• Rob Spectre
  • 09
  • Jun
  • 08
This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Fragments

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.

Uncertain Location by Scott KildallBut 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.

Fragment of Uncertain Location by Scott KildallDream 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.

(d)N0t: Who do you envision as the audience / typical consumer?
HS: People who have a somewhat independent view of the world and who can take the project on in some way. You might see with oneworldwallet for example we encourage people to print Jon Coffelt’s downloadable art and, if they like, give away or sell the downloads. We can’t do that with Fragments because there are stronger copyright issues which we respect but if someone wants to take a couple of dozen to do new things with like create an installation or create a “fragment wall” at home, or retail them talk to us. We can set a price to make it interesting. Come and engage.
(d)N0t: Is it fair to characterize this program as a reaction to something? Is it a reaction to an underserved market demand? Is it a reaction to a current condition in contemporary art?
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.

  • Rob Spectre
  • 10
  • Jun
  • 08
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Fragments

It is astonishing that the province of art collecting remains largely offline and disconnected from the broad and deep networking afforded by the Internet. Despite the revolutionary changes to many commercial ventures gain from going online, purchasing art from galleries remains largely a game of rolodexes and jetsetters. Haydn Shaughnessy’s Fragments project looks to change that game dramatically with a wide selection of ultra-affordable introductions to the world of art collection.

by Chris AshleyFragments has already amassed 17 pieces from 7 artists, each an affordably priced limited edition print taken from a larger work. Far from cheap posters for dorm walls, where Fragments distinguishes itself is with a large stable of recognized names in the world of contemporary art. The project is a very real, high quality online gateway for the masses to participate in art collecting.

We continue our interview with Shaughnessy about his gallery’s endeavor.

Dream Not Of Today: The distinction of the series as affordable suggests perhaps that you may feel fine art is too inaccessible? Do you think contemporary art is currently only enjoyed by the wealthy?
Haydn Shaughnessy: I think the art market and art world is a surprisingly conservative place and artists generally have to be careful to comply with the codes of that world, make the right art-historical references, position themselves vis-a-vis each other’s work. Art on the other hand has an incredibly important role and artists are the one group who have not sold out en masse to commercialism (though you can be forgiven for thinking otherwise). I think the important point is to create dialogue around their work and their personalities, dreams and intentions because it is one of the few azrenas left where people are acting intelligently about their politics and morality. it’s a way back into the humanity behind those polotical and moral concerns. Only one way of course but a way.

That should not cost much money, though there has to be a cash price. We all have to live. But most important as I said earlier is engage in some way, even if that is by visiting a framer and asking what would look good, or by hanging a few on a wall or by joining the facebook page and asking an artist how he or she creates work or go further with it – debate their ideas. Ask why we scoot around joining these groups and reach out to hundreds of people, automating our creativity. Why do we seek to express ourselves in this way?

My own view of these works is also that they exist on the border of the brand and art. They are an expression by artists that they want to connect with an audience, which in brand terminology would be a market, but they are not producing branded goods that will or can becomes luxuries or ostentatious objects. They are simple acts of creativity which alsoseems to be what many of us crave.

I want to develop that area further, pushing a moment of creative expression in to the space occupied by brands and would welcome a dialogue with anyone on that.

(d)N0t: How have you found the participation of artists in this series? Is the work they are choosing to contribute to this effort primarily b-sides (e.g. work that doesn’t have a home in “less afforable” projects)?
HS: Well you’ll see that each work is a fragment of a whole – follow the links on site and you can compare. None of their art is off the scale financially anyway but Fragments is ultra-affordable. They are actually creating the work especially for this project – it is totally exclusive to us and to the buyers – and it is an effort and a cost to the artist – they have to create it and they pay for the printing. I’m finding they are wildly enthusiastic to be involved even though they are busy. There is a queue to be there and that is in part because they see a conceptual value in it – they actually get to refocus on their work and hopefully give a visual insight to a wide audience. And it is in part because their dream is to have people hold their work in their hands and this is a way to do that.
(d)N0t: Can you talk about the curation process for this series? How do you select artists for participation? What are the artistic guidelines you feel qualifies a given work for Fragments?
HS: We are going to launch an open call in mid to late June to select for later in the year and early next year, in part because we also want to explore design in all its forms (so we can get closer to the brand-art borderline), photogrpahy and art on paper. We see conceptual value in exploring those three disciplines. For now the works are from artists I know or who have been introduced to the project by other artists. They are, and the upcoming ones will underline this, artists who are strong conceptually, and make use of media technologies in their work. Chris is the only html artist I know of and has been blogging those images daily now for 6 years and of course he is the one person to create beauty and conceptual complexity out of the script that makes the web chunky and visually dismal. Nathaniel is exceptionally gifted at producing beauty from a desktop scanner and so on. These are people who take the technology that is lying around them and in front of all of us and create beauty and energy from it. We know we can’t confine the project to that range of work but it is where we started and it continues to be of interest to us.
(d)N0t: What kind of licensing are you using for the derivative work based on these Fragments? Creative Commons?
HS: We haven’t gone for a creative commons license on the works because in reality the copyright rests with the artist – personally I wouldn’t mind it but most artists are barely earning a living and some not and that’s a difficult place to begin such discussions.
(d)N0t: Though you mention that the goal with the project is depth not scale, how large do you think the audience is for Fragments? Is a win for you measured in hundreds? Thousands?
HS: Success for us will be measured by how many people come through for the major works and how many become repeat customers. Thousands would be great and we are certainly aiming for hundreds.
(d)N0t: You ship anywhere in the world? Just Europe and US?
HS: We ship anywhere in the world and the price is $8 for the first three, and around $11 for 4+.