Interview with Vivi Kallinikou, Tom Elsner, Sandy Di Yu | ArtRabbit

Bucharest’s Art Pavilion – Art Safari 2018
28 February 2018


About the Team:

Tom Elsner is ArtRabbit’s founder and director. Find him on Twitter.

Vivi Kallinikou is an art historian and editor-in-chief of ArtRabbit. Find her on Twitter or Instagram.

Sandy Di Yu is a writer, art theorist, and artist. Follow her on Instagram or visit her website.

1. What is ArtRabbit and why should it be “compulsory read” for art passionates around the world?

[Vivi] ArtRabbit is an open digital platform, user network and mobile app for the promotion, discovery and appreciation of contemporary art. Tom started ArtRabbit as a side project in 2006 and we re-launched the platform in 2014.

We set out to create a practical guide to the contemporary art and visual culture scene, to help people browse art and pick shows they’d like to see. We wanted to create a platform that allowed users to prepare their own “trails” and hop from one place to the next, armed with the curiosity, playfulness, and confidence of a rabbit.

ArtRabbit is all about combining serendipity and intention when exploring art. We aimed to help people to squeeze more art into their lives in the easiest way possible. Afterall, lunchtimes can become an adventure when you pop open an app and realise you can visit a show 10 minutes down the road rather than sitting at your desk with a sandwich.

We wanted to provide neutrality that would allow users to share their events and exhibitions within an open network and reach more people. From student to national shows, permanent museum collections to one day pop up events, most of the content on ArtRabbit is crowdsourced and user-generated. This neutrality has enabled us to build trust with galleries, artists, curators and art fans.

Unlike other offerings, we realised there was a need for an art and contemporary resource that truly fits in around the user. Whether you are super serious or super casual, whether you have 5 minutes or 5 days to explore, the ArtRabbit website and app adapts to you. We provide a new way to navigate cities you know or explore cities you don’t. With our products in hand, users have found that it gives them a new purpose and direction when finding new things of interest, which was our aim.

2. What’s technology’s impact on the arts? Can technology make art more accessible?

As with all other facets of life, technology has had a great impact on the arts. With our services – ArtRabbit is made up of the ArtRabbit website, the app, our newsletters, our social channels and soon real live art events – the aim was and remains to make art more accessible.

We wanted to democratise the way the art world is operated and accessed, so our content is largely crowd-sourced and user-generated. This multitude of voices contributes to the diversity in our platform and the abolition of traditional hierarchies.

It’s often said that technology is the great equalizer, that it creates plateaus of peaks. While this is at times a reductive and erroneously utopian sentiment, we do think that it lends a voice to those seldom heard. And this is what we’re excited about tapping into. After all, why should it only be big publications and major galleries or art collectors control the narrative? We’re working on a platform for art practitioners and consumers where they can control the message and share it with like-minded people and get recognition from thousands of people around the world.

It’s also about the ease of injecting some arts and culture into our everyday lives, whatever these everyday lives consist of. Going to exhibitions or attending art events no longer has to be an activity planned and researched long in advance but can quickly and easily become a part of a typical weekday.

Making art more accessible for people has been one of our main goals and that also includes creating a platform for artists. Artists can set up their own profiles and list their shows and use our platform to promote their work.

3. How do you see the role of the collector on art scene?

To be blunt – we don’t really care about the collector. It’s great if you want to collect art and support the arts in this way, but it necessitates a certain financial privilege that we’re not interested in catering to. Contemporary art shouldn’t be a gated community that only the wealthy can enter, nor should it be something that only those with a fancy degree can have an opinion on. So much interesting art isn’t even directly commodifiable, and the trends seem to be steadily growing in that direction. In these cases, the collector becomes obsolete.

4. What is the artistic event, the artwork, the artistic discovery etc. you liked the most in the last years?

[Vivi] We’re based in London and work between London, Berlin and New York so we’re always spoilt for choice. But some of our recent staff highlights from the past years:

Taryn Simon’s On Occupation of Loss, commissioned by Artangel, London 2018

Ryoji Ikeda’s Test Pattern at London’s The Store Studios

Boris Charmatz’s A Dancer’s Day at Tempelhofer Feld during Berlin Art Week 2017

Wayne McGregor’s + / – Human at the Roundhouse

Atlas Fractured by Theo Eshetu at Neue Neue Galerie during dokumenta 14 in Kassel

Maria Hassabi’s Living Sculpture at Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens

Michael Landy’s Breaking News during dokumenta 14 in Athens

Marilyn Minter’s show Pretty/Dirty at Brooklyn Museum 2016

Pippilotti Rist’s show Pixel Forest at New Museum 2016

5. Art in Romania has experienced a growth in the last years: there are more people interested in art, artistic events have more and more visitors every year, the number of art collectors has grown too, there are several established artistic events. What do you know about Romanian art scene? Have you visited Romania so far? (if not, would you like to come here and why)

[Sandy] I visited Bucharest briefly last year and while I unfortunately, wasn’t able to tour too many art galleries and museums, the city itself is steeped in so much history, both recent and ancient. Following some tumultuous years in Romanian politics of the past century, it’s evident that it’s now become a hotbed for cultural growth, with a contemporary art scene in its naissance but also an avid love for its rich cultural history. Because of this, another visit dedicated to exploring Romania’s up and coming artistic scene is surely in order.

6. Why do we need art in our lives?

For centuries art has been educating civilisations about the histories of humanity and beauty. In medieval ages, visual arts have taught illiterate society about the good and bad, passed on traditions and cultural values. Today, while classical art can still provide us with information about the past epochs, contemporary art can manifest everything, from pure artistic self-expression to political issues and human rights. The freedom of art and artistic expression is something that should be a part of everyone’s life because it not only can bring our attention to the world’s and human condition but it also stimulates creative thinking, something that is required of our daily lives less and less but is becoming more vital as the world faces a torrent of new technologies, mass automation, and increasing precarity.

7. How can we attract more people to the arts? Can arts in public spaces complete this challenge? And how do we attract youngsters?

We believe that presenting high-quality art in an accessible way is the holy grail. Introducing more art to public spaces, for example, and making it part of everyday life. Art should be an inherent part of our lives.

We understand the virtual space as an extension of public spaces. People spend so much of their time online, which is precisely where arts should be promoted. Our mantra is “go where the people are” – don’t wait for them to come to you. So we’ve made it our mission to reach out to communities. It’s a long process and takes a lot of manual labour but it allows us to forge connections within the arts, striking bonds that is the basis of creating a thriving community of artists, galleries, institutions, and art lovers alike, no matter what their demographic.

8. What is the biggest challenge for the arts today?

I guess that depends what part of art you are referring to? But if we’re talking about accessibility to art and culture then I think we must ensure art history, art and culture are not being considered overly elaborate and elitist fields. We must work at showing that art is for everyone and that visiting an art exhibition, a performance or a play can be as effortless as any other leisure activity.

Sadly, press releases and introductions to exhibitions can often sound unnecessarily flowery and verbose, and it comes across as pretentious or insecure, as if it needs to be dressed up in theory to make it worthwhile. We have nothing against theory; in fact, we absolutely adore it (Vivi, Sandy and Nina are all from an art history/art theory background), but there’s no reason that it has to be alienating. Art shouldn’t be so shrouded in theory and concept that it becomes untouchable.

We have great hope that we’ll see a shift in this soon. There’s already so much evidence that great art can be accessible and still ask the big questions. Which is important because the big questions are interesting for everyone, not just an elite few.

Thank you!

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