Central Saint Martins alumni Gianina Ivodie and Maribelle Bierens are giving the art scene a much needed new lease of life with Where’s The Frame?, their online platform for emerging London artists. With a focus on the artists themselves and the work they produce, Where’s The Frame? are rebelling against the pseudo-mystique too long associated with the art world. At the heart of the project is the objective to tell stories through art, and in refusing to shy away from artist intention, they’re right on time for a generation searching for meaning.
For those unfamiliar with Where’s The Frame?, can you start by telling us a little bit about the project in terms of your objectives?
Where’s The Frame? is a fresh online gallery dedicated to championing the newest generation of artists entering the scene. Hoping to make art accessible to new audiences, we’re always prioritising storytelling in art. We do so in our editorial section where we share interviews, studio visits and exhibition reviews of artists we love. And we’re just about to enter our next phase: we’re going to sell artworks from promising and exciting recent grads from London’s leading art schools.
As you’ve probably assumed, we’re doing things slightly different and really enlarge upon each artist. So you can expect to get a very clear grasp of their practice. We want to be an un-intimidating platform amongst art school students and recent grads that bridges the gap between a new generation of artists with a new generation of art collectors.
There’s always a level of uncertainty with any new project, especially in art, but we’re sure there was an added anxiety for you launching your platform in 2020. Is it the artists themselves that are driving you and inspiring you to get the work out there? How do you hope Where’s the frame? will be received by art lovers?
Yes, uncertainty seems to be at an all-time high right now. But it made the stakes even higher and only made us more dedicated to creating new avenues and opportunities in the arts. There have been very few opportunities for artists to exhibit as many exhibitions have been cancelled or postponed over the last few months. With museums and galleries closing again, it seems that it’s going to stay this way for a while.
We also felt that there is an even greater need for an inter-art-school-community functioning as a support system. In terms of drawing in collectors, with so much uncertainty and isolation, people are looking for new ways to enrich their lives and discovering, learning and collecting – vanguard is a great way to do so right? We hope that Where’s The Frame? is an exciting way for new and seasoned art aficionados to emerge themselves in vanguard art from the newest generation of artists.
You’re both Central Saint Martins alumni. How did your education in art steer you towards a project like this? Did you feel encouraged to promote emerging artists, or did attending CSM highlight that this was something missing from the art world?
Our Bachelor of Arts were strictly academic, Gianina did a liberal arts programme and Maribelle studied Art History. So heavy on theory and philosophy and neglecting the practical and personal approach to art. While studying at CSM, we were always surrounded by exciting art created right in front of us. Even though we did a research master, the setting of it being in an art school made a big difference and eye-opening showed us how much more interesting and exciting the everyday aspect of the arts is.
Also, while studying at CSM we noticed how many people in our circle outside the arts really wanted to know what artists our age were doing and were interested in learning more about it and wanted to know what’s going on right now, etc. And while being in art school, we got repeatedly asked where to collect art. Countless times people asked for advice on where to buy fine art as they didn’t know where to start and the idea of collecting art from artists of our generation seemed to excite a lot of them. So we were missing a space that brought these practices to outside audiences and because of CSM, we felt particularly encouraged to celebrate artists from our own generation.
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You’ve spoken about storytelling being central to the art experience. This is very much the essence of Where’s The Frame?, not just with the art you’re showcasing but also with the artist’s you’re interviewing as well. Do you think that nowadays there’s a need for an audience to be able to appreciate and understand the motives of the artist behind the art more than they did in the past? Is artist intention relevant now?
We truly believe in the importance of storytelling in making art accessible to new audiences. People want to learn about what art is about, what themes artists are exploring, their artistic intentions and their lives. It is what excites people and draws them in. Throughout history, gallerists, artists, art collectors, discussing artistic intentions has always been in the foreground. So storytelling has always been relevant, but we feel like art professionals have drifted away from telling stories to approach it in a very academic and detached way. Like, you have to have a degree in Critical Theory to understand what’s going on. There has been a presumed death of the author and it's all about the interpretation of the audience, however, we don’t believe in that. We want to at least give the possibility for artists to tell their own stories and tell you what their art is about.
