Ever since someone painted a handprint on a cave wall, and presumably someone else tied a rope around it and started charging for admission, there have always been middlemen.
These are the people who usually coming between the artist and the public, supervising the day-to-day realities while the sensitive artist gets to focus on his or her artwork.
Draper House is an ambitious project founded one year ago and has since been dedicated to taking on the role of the middleman, yet breaking down the traditional boundaries between artist and audience. Originally an organization which aims to support artists and their work, it has evolved into an ongoing nomadic curatorial venture by way of the Showcase – a series of quarterly events put on by Draper House, seeking out and featuring artists in a variety of venues worldwide. The lack of physical roots lets the project develop organically and adapt to new environment and parameters as it roves between London, New York and Los Angeles. Its overriding mission is to present art in a way that encourages the full participation of the general public throughout the world.
Founder and principle, Sylvie Cho talks to Fotorater about this emblematic approach of showcasing art.
“I wanted to make something virginal out of an archaic process,” says 23 year old Cho. “So I tried to set up something whereby you can change the concept of art in small ways to make it more attractive and viable to the common person and I guess that’s what the Showcase aims to do.”
The Showcase intends to provide visitors the experience of viewing art on their home turf – much like the inception of the company’s name. Los Angeles born and bred, Cho explains, “You would imagine a single parent household and just one daughter would be pretty empty but our house was constantly filled with people, friends, acquaintances, family – it was never a lonely place. Even the name of the street is called Draper. It only seemed right to name what I am trying to do with a coined term that brings back comforting, heartfelt, happy memories.”
Speaking with Cho, it doesn’t take long to get a sense of her brilliance. She’s a likeable combination of the creative, bohemian type whose mind seems to be processing a thousand visionary but completely sensible thoughts at once.
“Art is my passion but I cannot say I am an artist. I see how so many artists think creatively – magically almost – but they lack that grasp of organization and planning that is often needed. I guess that’s where the role of the middle person comes in.” Perhaps because of this, Cho is able to look at art with critical, creative eyes.
“Art is becoming more and more subjective to each person’s viewpoints and often I have questioned the integrity of the modern art world. Though we can pay homage to people like Hirst in the contemporary art world or Banksy in the street art proliferation scene, I don’t know if that is necessarily defining of a Renaissance. In fact, those two examples alone indicate how capitalism is more of the issue at hand than the art itself.”
Cho aims to bring viewing art back to a more intimate sub-layer. The budding company’s first showcase premiered at the beginning of April at Gallery 27, London. The artists themselves were in attendance and the event was open to the public. All the artwork was on sale and prices ranged from £90-£6000.
“People nowadays want a hodge podge of different mediums and art in an easy, accessible way.” From the fashion illustration styles of Leigh Viner, to the whimsical heavy strokes of oils and acrylics of Mary Pickering, to the photographic utopias by Jacob Love and Alexander Whittaker’s historical take on maps, the artists showcased could not have been more different. “I was very worried about the discontinuity between things in the beginning but in fact I think that’s what made it more engaging; people were able to challenge and question it more or admire it.”
Cho does not claim their goal is groundbreaking. “It is not a revolutionary idea. But I intend to blend that variety of artwork, prices and bringing together the collaboration with the artists and the public. The effect of that is what’s different and that’s the part which is almost revolutionary.”
The statement is a lot like her practice- while it has seemingly modest roots; it also has a boldly grand implication.
Draper House Studios, a for hire photography house, is part of the larger entity which exists to capture the world visually, with specialization in many areas, including lifestyle, documentary, fashion, adverts, and fine art. There’s also a fully functioning promotional events arm which provides full service event planning, consulting, and production services.
What’s next on the horizon for Draper House? “Our next showcase will tentatively take place this August in New York.” A venue and the artists have yet to be confirmed. “But this time around, I think we will have it for a weekend instead of just one day,” concludes Cho. It should well be worth a visit.