Visual Arts Market Development in the West Midlands – Project Brief
To achieve an effective and sustainable model for developing the market for contemporary visual arts in the West Midlands
Arts Council England West Midlands, Business Link and Birmingham City Council
The interest in contemporary visual art and the market for it has grown apace in the last 5 years, as it has become less the exclusive milieu of artists, dealers and collectors and more that of the general public. The Frieze art fair attracts more than 60,000 visitors annually and Zoo Art Fair attracts 11,000 visitors resulting in sales of more than £1.7million through independent and art-led galleries and initiatives.
Arts Council England has led a number of market-related initiatives in recent years, the most notable of these being the commissioning of Taste Buds: How to Cultivate the Art Market (Morris Hargreaves McIntyre) in 2004 and the subsequent publication Market Matters: The Dynamics of the Contemporary Art Market (Louisa Buck). Complementary to this was Making it to Market: Developing the Market for Contemporary Craft (Morris Hargreaves McIntyre). Meanwhile the Own Art scheme has been rolled out across the nine regions seeking to stimulate a market beyond London and encourage buying and collecting by new audiences.
Following the publication of Turning Point, a 10 year strategy for the visual arts, the Arts Council has now committed specific funds in 2007/8 to develop regional collector and dealer initiatives and strategic partnerships between public and private sector organisations to stimulate market growth, targeting public and private collectors, domestic and corporate buyers, commissioners and patrons. The stated aim of the project is to encourage new collecting, create promotional/selling opportunities for artists and support the development of viable businesses run by creative entrepreneurs, through this meeting Turning Point’s overarching objectives to:
• invest in entrepreneurial individuals and organisations in areas which are favourable to presenting new work
• grow new markets’ and support increased sales for artists and more new collectors in a strengthened private sector outside London
These projects are considered as pilots and the funding is regarded as seed funding towards models that will become sustainable through earned income and partnership working. Alongside the West Midlands’ pilot, there are parallel initiatives in the North West, North East, and East Midlands regions.
Regionally the West Midlands’ market demonstrates potential but remains undeveloped due to a limited infrastructure. Across the region are many initiatives that seek to create a market for artists’ product such as New Art Birmingham, Brilliantly Birmingham, Virtual, New Generation Arts, Hereford Contemporary Craft Fair and Gorgeous. Own Art is currently available through 20 outlets. In addition to commercially-orientated initiatives there have been various other interventions which in different ways contribute to the ‘landscape’, including establishing collector and buyer groups and networks, and making funds available to support artist representation at non-regional events (e.g. Zoo Art Fair) and to encourage commercial galleries to present more challenging contemporary work. However, there is little currently to join up these initiatives by way of real market analysis and intelligence and many of those involved in delivering market-related activity do so in an isolated fashion and with insufficient resources or expertise to ensure that it has a lasting impact.
With core support from the Arts Council, Business Link and Urban Fusion (Birmingham City Council), New Art Birmingham has over two events in 2005 and 2007 sought to create exposure for the best of contemporary visual arts by showcasing the work of national as well as regional artists, encouraging entrepreneurial activity amongst new and emerging artists, galleries and dealers and creating opportunities for potential buyers and collectors.
The core activity for the 2007 event was the ‘art market’, supported by a number of ‘associated’ events, managed and delivered by West Midlands based arts organisations and agencies.
The evaluation report on New Art Birmingham 2007, prepared by Audiences Central, reported that the event provided a high profile exhibiting opportunity for artists who do not have gallery representation and would be defined as ‘pre-market’. However, the report found that more established artists do not currently see the benefits of participating in New Art Birmingham in terms of their representation within the wider national and international art market. The evaluation also suggested that to maximise the event’s potential to increase sales of artists’ work more research is needed to understand the needs of the target market and to involve commercial dealers and gallery owners in attracting and cultivating buyers and collectors.
These findings, coupled with a concern that the current model is not financially sustainable, have led the funding stakeholders to agree that it is not appropriate to embark on a third New Art Birmingham in 2007/8, but to undertake a six month programme of sector development and capacity building. This will incorporate independent market research and feasibility work to identify an effective and sustainable model for developing the market for contemporary visual arts in the West Midlands. Such a model needs to be grounded in an operational structure and business plan that will achieve the desired outcomes with a progressive reduction in the public subsidy requirement. To date, New Art Birmingham has been entirely reliant on public subsidy, a position which for a 'sales focused' initiative is neither sustainable nor strategically justifiable in the current funding climate.
In Market Matters, Louisa Buck argues that the mechanics of the contemporary visual arts market are complex and developing viable markets beyond London requires a coming together of "inspirational art colleges, an established community of artists, pro-actively collecting public galleries, informed critics, committed collectors" working in tandem with a developing commercial gallery sector. Whereas some of these components are in place in Birmingham, and indeed New Art Birmingham has helped galvanize people in the city and region, the West Midlands does not yet have a model for market development which is sustainable and effective in transforming buying attitudes and behaviour.
Core elements of the brief
• To collate and analyse existing data and evaluation reports on New Art Birmingham, Virtual, Own Art and regional buyer/collector initiatives to assess their effectiveness in achieving sales growth and developing the market for contemporary visual arts in the West Midlands.
• To identify and understand the various seller/buyer markets involved and assess their potential for growth in terms of increasing the buyer/collector base in the region.
• To gain intelligence on and critically analyse other market development models that operate at city-wide or regional level, drawing on national and international examples.
• To make proposals on the most effective way to develop markets for contemporary visual arts in the West Midlands to maximise sales potential, and to agree with the commissioners which model to take forward.
• To prepare a sustainable business plan for the agreed new model, for the period 2008 – 2011.
• To launch the new initiative at a buyer/collector ‘cultivation event’ in March 2008.
The work will be undertaken from November 2007 to end March 2008.
Research, evaluation and business development costs £25,000
Buyer/collector cultivation event costs £15,000
Project Delivery specification
Individuals interested in delivering this project brief must possess and demonstrate the following knowledge, experience and skills:
1. A broad knowledge of contemporary visual arts practice
2. A detailed knowledge of the structure and dynamics of the national and international art market
3. An understanding of different models for visual art market development
4. A demonstrable awareness and knowledge of issues associated with collecting and buying within the context of the West Midlands region
5. An understanding of the processes involved with devising, initiating, and managing visual arts programmes
1. Experience of devising and delivering visual arts market development activities at city-wide or regional level
2. Experience of carrying out market research and feasibility work relevant to the brief
3. Experience of working with artists, public and private sector galleries, agents and other development agencies
4. Experience of partnership working relevant to the brief either through specific projects or other methods
1. Independent evaluation and critical analysis
2. Ability to plan and deliver visual arts projects of a high quality
3. Business planning and organisational modelling
4. Good skills in advocacy and negotiation
5. Marketing and information dissemination
6. Efficient and effective administrative skills
Please submit your proposal to deliver the project responding to this tender brief by 5pm on Wednesday 31 October 2007, detailing your relevant previous experience, skills and knowledge, an outline of how you propose to deliver the brief, including the personnel, costs and number of days involved. If required, pre-submission advice can be sought by e-mail and telephone (contact David Drake, see below).
Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend an interview with the commissioners in early November, which will provide an opportunity to discuss the brief and tender proposals in greater depth.
The proposal documents should be sent to:
Head of Visual Arts
Arts Council England, West Midlands
82 Granville Street
Tel: 0121 631 5751