Does the internet seem an unlikely place to view, appreciate, and support art? Eleanor Hanson Wise and Oliver Wise would argue otherwise. With the November 1 launch of their project Art Micro Patronage, they have created an innovative online exhibition space for digital, new media, and intermedia work that harkens back to a far more traditional model of supporting the arts.
Explaining their motivation behind the project, they write, "While artists and makers are gaining ever more opportunities for exposure, the opportunities to get paid for their work are dwindling. As online appreciators, we are encouraged to show our thanks by sharing or reposting, with the promise that notoriety brings financial security. We're not fully convinced of this logic."
With The Present Group, an online art subscription service, under their belts and with a 2010 Alternative Exposure grant in their pockets, the Wises spent the past year developing the website, working out logistics, and securing curators and artists for the project. The result is a clear and user-friendly platform for viewing and -- they hope -- funding art.
The first exhibition, Material Motion, is a group of animated works created by artists who work primarily in other media, yielding a range of animation styles and materials. Curated by Bay Area artist and animator Sarah Klein, the nine video pieces are comfortably housed within the website’s format. Watching video online is something most of us do regularly, but it's not likely we're seeing videos such as David O'Kane's oil painting animation of a cigarette-smoking Jean Baudrillard or Tommy Becker's simple yet highly satisfying Pulling Down The Sky To Give You The Sun (currently leading the pack with the most pledges).
During each exhibition's month-long run, visitors can freely browse the works and watch online artist and curator talks. But after its close, only those who pledged money to pieces will be able to see those works on the website. This is donorship, the Wises stress, not ownership.
In this respect, Art Micro Patronage works on the familiar internet principle of "liking" something, with a range of monetary values (50¢ through $20) replacing the thumbs-up. Donors can choose to remain anonymous or create profiles for themselves, proudly proclaiming themselves as part of a community of support. At the end of a show, funds are dispersed to the artists accordingly, while Art Micro Patronage retains a percentage to pay future curators and developers and to cover operating costs.
Two weeks into Material Motion, the show received a total of $141, spread unevenly across all nine artists. It will be interesting to see how future non-video shows fare. Upcoming exhibitions include January 2012's 10000 Pixels, curated by Jeff Thompson, in which artists will be asked to make three works with a 10,000 pixel (in other words, a very small) allowance, and Lindsay Howard's April exhibition of C.R.E.A.M., showcasing artists concerned with the "monetization of net-based work." This last show, housed within a structure striving to monetize net-based work, will be sure to challenge viewers and patrons alike.
Though Art Mico Patronage has yet to prove itself a viable and sustainable option for funding artists' practices, the Wises' very attempt to address this issue in such a radically inventive way is an important step. Most of us (the 99%) don't have the budgets to be large-scale patrons of the arts, as much as we support and appreciate such cultural contributions. I, for one, cannot afford to buy the work featured in the galleries I frequent or in the art publications I read. Art Micro Patronage offers viewers the opportunity to give what they can, at their own speed, and on their own terms.
Material Motion is on view through November 30, 2011. For more information visit artmicropatronage.org.