You’ve also spoken about your goals to sell work to those starting to collect art by real artists as well. What do you think constitutes a real artist in 2020? Are they still, as Nina Simone famously said, one who reflects the times?
Thanks to a century of conceptualism, it’s very hard to limit what constitutes a real artist. Artists have literally canned shit seventy years ago or stuck a banana to a wall last year, so it’s very hard to come up with a final definition. But one of the most important things artists throughout history have done and are doing is definitely reflecting their times. The zeitgeist, however dissenting their views on life, is something that bonds people living during the same period of time. Which is a great thing, artists in 2020 are tackling issues and themes that resonate with so many people they’re sharing these times with.
For those beginning to collect art, there might be a degree of uncertainty surrounding what a piece is worth and whether the investment will be worthwhile in the long run. How do you provide that advice or reassurance for beginners? Giving that you’re trying to attract young people into art investment, how accessible do you think it is as an industry? Are there any misconceptions you’d like to debunk?
The art market is a tricky place and there are many variables involved to make any meaningful predictions about possible rises in value. This makes investing in art a very inaccessible industry. Yes, art is one of the viable investments one can make, some as it’s one of the most liquid assets you can acquire, but there are many factors to consider. Therefore, we recommend that you collect certain pieces of art because you’re passionate about them.
If you want to hardcore focus on collecting the most prospective investment, you should talk to an art advisor, like us! One of the many great things about collecting a new generation of artists is that they’re just starting out. We have a clear grasp of the market and we’re not doing anyone favours by inflating prices. By creating a bubble due to overpricing is bad for the artists, collectors, and thereby ourselves. So we offer very reasonable prices. And since we’re working with the most promising recent grads from the world’s leading art schools, chances are high their value will increase over time.
“We were personally fed up with the boring, hyper academic approach in art institutions that felt out of touch with the preferences of our many in our generation.”
There is to an extent a disconnect between young people and art in the present compared to previous generations. Do you think this boils down to how we consume different forms of art nowadays, or do you think it relates to a snobbery associated with the art world? How do you hope your platform will change perceptions?
Honestly, art institutions have been elitist since the dawn of time. There seems to be a long-lasting tradition of making exhibitions impenetrable with jargon-filled curatorial explanations. But nevertheless, more and more people are getting involved in the arts. Before Covid, museum visitor rates were at an unprecedented high in the UK and the amount of millennial art collectors is rapidly increasing worldwide. But many in the art industry have been reluctant to turn to technology.
Social media, with all its faults, has been a powerful tool for artists to connect to Millenials and Gen Z. Where’s The Frame? caters to Millenials and Gen Z artists and collectors. You can find everything online. There’s a continuous stream of content where you can discover artists, learn about them in an unpretentious way. And soon, you can collect art online and build an art collection without having to leave your home.
What do you hope Where’s The Frame? can bring to the London art scene as a unique platform in its own right? Is your focus primarily on promoting new artistic styles and practices that haven’t had wide exposure, or are you keen to focus on what individual artists can bring to the table as well?
We must admit, this is a tough question to answer. Honestly, the desire to create a platform like ours was born out of frustration with a couple of tendencies in the industry. We were personally fed up with the boring, hyper academic approach in art institutions that felt out of touch with the preferences of our many in our generation. We wanted to create a platform that resonates with Millennials and Gen Z in terms of language, aesthetic, style, etc. Also, as international students studying in London, we were missing a sense of community.
The opportunity to study amongst artists was a decisive factor for us both to pursue a mater's degree at an art school in London, and we’re very glad we did, but there was nothing set in place to truly connect and to get an impression of what's going on. We wanted to solidify a sense of community between art students and graduates, those interested in curation and art history, art researchers, etc., in London and possibly expand that to other cities.
