For a few years Adam Street, in the center of London, hosted the event What Is The Point?, a group exhibition of International artists chosen by a committee. Each artist creates a new artwork especially for the exhibition, drawing inspiration from, and attempting to answer the question, ‘What Is The Point?’
I decided to speak directly with Kate Enters, curator of the exhibition, discussing her curatorial intent of having created the exhibition process and to understand what the major developments are for this new edition of What Is The Point? 2015. Not least where is it going to be held this year.
You are Kate Enters and you are the heart of What Is The Point? How do you describe yourself?
I am an artist. I graduated in Fine Art Painting in 2000 from Norwich School of Art. As a student I felt that I was in this safe creative bubble. On graduation I realised that I had to find out what the world was about before I could confidently place myself as an artist within the world. I was incredibly lucky to work in the PR and events industry within the arts arenas. This gave me invaluable insight into the art world and skills to manage my own career as an artist. In 2009 I had my first solo show in London and in 2012/2013 I realised that I was in a unique position to help other artists exhibit in London and set up What Is The Point? as a collaborative process. I strongly believe that individuals working alongside each other create power through their numbers and their sharing of information and contacts.
As an artist Kate, is your work related to What Is The Point?
In the fact that my work responds to society, yes. And this is despite my exploration of celebrating the aesthetic. There is often a social commentary running through my works but it is up to the audience to take what they want from the visual I present. I do not wish to dictate or manipulate a viewers perception of what I paint. It is a shared experience in that way and that is definitely a point I am passionate about.
Why and how was the event What Is The Point? created? Where does the title come from and what are the goals for hosting and organising this event?
I had just completed my 8th solo show in London and looked around at how successful it was and who had attended and I felt unsure of how to continue to develop and grow. I concluded that I needed to expand my own reach to new audiences. I realised that other artists must face the same issues – especially those not formally represented by a gallery. I therefore thought that it would be useful to create a collective of artists that work alongside each other and by working together have the power to exhibit in venues we may not be able to reach as individuals. I was on the committee at Adam Street and knew their gallery space well. They offered it to me for the first exhibition and although I was restricted to 2D artist only I was able to ensure that if an artist sold their work the money in it’s entirely went to the artist. Something I will always now maintain. I initially thought this would be a one off show titled What Is The Point? and if successful then any future exhibitions would have a new title... However as soon as I put out the call to artists I realised that I had hit upon a concept and exhibition structure that had a huge international reach to like-minded artists. It absolutely qualified my theory that other artists are looking for new ways to exhibit outside of the formal gallery structure. The first year was a huge success – we had over 600 people attend the private view alone. But more astounding was the diversity and challenge the title gave to each artist. What Is The Point? became its own brand and it made sense to keep this for longevity and continuity going forward. So how did the title come about? Well… I was sat in the pub with my dad at the early concept stages and I was questioning myself as to why I was trying to organise and create a new platform for artists... then moved on to doubting that I could pull it off... to concern that I would not be able to achieve what I thought was a good concept and then went to worrying about what to use as the first title. I think either my father or I actually said: “well what is the point?” and as neither of us could actually answer that succinctly we realised that it would make a great title for an exhibition. Strangely everything else felt achievable once the title had been agreed on! Including getting a committee involved to support me in achieving this initiative. They have been invaluable in balancing the artist versus business personalities within me!
Is there a philosophy which is referred or to which you wanted to refer? Also could we insert a sentence or more of a famous thinker on What is the point?
Well it is, I suppose, one of the eternal questions – however there is freedom and celebration within the question that means it can be answered intensely or flippantly... I like that and I have to say that each and every artist who has responded to the title to date has done so absolutely uniquely. I don’t believe that the question What Is The Point? can be answered in its totality. It can however be passionately explored. That makes it unifying as well as inspiring – it highlights possibilities and concepts both to the individual artist responding to it as well as the audience viewing and therefore sharing the experience. It is as Einstein says – “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”.
What is the point at this third edition, and how has it changed over the years? How is it evolving and how do you think this new edition will be in its new location?
After two years at the Adam Street space I felt we needed to branch out and explore other venues and spaces for the 2015 exhibition. I put a call out to all London venues and gallery spaces and The Mall Galleries called me in to meet with them. One successful proposal later and we’d been accepted by their committee to be part of their 2015 exhibition programme. This was an opportunity that could not be ignored. It meant we could expand to 35 artists rather than the usual 15 to 18 and we would also be supported by their press and marketing teams. It does however mean that costs can no longer be covered through favours which I have been so lucky with to date. The increased number of artists means the brochure will be double the size. More guests at the private view means more drinks needed etc. The artists do submit a collaboration fee once successfully selected that mainly covers the drinks at the private view… However as with everything in this world some additional support would be wonderful. I am hopeful that as What Is The Point? is such an international initiative that funding or brand partnership may be an option in the future and will help with these needs.
What to expect in the future for What Is The Point?
We have achieved so much in such a short time frame that I have told myself to wait and see how this September’s exhibition goes at the Mall Galleries before making any huge decisions about the future. I do however know that in future years I would like to be able to accept sculptors and other forms of art as part of the exhibition and hope that 2016’s annual exhibition could be the platform for this. What Is The Point? has in essence become a template for a successful exhibition. This means it can be picked up and used in any city or venue by anyone. Therefore, I will be looking for collaborators who would like to take this brand and host it in other countries. Milan, America – indeed, I would be happy to discuss this with any artist in any location. They just have to understand and like the ethos of What Is The Point?... It’s exciting times.