Today, the International Body of Art (IBA) – an arts company which helps launch the career of underrepresented artists through its public exhibitions programme – launches its proprietary platform ‘Projects’. The first-of-its-kind platform provides a vital lifeline for underrepresented creatives, allowing funders to both sponsor and connect with the artists. The platform facilitates an intimate connection between donors and artists who fall outside of the traditional bounds of the art institution. Highlighting the dire need for initiatives such as this, individual grants from Arts Council England for UK artists declined by a staggering £5.2m year on year between 2008 and 2019, often with ethnic minority, working class and female artists being disproportionately affected.
Serving as the antithesis to the art world’s elitism and the hazy market-driven control, IBA gives underrepresented artists a platform, both in the form of their quarterly exhibition programme and by helping artists acquire funding through their first-of-its-kind crowdfunding platform. Backers who choose to support IBA are introduced to the inner workings of curating an exhibition and have the opportunity to collaborate and engage with the artists – offering insight into works and ideas that aren’t given adequate light in mega galleries and institutions.
To this end, IBA’s proprietary research has revealed that a staggering 35% of ethnic minority artists have had to abandon a career in the arts due to having limited financial backing, and separate reports show that just 7.9% of professionals within the creative industries come from working-class backgrounds. The barriers to entry in the art world are varied – low-paid jobs, less-than-favourable working conditions, and a culture seeped in nepotism means that many artists and art enthusiasts remain discouraged from pursuing careers in the industry.
To contribute to a project there are various options of different values, ranging from £5 to £1100. With each contribution, there are different ‘rewards’. These can range from a signed ‘thank you’ note, to private premier invitations, 1-on-1 Q&A calls, or even an extended meditation session with an artist. Having been created by the artists themselves, each reward is tailored to its project, meaning that funders are sure to receive a reward that they love based upon which project they connect with and contribute to. With proprietary research unveiling that almost 1-in-4 art investors (21%) are actively looking to support underrepresented artists, ‘Projects’ allows early-stage art collectors to connect with some of the country’s most promising emerging artists, with the aim of breaking down the barriers to entry for both artists and art enthusiasts.
April Kelly, IBA’s project manager, comments on ‘Projects’ aims and the need to support emerging artists:
“In our artist support and exhibition curation, we always ensured that artists felt that they could be experimental, that they could take risks, and that they could be supported in creating honest, passionate, and personal works. After an early exhibition, we experienced artists thanking us for giving them this freedom- it was then that we realised how profound the problems of the art world are.
Its rigidity does not simply affect access, but it continues to dictate from within the work of artists. The traditional market almost forces artists to keep making the same works that are instantly sellable and recognisable, so it doesn’t actually allow any room for innovation. That’s what we want to be here for.
On the other side of things, throughout our time organising exhibitions we’ve consistently had the audience thank us for creating an art space that is unpretentious and community-focused. We always have our artists present throughout the shows and try to facilitate a welcoming atmosphere. The understanding that these kinds of environments are missing in the art world further informed the development of ‘Projects’ – the community aspect of this and the involvement of the audience is as important as anything else.”