Art is one of the many industries that has been particularly badly hit by the coronavirus, and for art consultancy and rental agency ARTIQ, the impact this has had on artists has been particularly concerning.
“We know, from various surveys by ourselves and the Creative Industries Federation, that Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown has hit creative and freelancers, artists, incredibly hard, disproportionately hard due to the nature of their work and pay,” Patrick McCrae, CEO and co-founder of ARTIQ, tells Verdict.
A startup based in East London, the UK, and part of the East London Innovators network, ARTIQ takes an innovative approach to the art world, providing a combination of consultancy, rental and art-related experiences, all underpinned by the core principle of paying artists fairly.
“Artist fair pay [is] one of the founding mantras of the business,” says McCrae.
ARTIQ moves art experiences online to support artists amid the coronavirus
However, the lockdown has impacted ARTIQ’s normal way of doing business, which in turn has threatened its ability to support independent artists. And this has been particularly significant around its experiences arm.
“We have a successful events and experiences arm of the business, think life drawing, studio tours, lectures, debate,” explains McCrae.
However, ARTIQ has taken this arm online to ensure that it can keep supplying artists and creators with work, with the first – a masterclass on rebellious female artists and their work – having already been completed, and more on the way.
“ARTIQ, culture in general is a very human, people-focussed part of our lives, so nothing will of course replace the impact of a monumental sculpture or the pleasure of having an artist describe to you in person their work, however we have tried to encapsulate some of those experiences and are delivering them online,” he says.
“We are also, practically, looking for revenue-generating streams to support artists, freelance creatives, who have been incredibly negatively impacted by Covid and the lockdown.”
And according to McCrae, these are “all about joy”.
“These are inexpensive experiences, that give artists some income and our clients, those engaged in the experiences, a great opportunity to socialise with their peers, to think creatively, to reconnect with the joy in life as this period has and can be very challenging for us all.”
That’s not to say that getting them up and running has been entirely smooth.
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“Getting to grips with delivering experiences that often rely on human interaction online has been the main issue!” he says.
“However, through the incredible dedication of the team, rehearsing with artists, practising, thinking of all the practicalities and eccentricities of hosting an online meeting with many users, I’m very happy with the final result. We’re actually showcasing one for free soon, so people can give it a try (we’ll cover the artist’s fees).”
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It’s been incredible to see how artists and creatives are coming together to support each other during this time. In the past month, ARTIQ has been sharing resources with artists to encourage engagement in these initiatives. Many of our artists have been creating amazing new works as part of the #artistsupportpledge, launched by artist @matthewburrowsstudio Participating artists post their works for sale, for no more than £200, with the hashtag #artistsupportpledge. Each time an artist reaches £1,000 of sales, they pledge to buy another artist’s work. In the coming weeks, we will be sharing our top picks from the support pledge. Don’t forget to take a look at the artists’ pages to purchase! 👀 #artists #artistsupportpledge
Art and business during lockdown
The art world in general has had numerous efforts to support artists during lockdown, with many starting their own initiatives using online networking to gain attention.
It comes back to human interaction and at the moment, the best and safest place for that is online,” says McCrae.
“One of the most commendable projects is the #artistsupportpledge where artists post images of their work for around £200, once they’ve sold £1000 worth, they pledge to buy another artist’s work for £200, obviously everyone can buy work, it’s apparently generating millions in revenue already.”
ARTIQ has also maintained an extensive and regularly updated page of resources for artists amid Covid-19.
However, for the company internally, art has also provided a source of entertainment and community as the team adapts to home working.
“We are usually a team of 26, based either at our offices in Aldgate East, storage facility in Bermondsey or on client sites around the world,” he says.
“With lockdown in place, we’re now all working from home, taking to video-conferencing for client and artist meetings and introducing themed nights for our team catch ups, from quizzes to my personal favourite: come as an artwork. Being ginger, I opted for Van Gogh, though we had some far better efforts than mine, from Warhol to the Pre-Raphaelites!”
Despite being “pretty tech savvy” already, the company has also had the usual increase in tech tools, with McCrae saying he is “a Zoom and Teams convert for sure now”.
But will the lockdown ultimately prompt any long-term changes to the business?
“Honestly, it’s too early to tell. I think the online experiences are an incredible way to engage new people in art, though, so we’re planning to keep that very much part of the business.”