Established in 2017, DATEAGLE ART has continued to grow respectfully in followers and reputation. Vanessa Murell and Martin Mayorga have created the contemporary art platform as a means of providing a refreshing approach to supporting emerging art practices within the geographical confinements of the UK. Their self confessed lack of knowledge in the London art scene when first arriving from Spain is arguably one of - if not the - contributing factor to the duos unique perspective. DATEAGLE ART operates as an online journal, offering a selection of carefully curated services that are both aesthetically and theoretically informative. Behind-the-scenes documentation of artist’s studios, interviews and straightforward criticism are all part of their online content - all to be found on their recently re-vamped website.
Offline, the duo have curated shows in non-exhibition spaces along with hosting summer residencies though their “The Three Day Residency” programme. DATEAGLE ART’s honest and intimate approach of displaying and supporting today’s generation of artists can be observed in the successful pop up group exhibition they duo organised back in February of this year, The Pink Panther Show. Presenting 16 emerging and mid-career artists, each of whom created a work specifically for the show was initially triggered by an instagram story proposal; ultimately an experiment as much as an exhibition. With each artist working independently, unaware of the other artists response to the theme, the varied outcomes made for an engaging, thought provoking and all-inclusive exhibition.
From the success of the online journal DATEAGLE ART STUDIO, the first creative art agency that offers services for contemporary art galleries that focus’s on giving visibility to emerging artists, has been born. Inspired by the lack of any authentic platform that supports artists, collectives or galleries in the initial stages of their career, DATEAGLE STUDIO was established to collaborate, converse, and work with individuals who inspire the team. From creating engaging media content to designing social media strategies, the studio is built on the basis of giving visibility to today's art practices, providing a huge range of work, from podcasts, zines or video, to events or exhibitions.
Since the aftermath of DATEAGLE ART’s launch party at BLANK100, which coincided with Daisy Parris’ guest solo show, Coeval met with Vanessa and Martin to learn more about what they are doing. Likewise, the duo shared their thoughts on how they wish to make art more accessible and transparent to the masses, why they would rather shine light on the emerging artists they respect than on themselves and why they are still grappling with the term ‘Private Views’.
How did DATEAGLE ART begin?
Martin Mayorga: By the time Vanessa and I met, we hadn’t yet explored the art scene in London, or in general. I studied Graphic Design and Vanessa studied Fashion Design. We therefore decided to start attending “Private Views”, and as art outsiders in that time, we were afraid to get into the galleries, as we though they were “private”, literally. For our surprise, the security guards always let us in, but not only us, everybody else actually…we didn’t understand why galleries called them “Private Views” then, and we still don’t get it. The fact is, we began exploring galleries, meeting art insiders, having conversations with artists, and it was amazing. We realised that there was so much energy coming from so many different voices that were yet to be seen. We experimented with what DATEAGLE ART could become, and we played a lot with our social media accounts, engaging with emerging artists, galleries and collectives on the Internet without being “art insiders”…at the end, we quit our jobs and began the adventure in DATEAGLE ART.
Can you give a brief timeline and description of who you are and what you do?
Vanessa Murrell: It’s very difficult to respond to “who you are”. I guess, I am half of DATEAGLE ART and Martin is the other half of it. We don’t like to categorize ourselves as writers, founders, or curators, but rather leave these definitions open. We recently curated our first exhibition “The Pink Panther Show” which initiated as an open call, so the artists involved weren’t part of our curatorial decision, in fact, we hardly even knew most of them, but does that make us curators or artists? I don’t know. In today’s times, artists are also writers, writers are also curators, curators are also artists, and so on. We wouldn’t want to define ourselves in that way. In terms of what we do, I think we do as much as possible to give visibility to emerging art’s practices – either through our online coverage or though a physical exhibition or an event!
You publish behind the scenes documentation of artists and their practice - can you explain the different ways in which you do this?
MM: That’s one of our main objectives! We believe that many aspects within the “art world” are over-explained, and many things should be left unsaid, to keep the mystery going. Sometimes press releases from exhibitions reveal everything about the artist, and you’re left with no space for interpretation.
We wanted to find a more honest approach to display what artists are actually about, and not just what the gallery or the critics want you to think about them. So actually, instead of writing what we think the artist is about, we document it with photography, and leave it up to the viewer. There are so many details you can find in the studio of an artist that can give you hints about their practice and their way of thinking, such as the objects curated around the studio, the books left on the table, certain mood board images attached on the wall… sometimes you’ll find “lucky charms” around the space, and of course, there’s a strong associative baggage that comes along with the studio of an artist, often romantic and tied to the myth of the artist, although generally, studios are a complete mess! We also believe, as artist Charley Peters mentioned in our recent studio visit with her, that there is something of the set-stage about an artist’s studio, something quite theatrical where the works feel like props in the narrative of art making.
