We’ve all become so much more aware of how beautiful and how precious our environment is over the past year. While we’ve been cooped up inside, we all dream of the ocean, fields and flowers. Curators Daria Borisova and Anne Verhallen are now working in collaboration with SaveArtSpace to produce an exhibition across London advertisement spaces – think billboards, kiosks and bus shelters – to bring an intergenerational group of artists together to encourage awareness and provoke action that protects our environment. With the help of their curator pals, half of the contributing artists have been pre-selected, while 50% of the artistic contributions will be carefully selected through an open-call, which you can submit to until April 19. There is also a gofundme to help cover the costs of the project. In the run-up to the London-wide show, we spoke to Anne and Daria all about the project.
How did you two first come together?
We have been friends for many years and have collaborated on a number of charitable projects, like curating shows for a New York-based non-profit, Beauty For Freedom. We have a very strong connection – we transitioned our career from modeling to being curators and advisors around the same time. It is rare to find people with the same ambitions and work ethic. It was only a matter of time that we would curate/create another exhibition together.
Anne collaborated with SaveArtSpace last year on the public art exhibition “Ministry of Truth:1984/2020,” which was named one of the “most important moments in the arts in 2020” by the New York Times. The exhibition was curated around the state of US politics leading up to the 2020 election and brought forward topics such as growing polarization and systematic racism.
Daria has been working in London for a number of years and felt it was crucial to bring art to the public again after such a year of isolation. SaveArtSpace approached Daria to bring their mission to the UK, and she then asked Anne to be her co-collaborator.
Can you tell us about how you had the idea for Restoration: Now or Never?
We are extremely passionate about sustainability and have deep concerns about the urgency of our climate crisis. We see artists as leaders who have the ability to help us visualize the future, and we want to create a platform with this project for an intergenerational group of artists to present work on their point of view on the subject. Half of the artists are invited by the curators and the other half will be carefully selected through the Open Call. We believe this approach allows us to present a diverse group of viewpoints, while also creating opportunities for emerging talent.
After this past year, it became clear that we are all connected globally, and we are stronger when we face these issues together. The COVID-19 crisis affected everyone, and so does the climate crisis. We invited a global group of curators, including Michael Xufu Huang, Aindrea Emelife and Destinee Ross-Sutton, in an effort to bring multiple communities together.
Why should the art world start paying more attention to our environment?
We think artists are thought leaders, and innovation does not exist without creativity. Not only do we believe art can influence individuals, we also maintain that the art world can influence other industries. One mission of SaveArtSpace is to replace traditional advertising spaces with art. This is extremely relevant to our project, as we believe that a large part of our contemporary culture is predicated on consumerism—and the endless need of buying unnecessary stuff—that ultimately just creates more waste.
You’re exhibiting work in public spaces. How did you decide to do this?
What we consider as an exhibition space has been drastically expanded as online exhibition and nontraditional spaces continue to grow. We think this is a beautiful development! Art does not need to be presented in an intimidating white wall space. London has been in lockdown for over a year, leaving the city and community deprived of art in the physical space. Bringing art to the public feels more important than ever. Not only do we enjoy connecting people with art, but we also hope to bring London communities back together.
Can you tell us about SaveArtSpace?
SaveArtSpace was founded in 2015 by Justin Aversano and Travis Rix. The non-profit organization works to create an urban gallery experience, launching exhibitions that address intersectional themes and foster a progressive message of social change. By placing culture over commercialism, SaveArtSpace aims to empower artists from all walks of life and inspire a new generation of young creatives and activists.
Half of the artists have been pre-selected before the Open Call. How did you choose to work with these artists?
We invited Michael Xufu Huang, Aindrea Emelife and Destinee Ross-Sutton to co-curate the project. Besides our efforts to include artists in all stages of their career, we wanted to tap into a global community. Each curator put forward a few artists for the project, and we will make a group decision when selecting artists from the open call.
Artists that have been invited to exhibit are known for their work that addresses climate change or other social issues in the environmental world. Coco Capitán has been making work focused on ocean preservation throughout her career. Stefan Brüggemann is known for his thought-provoking text-based work that addresses social issues and criticizes contemporary culture. Zhang Huan, known for his social commentary, is one of the most provocative contemporary artists of our time.
What are your hopes for the project, as well as for the future of artists working for and with the environment?
We hope to bring together and inspire the communities of London to view inspiring art and give a voice to artists who take leadership, while raising awareness to the urgency of the climate crisis. We hope that recognizing artists as leaders will become a norm, as well as engaging with art in nontraditional and public spaces.
And, just in case you needed those links again:
Link to the go-fund-me: https://www.gofundme.com/f/restoration-now-or-never
Link to the open-call: https://www.saveartspace.org/restoration