South of Cork near the very southern tip of Ireland rests the physical storefront of the Haydn Shaughnessy Gallery. The corporeal manifestation of this collection of contemporary art would be deceivingly small even were it the size of a Wal-Mart, as the gallery’s reach extends far beyond IRL. Helmed by a collector whose technological savvy is unparalleled in the modern world of art collection, Haydn Shaughnessy also maintains a critically acclaimed space in Second Life called Ten Cubed, an active blog, and the requisite Facebook page rendering a digital footprint nearly without rival in this space.
In this 21st century, art collection remains an offline game for the wealthy; a status quo Haydn Shaughnessy aims to upheave. While the gallery offers works by artists internationally known for their work in bending technology into new forms of expression, the various online manifestations of the effort aim to make that work break through the fish tank of the art collection world to reach the masses. Both online and offline, the Shaughnessy Gallery features contemporary names such as the well-known Second Life limit-pusher Scott Kildall, interactive artist Nathaniel Stern, and Oakland’s own HTML painter Chris Ashley.
But beyond the work he describes himself as online “island hopping,” Haydn’s efforts on the Internet are geared towards delivering real life impact, aiming to get physical works in actual hands. Launched in May 2008, the gallery unveiled a new project focused on getting pieces of whole works featured online and off. Many of Shaughnessy’s stable of artists have taken a single distinguishable element of a larger work which are made available in limited edition, high quality prints. The project called “Fragments” then sells these smaller works of art with very aggressive pricing, looking for a grasp of distribution scale equal to the gallery’s online reach. For €40 ($63USD plus $9 shipping), a signed and numbered honest-to-God work of art by a real artist is available to anyone worldwide. With an ecommerce engine and rapidly expanding inventory, “Fragments” may well be the first truly egalitarian venture in the business of art online.
Our own Hala V. Furst visited the gallery last week and Haydn Shaughnessy was kind enough to answer a few questions about his fascinating new project for this two part interview about one man’s effort to bring art collection kicking and screaming onto the Internet.
Dream Not Of Today: How long do you intend this effort to run?
Haydn Shaughnessy: We haven’t put a timeline on it. I am hoping to have around 50 – 60 works by year’s end and am in early discussions with a New York gallery to exhibit some of their artists in Ten Cubed and hopefully do an installation of Fragments in their NY gallery in exchange. I’m open to that possibility elsewhere too.
(d)N0t: Do you have a goal for works sold?
HS: I believe the next phase of many cultural projects is to connect people through them, so I really want people who buy to join us in places like Facebook – we have a Facebook page – and possibly in other social network arenas. Once there I would like the art to build depth into the relationships (we have begun to do this with oneworldwallet.ning.com). The ephemerality of relationships and the way they are built in a semi-automated fashion in online networks is something we want to overcome. It’s sort of like saying it is good to connect but connect also to deepen cultural relationships rather than just go for scale. We have to work to get people over the ephemerality and the numbers but that’s what artists and writers have always done and should be doing in Facebook, MySpace etc. Facebook in particular is a focal point for this project.
I would also like to see people create their own works from fragments. Take a half dozen and arrange them into a new work. Slice them and dice them if that brings you into a real relationship with them and the artist. Scissors can be a useful tool, too.
I also hope people will see the larger work these fragments are drawn from and wonder: Jeez, a fragment is in fact a whole work, beautiful and integral in its own right. Does this tell me anything about the fragmented nature of communications in general? Where is the integrity in what is happening on facebook, the purpose that brings satisfaction? It’s surely there or there to be created.
HS: The art we have so far is by artists who are reasonably well establisehd internationally – people like LoVid, Scott Kildall, Susan Karpov, Chris Ashley, Nathaniel Stern and there are one or two “names” coming up.
So yes to an extent it is a reaction to isolation and the commercial idolatory of art. It is also for us and them a way of reaching out. But it is also a way of saying to a younger audience that might be preoccupied time-wise with the Web, you don’t have to be scared of this stuff. Buy one and throw it away if you don’t like it. Catch the collecting bug if you do. Do something new with it – it’s all there online too so if you want to use the images in a responsible way that doesn’t breach the artists rights, go ahead.
Part Two coming tomorrow at midnight.