Unwrapped: the Collective 20 years on

If there is a beginning it is logical that there must be an end.

You expect a book, a film or us as humans to have a beginning and an end.  That’s how it works. But a concept can go on indefinitely.

The Founding Collective was based on an unusual concept of collecting art affordably and sharing it co-operatively between a group of households.  The concept is still alive and kicking.

But a little while ago we made a decision to close the current “collection” of the Founding Collective. After twenty years of collecting and over 65 works in our combined households we were running out of space and “sharing” had become increasingly difficult.  Whether parents, or now grandparents, it seemed the right time to move on to something new.

Marking the end of such a collection with a celebration was vital to us as a group of closely connected people.  It had been an incredible journey of learning, discovery and life-changing experiences. This included the deeply sad passing of Bob Lee whose drive and passion had been so central to the Collective’s beginning and continued success.

But staying true to the challenges set by being part of this collective it wasn’t going to be any ordinary celebration. 

We teamed up with the Beaconsfield artist-led centre in London, taking over their spacious upper floor gallery space often used for different arts activities and experiences. The event was going to be based on a performance representing the concept of our “exchanges”, a core part of how we shared works collectively. Every six months or so the six households came together to exchange the art works between us, learning about different artists and changing the art in our houses.  “Unwrapped” was going to mirror that process of unwrapping, exchanging and debating, with some works hung on the walls and others sitting on top of their packaging ready to share. All the works would be placed within their specific “household” zone.  

Once we had decided to close the collection we had needed to work out a fair process to distribute the works between us based on what our favourite pieces were, rather than their value.  There were bound to be favourites that most households wanted so we developed an algorithm to work this out and ensure that everyone ended up with the same number of pieces.  Some multiple bids had involved picking letters out of a hat but at the end of the day we had all agreed we would be happy with the allocation.  It went well with talk of “occasional swapping” still in the air.  Why not? after all, sharing had worked for twenty years.

The zones we created at Beaconsfield were where the works ended their final journey after being carefully unwrapped, cleaned, photographed, (Photographer :Ralph Hodgson) and placed in their new household zone.  This was quite a process over three days and visitors could come to the gallery, ask questions and watch what was happening as the collection slowly emerged from its wrapping.

The final day came when family, friends and artists were invited to celebrate the entire  collection unwrapped for the first and last time in a public space.

Members, Theresa and Chetan spoke passionately of the impact the Collective had had on their lives and careers. Artist, Joy Gregory whom we had visited in the early years of the Collective spoke of the importance of our studio visit and the purchase of one of her works at an early stage in her career. We celebrated Bob Lee and his contribution to the success of the Collective. We welcomed artists Jemima Brown, Kathryn Fry and Emily Mulenga  who is working on a final commission for the Collective based on the extraordinary life of Bob Lee.

It was a memorable evening. It’s been an even more memorable 20-year journey as we evolved a concept and built an unusual and varied collection of art as founding members of the Collective. As my good friend Ruth said following the event,

” having seen the collection in its entirety I wonder how I would feel about the conversations these works must prompt , in your own heads and with each other as you live your lives in their presence”

Thanks to the Beaconsfield and everyone who joined us for this unique moment of sharing our collection “unwrapped” in one place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.