Humans have surrounded themselves with aesthetic images and objects since time immemorial . Whether frescos, sculptures, trinkets or the works of great artists, art in domestic spaces has helped to define the lives of the occupants and create a portrait of who they are. Reflective of distinct tastes, lifestyles or travels it helps build a picture of an individual, a family, a lifetime. A personal reflection embedded in defined cultural and historical moments.
Contemporary art has found its way in to homes all over the globe, but often for very different reasons and with very different outcomes. Anyone following this blog will know that the model of The Collective is based on the principle of cooperative buying and sharing of contemporary art between six households which enables individual
appreciation in our homes and invites shared experiences in the process of acquiring and growing The Collective. More than just a collection of art works it has been an integral part of our homes, our memories and our family lives for the best part of two decades.
The individual or group collectors who acquire the works of established artists is a more usual way that contemporary art finds its ways in to homes. The experience here is one of personal enjoyment and status with possible loans to public galleries. It’s a largely private experience for a particular household or office space.
Beyond the collectors, curators and art directors have been setting the scene for alternative ways to introduce contemporary art in to domestic spaces. Manchester International Festival’s (MIF) “Festival in My House” was first started in 2016. Inspired by other festival movements to introduce art in to homes across a host city, John McGrath, MIF’s CEO and artistic director explains that Festival in My House is not about putting artists in to people’s homes or using the home as an alternative gallery venue, but instead it is about supporting householders to be curators and artistic programmers. With support from MIF’s producers it helps to develop pockets of underground activists for when the big festival comes. It helps people to make connections, provides training, realises their own creative ambitions as they curate a mini festival in their home. Artists and participants clearly value the experiential side of this movement as much as the works themselves with a vast array of art forms being curated from visual art, music, dancing to story -telling and poetry-reading interacting with local residents to create vibrant environments in selected homes.
Artists, participants and visitors alike find the intimacy of the home more personal and relaxing, a more informal way of engaging with different types of art. As John McGrath explains
“In concert halls and theatre venues the spaces allow the artist to do what they want to do – they are neutral spaces – but in homes their work is more of a conversation with the place itself”
Visitors view the experience on a dual level: the personal visualisation of the occupants
life from within their own home, and the art being produced within it. As domestic living spaces the experience for both artist and visitor is more dynamic and more intimate. For the artist there may be new challenges with sound or a feeling of greater vulnerability due to the close proximity of the audience or the effect of the personal surroundings on their work. For visitors they feel much more part of the experience.
“Art in the Home|Sheffield” a continuation of the 2014 and 2015 editions held in Manchester and York is a quite different concept from MIF adding a new perspective to how contemporary art is being introduced in to domestic spaces. In this project four commercial galleries from across the UK had temporary exhibitions hosted in four selected homes in the city. In the 2017 Sheffield edition one of the participating galleries was Workplace Gallery which hosted The Collective’s own exhibition in Gateshead last May. Art in the Home|Sheffield was part of Making Ways – a new programme supported by Sheffield Culture Consortium through Arts Council England “to showcase, celebrate and develop the exceptional contemporary visual art produced in the city.” By invitation only visitors were guided round the four houses (all in close proximity) where they could see the art works and talk to the gallerists involved. Seemingly more exclusive Art in the Home was not a public event but its popularity continues to support more editions with the draw of the domestic space still key to its success.
But what of domestic everyday objects already in homes? In 1999 an unusual collaborative project began between the Tate Gallery and the DIY store Homebase. Created and organised by artist and curator Colin Pointer the project’s focus was more on our relationship with the domestic objects and how they could be used to form the basis of sellable art works. In the project nine British sculptors were invited to create “an object, designed for mass production, for display or use in the home”. To achieve this artists began by visiting households to see how daily objects were used and displayed from garden tools to shower curtains. The completed objects were then available to buy in both Homebase and the Tate Gallery shop. The Tate Gallery hosted an exhibition At Home with Art which showcased the objects themselves, drawings, prototypes and other materials which toured the UK for two years. The idea that you could buy the objects at an affordable price and not just display, but use the them, on a day-to-day basis added a new dimension to the concept art in the home.
For the Collective we bring art in to our homes that is not always of our own personal choosing, and regularly exchange the works between the participating households. We can see works go, but they can equally appear again. Our interaction is based on living
with art all the year through and seeing a changing homescape as we exchange and acquire new works. The experience is dynamic and engaging within an environment that is comfortable and familiar but often challenges our own preconceptions of what art we can live with in our domestic spaces. Do we like a particular work? What reaction has it produced and how much does it impact our family members or visitors? In centuries to come what would it say about our lives?
We can agree that “art in the home” is not a new concept. But the way it is introduced in to our domestic spaces and our consequent interactions with it, is constantly evolving giving it a new meaning on each occasion.