WHERE'S THE FRAME?
where's the frame? is Londons fast rising art gallery for the millennial/gen-z collector. In our interview we talk with founders, Maribelle Bierens and Gianina Ivodie about how their gallery better represents today's youth, industry shifts and much more.
Please tell us a little bit about how where's the frame? came to be?
We met during the introduction of our research master at CSM and became friends immediately. Gianina had completed a liberal arts programme at Leiden University and Maribelle a BA in Art History from the University of Amsterdam and we both just finished a year of working after graduation. So our backgrounds are very academic, heavily rooted in theory and philosophy. Coming from this setting, it was very exciting to see the irl/ non-academic side of art production. Pretty quickly, we aspired to create an alternative to an outdated stiffy approach to art, more in line with what we saw at art schools and started talking about creating an online magazine. One thing led to another and one year later, we solidified our ideas and business model. We decided to launch an online gallery dedicated to London’s best art schools, that prioritised artists and storytelling breaking away from out-of-touch academia. Yes, there is room for theory, but we approach artists and their art in a personal and grounded way. We selected artists who work in a range of styles, but always on canvas or paper, hence the name where’s the frame?. Their practice and the themes they explore really resonate with us and our generation. It’s art by millennials for millennials.
"Not that many people get introduced to art. And when they do, the first experience might be in a museum or book, often using stuffy, impersonal or pretentious language. Some people who were initially interested, are put off by that language, which is a huge waste. But when you get to know artists from our generation, you’ll realise that it doesn’t have to be this way."
How did CSM inform your attitude towards Art and the work you are doing with WTF?
Coming from a very academic setting, it was very eye-opening to be in an art school where the newest, most avant-garde artistic practices are being developed right in front of our eyes. And of course, to get to know these creative minds personally has very much changed our perspective on how art should be approached in a less detached way. Foregrounding themes that are relevant to our time, CSM is known for its boundary-breaking approaches to art and fashion. We felt the urge to celebrate this newest generation of artists and to bring it outwards, in a way that’s more in line with the exciting stuff we were seeing around us, as an alternative to the more academic approach to art and culture.
Similar to us, wheres the frame? is about the accessibility of the arts, can you talk a little bit about why this is important?
Art can be regarded as very inaccessible in lots of ways. Not that many people get introduced to art. And when they do, the first experience might be in a museum or book, often using stuffy, impersonal or pretentious language. Some people who were initially interested, are put off by that language, which is a huge waste. But when you get to know artists from our generation, you’ll realise that it doesn’t have to be this way. Artists are super passionate about what they do and their personality is imbedded in each artwork. And as a viewer, experiencing art can be an transformative experience and that’s super exciting! Yes, art is often informed by theory, but that doesn’t mean it’s restrictively so. There should be space to relate to art on a personal level. We were tired of this inaccessible, academic, impersonal approach to art and are convinced that by championing artists in a personal - as opposed to a detached - way, art can become accessible to more people.
"If the art that captivates you embodies a zeitgeist, that might signal it’s of commercial value."
For young or new collectors, what makes for a good artwork? How do we know when something has both an emotional and commercial value?
To make things complicated, there are no universal terms for greatness in the arts. Value is subjective. Art resonates on a deeply personal level. There can be something in a work of art that triggers you, that soothes you, energises you, that intrigues you, captures your imagination, changes your perspective, whatever it is, preferences change from person to person. We do experience that there are some styles that really resonate because the aesthetic feels fresh and current. But it’s impossible to map out what that exactly is. And then there is commercial value. The market behaves within a complex structure, dominated by affluent collectors, museums, and galleries. Art historically speaking, art that speaks to its time, representing a zeitgeist so to say, is not only culturally valuable but has proven to be commercially valuable as well. Like Picasso, who personified a more widespread cultural avantgarde tendency or pop artists responding to mass consumption and celebrity culture that was rising to unprecedented heights. So when collecting art, personal taste and pleasure is important and it will pay back the investment in emotional value. And in terms of commercial value, if the art that captivates you embodies a zeitgeist, that might signal it’s of commercial value as well.
As young graduates, what are the shifts in art that we should be looking out for as collectors?
Art market reports show that there is a rapid increase in millennial art collectors, so the boomers are not going to dominate in the market forever. Artists whose practices are speaking to our generation will start to dominate the market. Millennial and Gen Z’s artists are exploring themes that resonate more with Millenial and Gen Z collectors, like the infiltration of tech in our lives. Because of this surge in Millennial and Gen Z collectors, we expect that the market will start to tilt to a new generation of artists dealing with topics speaking to our generation.
It's an interesting time to see art unfold as the younger generations who are so in sync with digital and online begin collecting. Can you tell us how you landed on the name wheres the frame?
Before we started our program, there was a recommended reading list sent out to everyone in our year. One of the books is by Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, which can be read as a critique on how the pristine white-walled setting of the gallery space divorces art from life. In the first chapter he posed a question, ‘...where did the frame go?’ Not only have we been asking that ourselves since room-sized installation have been dominating museums and galleries, while we saw so many exciting painters and printmakers graduating art school. And we also wanted to break away from this outdated detached presentation of art by working online and in a nomadic way. So from that moment, we chose to simplify it by calling it where’s the frame?.