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Art is subjective; arguably anything could be described as art. It has been said that as long as an artist says “what I have made is art” then it is art. Pulling a partially burnt door from the rubble of a derelict building and hanging it on your wall, then spray painting it, could pass as art. In fact, that’s exactly what one artist confessed to me that they once did, and it sold for a good price. But what makes a successful artist? 

Experts in the art world often say that, unless you are represented by a prestigious gallery and have sold your pieces at one of the reputable auction houses for a hefty price, you cannot begin to describe yourself as a leading British or international artist. But in these days of spin and false news, many artists grandly describe themselves as just that – even if it is just on their own web page. That is why an artist being represented by a leading gallery is so important, it protects the consumer and cradles the artist. It is like good management for actors.

Your correspondent with actor and Loose Woman Denise Welch.

For me, if I walk into an exhibition and instantly see that an artist’s inspiration is another artist then I am not excited about their work. I am fine with artists being influenced by other artists’ work but if an artist recognisably channels legends such as Warhol, Bacon, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst perhaps they need to rethink …

Hearing a truly talented, unique artist’s voice call out from their work is what captures me. It can send goosebumps up my neck when a crafted artist’s work is powerfully on display.

Take inspiration from the masters by all means but when your art is the equivalent to an X-factor contestant belting out someone else’s song, and a poor version of it at that, a great artist you are not. You may well be on the path to becoming one as long as, like many in the craft, you dedicate yourself to finding your own voice.

This is usually my favourite time of year as Frieze comes to town and the best galleries from around the world showcase their finest artists. Held in Regents Park, you can submerge yourself in an orgy of talented modern artists. Along with Frieze Masters, it feels like Christmas has come.

Sadly, Frieze, like many other events this year, has moved online, but has offered lectures and courses and hopefully further experiences for art enthusiasts. It will be back in its typical glory next year when this is all over. 

The landmark Venice art festival “La Biennale” is still set to go ahead next year, with the British entry selected by the Hayward Gallery and British Art Council. Next year, we are represented by curators Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler, who are bringing a diverse range of art to the British tent. La Biennale shows every two years, with the last showing in 2019, represented by British artist Cathy Wilkes. It’s the cream of the art shows, and I was lucky to attend in 2017 as a guest of Israeli artist Michele Cole. I still get excited about my trip; it is a memory that will stay with me for life. It is well worth going.

At the 2017 Biennale – artist Michal Cole

The arts have suffered grievously during the pandemic, with many galleries and exhibition halls still closed. It was a ray of light to be invited by LGBTQ+ international artist, Pedro Sousa Louro, to the opening of START at the Saatchi Gallery. His work received rave reviews when he showed at the Kunstmesse art fair in Germany. Pedro, originally from Portugal, resides in Chelsea and has a studio in Wimbledon. Pedro was educated at the Chelsea College of Arts in London. Among his army of fans are celebrities such as Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Holly Johnson. 

Holly Johnson (l) with Pedro Sousa Louro

Holly says of Pedro’s work “I like the fact that his art does not mean anything in particular. It is geometry for the sake of geometry “ 

Going into its seventh year, START showcases new and established artists, attracting international exhibitors, although the artists at START must pay to show their work. START gives voice to artists hoping to make a name for themselves on a global stage while providing the perfect platform for new collectors to discover talent that might otherwise have gone unseen.

Included in this year’s programme is Korean Eye 2020, a teaser exhibition that gives an insight into the work of some of Korea’s most exciting young artists. 

START founders, David and Serenella Ciclitira, were determined to support artists and push ahead with this year’s show, despite many sceptics. They recognise the difficulties faced by the art world during these tumultuous times. They appreciate that many people are not ready to return to galleries amidst the ongoing pandemic. They have made START a world leader that combines both online and physical reality. The Ciclitiras are aiming to make START a leader in the ‘phygital’ world, which marries both the physical environment and the online digital world at the same time

‘Serenella and I are committed to playing our part in supporting artists and galleries, and in getting the art-world as a whole back open for business.

David Ciclitira

2020 has been a challenging year, to say the least. It is a time when we must adapt and innovate; we must come together, united, for the greater good of all our fellow artists and galleries. 

The Saatchi gallery is one of the great London venues and brings a beautiful addition to the trendy Kings Road. My date for the open day was our Editor, Rob Harkavy. He was all suited and booted for the occasion. You can’t help but love the gallery the minute you walk in. For me, it is my dream home; it has been my fantasy to live in a gallery since I studied art as a teenager.

The celebrities were out in force. Anthea Turner was on hand to support David Bowie 20/20 Vision; a collection of photographs by Tony McGee, award-winning British photographer and friend of Bowie. This unique collection of never-before-seen images were hand-selected ‘on set’ by Bowie himself as a reflection of his own inner image, and are as powerful as they are poignant, beautifully capturing the essence of the shapeshifting, beguiling, enigmatic superstar. It blew me away. Anyone looking to buy me something for Christmas at £4k, one of these, please! 

Loose Woman and award-winning actress, Denise Welch, was chatting to people at her husband’s section, the former PR-man-turned-artist, Lincoln Townley. Welch’s son, Louis Healy (star of Emmerdale) was also in attendance. Michael Caine has previously shared that he is a fan of Townley’s work. 

The beautiful Gail Porter was also present and chatted to us. She was just charming. 

From left: Rob Harkavy, Gail Porter, Steven Smith.

START is well worth going to. The atmosphere is exciting, and there are one or two gems, depending on your taste. START also has a great bar on the third floor, where the Korean exhibition is, and there is some stunning work there.

Also open is the Brighton Museum; a hidden gem, but trust me, a must for everyone visiting the legendary gay seaside town. Among the exhibitions is Queer on the Pier. This community-curated display peers into local LGBTQ+ history. Celebrating the lives of the writers, artists, performers, activists and ordinary people who have made Brighton & Hove so fabulous, their stories are brought to life with film and photography, fashion and drag and oral histories. It is part of Be Bold, a series of collaborative exhibitions and events, programmed with Brighton & Hove’s LGBTQ+ communities.

The jewel in the crown is the exhibition, Rock N Roll with me: Bowie/MacCormack 1973-76. It is an exhibition of unique photographs taken by David Bowie’s close friend and travelling companion, Geoff MacCormack, between 1973-76.

This was a dream for me and took me back to my childhood. Seeing The Man who fell to Earth, Bowie’s first movie where he played an alien, twice on my 14th birthday was life-changing for me. Some of Bowie’s most iconic pictures are here, from Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and the ground-breaking Diamond Dogs’ tour across the USA, Japan and the UK via Russia.

The exhibition includes recently rediscovered and never previously seen images of Bowie alongside rarely seen film footage shot by Bowie of the May Day Parade in Moscow, 1973. There is a film of Bowie as Ziggy Stardust and a specially created exhibition playlist. For me, the never seen before pictures of Bowie on the Siberian Express and in Red Square were worth the trip; they are fascinating. 

There is something here for everyone so if you’re visiting Brighton, you won’t be disappointed!

Visit the Saatchi Gallery here.

Visit the Venice Biennale here.

Find out more about Britain at the Biennale here.

More about Bowie & MacCormack in Brighton here.

About the author

Steven Smith

2 thoughts on “Let the power of art lift you up in these troubling times.”

  1. Brilliantly written, insightful article Steven! You really know what you’re talking about when it comes to art.

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments , Yes I have been interested.
      in Art since a child. best Steven.

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