In collaboration with the Turbine Art Fair, we recently undertook research into the role of networks for Contemporary Artist’s careers. This set of notes highlights some of the key learnings of value particularly to emerging artists
Talking about networks in the contemporary arts can be an awkward thing. It’s often assumed to happen organically and without premeditation, a ‘happy coincidence’ that flows from the ‘natural’ engagements and social interactions that are integral to being an artist. But when networks and networking are observed more closely, the vital role they play in the development of an artist’s career becomes very clear and as such, becomes an important arena to understand for young artists looking to grow their careers. Furthermore, the inherent obstacles to network building, from class to language to educational access, point to the fact that ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ network building are more readily available to a select few.
A network is the most natural (and most ancient) form of grouping. Its cultural complement is found in hierarchies…If networks are natural, hierarchies are cultural…Hierarchies are visibly and beautifully designed structures for incremental change; invisible networks for rapid, radical transformation.
Stephenson, 1998, p.3
This means that there is a lot of value in enabling transparency and support to emerging and younger artists to grasp and drive strategies for network building to level the playing field and more readily open up opportunities. This is perhaps ever more urgent since the seismic disruptions of the Covid19 pandemic, particularly to more established ways of connecting, meeting people and operating within a highly socialised industry. This document looks to serve as a small window into an otherwise relatively opaque arena, to give young and emerging artists tips, nudges and possible crib notes – to support growing careers.