Another thing we felt was missing were paid opportunities for recent grads. So we want our platform to be about community building between and celebration of a new generation of artists entering the scene. We see London as our anchor point but we do not focus on one particular practice or styles. We’re open to a lot of styles and artistic practices while focussing on paintings and prints. Just like both of us, who are Indonesian and Dutch, we met and studied in London. We wish for Where’s The Frame? to be like us - to be an open space for a new generation of artists.
You’ve also discussed how you noticed that 2D works seem to be missing from contemporary art galleries now. Why do you think they’re not as popular on the contemporary scene? Is there a hope you can prove there’s still a place for 2D works in the art world?
Installation based conceptualism has reigned for a couple of decades now. Don’t get us wrong, the art market has always been all about painting, but artists have been gravitating towards conceptualism in installations, sculpture in the expanded field, or tried to dematerialise art since the end of the '60s.
If you look at the history of art, it makes sense that artists turned to these mediums. They wanted to break with tradition and by working in these mediums, they have a lot of freedom to explore a wide range of topics and concerns. Nothing that holds them back. This might have made it harder for artists to take up more traditional mediums such as painting. But during the dominance of installation based conceptualism/dematerialised conceptualism, many artists still foregrounded conceptualism in their paintings, drawings and prints. We’ve seen that artists in painting and printing programs are creating exciting work grounded in conceptualism, pursuing beauty or doing it both at the same time.
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You’re launching your first collection of vanguard art soon. What can you tell us about that? Does this include work that’s been created since the beginning of the pandemic, or does it include pieces you’ve wanted to present for longer?
We’re extremely excited about our upcoming collection. People have to wait until the launch to see what we’ve been working on for the past few months but what we can tell you now is that it includes art that has been made by artists that graduated in 2020 from Central Saint Martins, Royal College of Art, Goldsmiths, basically the leading art schools of the world. Some of them have been made since the outbreak, others were made slightly before, but all of them pertinent to our times.
With the pandemic in mind, how do you think Where’s The Frame? will adapt to the current landscape? Are you focused on how the artists and their work will be consumed digitally, or do you have plans to expand into other areas when the opportunity allows for it?
Where’s The Frame? will always be mainly focused on working online since it’s the best way to involve the most people. But as soon as possible, we’re going to bring art to physical spaces, such as pop up exhibitions and art fairs. For now, working online is a great way to celebrate a wide range of artists to reach a wide audience.
We’re also curious as to how you both decide which artists you want to interview and feature. Are there names that stand out from each school, or do you try to select artists with a particular theme or stylistic approach in mind? Do you prefer to selects artists who are disruptive, or do you just go with a feeling at the time?
It’s all very intuitive. When we see a style on Instagram that one of us likes, we DM it to the other. It’s spooky how we’re both drawn to the same artists. It’s about finding an artist whose style is different and refreshing but also feels current if that makes sense. We’re looking for the sweet spot between them. Most of the time we seem to gravitate to students and grads from CSM, RCA and Goldsmiths.
Finally, how would you like to see the London art scene evolve in the coming years? How much of that will be down to graduates like yourselves promoting artists you love, and how much is the responsibility of the big players and galleries?
It’s very hard to tell how big the ramifications of Covid are going to be for the arts, especially concerning the sector-wide job cuts. Before all of this, it was easy to see that the biggest players had all the power. Many mid-sized galleries were barely keeping afloat and when they had an artist that was doing well, they didn’t stay for long. Of course, for artists, it makes sense to switch to a more prestigious gallery when they’re doing well. And then the biggest auction houses were meddling as well, doing the same things gallerists historically were doing. And they’re all fighting for the same art collectors.
So, the upper crust of the art world was getting highly, highly competitive, highly, highly impenetrable and highly, highly exclusive. We’re creating our own niche with focussing on artists at the beginning of their career, connecting to a new generation of art collectors and making it unintimidating. But again, it’s hard to tell how the other part of the art world is going to look like after all of this.
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Gianina Ivodie
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Maribelle Bierens
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Betsey Kilpatrick
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Qijun Li
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Teo Burki
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Sian Fan
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Mandy Franca