world, is good for an artist’s reputation, and confers a certain prestige on both the artist and his work.

It’s not that the new trend is going to change that – it’s that it exists alongside it, adding an extra component to what people understand by ‘art’. This is great not only because it helps contemporary art to grow and develop, but also because it introduces people who are perhaps not frequent art museum visitors to what art can be.

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Guest Post by Shifra: Who’s afraid of digital art?

Digital art is here to stay. This is a fact.

The software constantly gets better. Now you can do in minutes, on your home computer, what used to take ages in a lab.

I fear that many still don’t understand the difference between digitally manipulating a photograph to create a work of art, and simply turning a photograph into an oil painting by clicking a button.

I am certain I am not the only frustrated photographer who has worked for hours on end, digitally manipulating a photograph until it gets close to the idea in my mind and imagination, to be greeted by the remark: “ha, this is Photoshop”, said in a disparaging tone.

Of course I can understand that the result may not be to the liking of the viewer. That’s understood. Not even the greatest and most popular artist can expect the instant approbation of their entire audience, and the mere fact that this is new makes it particularly difficult for some people to understand or appreciate. And after all, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. But is it really reasonable to move from not liking what I do to annulling a whole new trend and direction in art?

Artwork by Shifra

Facade of a building - after.Smaller

I would like to share with you a little about my way of working.

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Exhibition: The French Perspective

Agora Gallery is kicking off the summer in New York City’s Chelsea Galleries District with their annual survey of contemporary art from France in The French Perspective exhibition, which will debut on June 27 and run through until July 17. The reception will be held on the evening of July 2, an occasion to view the work of these exciting French artists while surrounded by fellow art lovers and even some of the artists themselves.

Gerard Stricher, Hiding in the Purple Forest

Whether chatting it up with the artists while sipping on wine during the reception or stopping by the exhibit during the day, art lovers will undoubtedly be enamored by the selection of works and remarkable variety of styles represented in the exhibition. Some of these talented artists are tremendous painters and sculptors, while others explore experimental techniques and new media.

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Social media in the art world

Since I’ve started blogging regularly, I’ve had a few surprising comments about the very existence of the blog (and indeed the @Agora_gallery twitter feed and Agora Gallery facebook page). It seems that people don’t necessarily expect fine art to be connected to something like social media. It’s not that they disapprove – indeed, all responses so far have been positive. After all, why would you complain about something that provides a forum for artists to come together, and which makes it easier for art news, information and advice to reach artists?  People love it. It’s just that they hadn’t really considered this as a possibility before.

What makes this interesting is that the connection between art and social media is actually strong, and is increasingly gathering strength. We’re part of a trend that is seeing all forms of art – visual art, orchestras, ballet, and even opera – embrace the new possibilities offered by the new form of media. My favorite story to date is from April of this year, when black-tie audience members of a performance at the Ohio Theatre were encouraged – beforehand, on Twitter – to shout ‘”Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!” in exchange for a future free ticket. And many of those art organizations who have begun using social media have also mentioned the surprise of people who found them online. It seems to stem from a lack of perception of art as part of the real, everyday world.

John Nieman, Nice Pipes, mixed media on paper

But the truth is that the promotion of art has always relied, to an extent, on word of mouth. Art museums and galleries do sterling work representing artists they believe in through advertisements, posters, radio broadcasts and the like, and most artists would probably admit that it would be difficult to manage, or to become recognized, without this help.

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