How Andreas Ribbung creates space with inclusive art initiatives
Happyplaces Stories (video)
I studied art in the eighties, early nineties. And after that, I made my art as a painter for several years. I did some residences, like the Gasworks in London. And when I came back I was inspired to make exhibitions. I organised an exhibition in a space there.
Informal as normal
In this space, which are two shop spaces that are connected. One shop was my studio; the other was my brother’s studio. In 2004 I was about to rent out my part of the studio to move to a new one. We had a party in this space. That night we decided that we should share it with ten people and share the rent. And use it as a playground. The week after we made a group show of our work. And only a week later we made another show. And then another one. And another one. We were over-active in the beginning. The space has a special character. One space is a gallery space, and one space is completely chaotic my brother’s former studio. With a lot of his work and materials everywhere. And this space is like an oasis in Stockholm where this is all fixed and renovated everywhere. In Stockholm, all the galleries are posh. Ans we opened a shitty small gallery. And I think it is a relief for people to come to a place like that. One artist that was visiting Stockholm, he went to Stockholm for three weeks or so, with a show in The Swedish History Museum. He lived in a part of town that is posh. And that is what he had seen of Stockholm. And he came to Candyland and said: ‘At last a place that is normal.’ I think that is what people like about it.
And this group that started Candyland was not from the same class of art school like what sometimes happens. We had different backgrounds. Not only artists. There was one surgeon, a person working at a publishing company, someone working in advertising and for the rest they were artists. We had different networks that came. From the first show, there were a lot of people. A perfect mix of different kinds of people, different ages. It has become a meeting place. One thing that is significant about Candyland is we don’t have a board taking decisions what to show. We divide the times and then it is up to the one in charge of that exhibition period to invite an artist. And they are responsible what to show. There is no line in what we show, it is risky to do it this way, but I noticed that there are so many shows that are nice, that we would have, when we would have negotiated with them, we might have decided not to do them. And it also made it easier to organise. It has been ten years now, and if we would have had these discussions for ten years about what is good and bad, or what to show or not, I think we wouldn’t have managed to do this for such an extended period of time.
This place is inclusive. People feel much more comfortable to watch the art and often meet the artists. It differs from the commercial galleries which are not too interested in including people. In 2006 there was a new commercial art fair in Stockholm called ‘Market’. Two weeks before we had a meeting. Some artist-run spaces in the Artist House which is owned by an artist organisation in the city centre. There was a new space, a former changing room, in the basement of a restaurant. And we gathered what to do about this space. There were about ten artist initiatives there. We came to talk about the new art fair that was about to open. They had a very cocky marketing attitude, saying that they were the best, selling the most, and we also knew that the artists weren’t invited to the opening. We were quite upset about this. So we decided to do ‘Mini-Market’ in the place we were. It already had the changing booths and toilet booth we could use. So we were playing with the concept of an art fair, the Mini-Market. It was a great success. A lot of people came. And the idea was born already that year to make ‘Supermarket’ the next year, in the entire building.
The next year we moved to an old industrial space that was even bigger and invited about 40 different artist-run spaces. More international. The next year we were in a newbuilt designer hotel. And it had maybe 55 galleries. Growing this slowly, bit by bit, made it very sustainable. Like now, it is around 80 galleries from around 30 countries. If we had had that aim from the beginning, we would have failed. This idea of growing little by little has been a success.
The Supermarket Art Fair is an artist-run art fair for artist-run spaces and artist initiatives of all kinds, mostly artist initiatives that have an exhibition space or an exhibition programme. And making it possible for other artists to show and not only showing their art. An art fair has three components, usually: the exhibition, the branch meeting and the marketplace. But this art fair is focussing on the exhibition and the branch meeting, the networking possibilities. More than the commercial aspect. It is nice to show the variety of work and also the variety how ways artists express themselves. It is less trendy if you look at the artist-run spaces. Because they show all the ways, artists express themselves. But it is also where you can find new trends because these places are like the laboratories, the studio’s and the project rooms are the laboratories of art.
Both professionally and socially
The meetig that happens when you spend that time together, setting up your shows side by side, borrowing a hammer from each other. And then having an opening, opening party, and lots of time to watch shows and to meet other exhibitors, that gives the meeting a quality. You have this time, and it is so important to meet in person. because then afsterwards you cna collaborate via email, Skype and so forth. But you need that starter to have met really, and to have met in this way. Both professionally and socially. This has led to uncountable spin-off effects. We haven’t even kept track of them. We hear after meetings or after Supermarket that people are exchanging and collaborating. We try to learn more about this, but it is so much and it is really inspiring to be part of that. To help to create so maby new collaborations.
Need for art
For artists, it is important to reach new audiences. And we have a big and broad art audience. The interest in art is important to artists. I think that’s why the artist-run spaces are more including and more interested in reaching new audiences while the commercial galleries are more interested in people who have money. And are not so interested in having a huge audience and nice galleries that feel relaxed. I think that’s a big difference. And that’s something that artist-run spaces have in common with the institutions. To try to reach out, because there is a need to make art more of common interest. Art is quite marginalised today. The papers write less about art because they feel it is not of common interest. But that is because they write so little about it. In Sweden, people hardly read art reviews in papers. I told art critics who complain about that they should do it like the artists: to start their own instead of complaining about it.