From July 19 through July 25 I will be sitting the Kunstraum Tapir Gallery, Weserstraße 1, 10247, Berlin in Friedrichshain. There I will be making and giving away art to the people passing by. The art is free.
The show is called “Von Oakland nach Berlin/From Berlin to Oakland” because, in addition to the art I make in Berlin, I will also be bringing 50 small works made by Oakland artists to give away, and while in Berlin I hope to enlist Berlin artists to make 50 works to take back with me to give away at the Oakland Art Murmur. This is the first time I have done the Free Art Project in a gallery space. I imagine this will create an interesting dynamic: things are never free in a gallery.
I'm excited to do this project in Berlin and Oakland because the two cities share a weird funkiness. I love them both. And I must say that for all the fun this project has generated, it is a serious matter. I want to bring awareness to issues of status, privilege, access and the processes of valuation in a global society.
I started giving away art on the street five years ago with my students as a model for bridging the crevasse between the art makers and art audience. We set up a table at the hipster and homeless gathering that is Oakland Art Murmur, a free-for-all linked to the monthly gallery openings. My work and student work was presented at a table to anyone who walked by with a sign that said "Free."
When you give something of value away you get a predictable reactions. First is suspicion: people look at you sideways not sure what's wrong with the art or you, looking for the catch. This quickly converts to incredulity: "Can I really have this?" followed by “Is it really free?” And finally there is delight.
I had always been in touch with how artists feel helpless and alienated by the art transaction. I finally caught on that art viewers and maybe even collectors can also feel disenfranchised. This is my strategy for transforming that relationship. I want to create and engage art communities through different channels.
Since 2009 I have given away over 2500 works. Last year I took the mobile cart to give 325 original works away on the streets surrounding Art Basel Miami.
My project, The Free Art Project and Free Art Cart reconfigure the artist art-viewer relationship.
One reason I took this student project as a personal one is that the quality matters. Giving away stuff you don't care about has no merit. The project demanded a body of exquisite, masterful works for free. Similarly, I serve in the role as master artist. I am a painter. For 25 years my occupation has been making art. I teach painting and drawing at California State University. My work is collected and exhibited from Oakland to Berlin. The objects I make are smaller and swifter than what ordinarily goes up on a gallery wall but no less worthy.
Finally, I want to thank you for you interest and help in this project.
Risks and challenges
The Berlin side of the project is ready to go. I do not know what artists I will meet in Germany and whether they will be willing to participate in the Oakland part of the exchange. I also do not yet have a gallery in Oakland to show the Berlin works, but I always have the Free Art Cart (pictured above) to fall back on in Oakland.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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