VM: On another hand, an artist’s studio is the most private and “closed” space you can find yourself in, where the thought process and decisions are made, and the general public will usually not have the chance to see it, so we want to share this with our audience. We always document the studio visits with analogue photography, we know it’s expensive, but photography is one of our favorite things in the world! Even thought is quite expensive to develop the photographs, and it also involves to plan ahead with time due to it’s slow process…it’s worth it!
Our photography is not focused on the final works, which you can usually see hanging on a white wall, but rather, we emphasize on where that work is created, or which material has been used, or the clothes worn by the artists to create that work, or the leftovers of food and drink that the artists have at the time in the studio… It might sound weird, but we believe that this perspective is fascinating, and it can uncover so much about their real persona! Also, we’re proud to say that everything you see on the website is very much through the perspective of the artist, what they want you to see, and how they want you to see their spaces, as we don’t publish anything before asking them, and this allows the artist to have complete authority over their image, rather than us, which we believe is an interesting play with common societal roles- in this case, being the artist the figure with most authority. Another interesting point is that when we visit an artist’s studio for the first time, we never research too much about them before meeting them, allowing us to get surprised and feed our mind with their perspective rather than reading an outsider’s point of view. They usually don’t expect us to be that “young” and most of the times we become friends! It’s funny how small the “art scene” is in London, but how big the quantity of artists socially unknown in the art world is!
What differentiates your online platform from similar ones who are also dedicated to showcasing emerging talent?
VM: Well, we mainly focus in giving visibility to emerging artists and their practices, rather than to ourselves as “founders”, which is something many art platforms seem to be interested in. We are also primarily London based, due to the fact that we visit and meet every artist that we interview in our platform, so given our insufficient income to travel around the world or to explore art fairs and visit people around the globe, we have focused on what’s happening around us, and we’d like to keep it this way. We believe it’s an exciting time to be in London at the moment given it’s social, political and economical situation - and documenting this moment though an emerging art’s perspective is really exciting!
MM: We also document our visits, interviews and journal content with analogue photography, instead of using a more direct medium such as a smartphone or a digital camera, as mentioned previously. We make our own imagery also as a sort of “proof” that we’ve actually seen an exhibition or visited an artist, before writing about it, given that mass media usually uses the press images that the gallery sends them, and there seems to be a lack of individual voices in larger media publications – you never know if those writers actually go and see the exhibition given that the images are the gallery’s images, and it’s usually either based on a “copy-paste” technique of the press release or based on sponsored content.
VM: On another note, we don’t categorize artists at all, so we have a very open mind within our platform. We don’t want to define ourselves as a “platform for painters” or a platform that only focuses on geometrical art, or only on digital art, or female artists… We’re open with our content and are in the search of quality instead of categories, which at the end of the day, is putting the artists in a box.
MM: Moreover, neither of us have an art history or fine art’s background… we come from different industries so our perspective is altered, not better or worse, just different, and this is something that we embrace. DATEAGLE ART doesn’t host any kind of advertising, artists’ submissions, paid visits, or paid content, as this doesn’t feel honest for us. We also meet face to face with everyone that we work or collaborate with; we don’t buy followers or likes in our social media platforms and are quite realistic with our audience. Furthermore, we also encourage artists to share their writing content, and not only writers to do so, as we’ve realized through our studio visits that many artists write for fun, as a side-practice, or as a journal, although it is mainly kept private or un-published. In this context, we’re proud to host the never-seen short stories by artist Simon Linington and poems by Kerry O’Connor in our website!
You are part of the next generation steering the contemporary art world in a new direction - what would you like to change/improve the emerging art scene for artists, galleries, collectives, etc.?
MM: We don’t support any kind of established business in the arts, only emerging galleries, collectives or individuals. Having said this, we would like to make art more accessible and transparent to the general audience. In fact, we try to do so with our imagery and use of language, which is not too formal or elevated. We’ve recently started publishing our handmade notes as if they were reviews, and these notes are based on key words of our views of various works presented in an exhibition, presenting “criticism” in a very direct and personal manner, focusing only on key words instead of highly formal sentences. We would also love to work with galleries that we admire, either way because of their ethos or because of their artist roster, creating a professional relationship based on communication and trust.
VM: In terms of group shows, we try to focus on a variety of artists involved in the show, and not only on the “key” or most well-known artists from the exhibition, and we do so in our “5x5” series, which repeats the same 5 questions to the same 5 artists, unifying the status of the artist’s involved in the same show by treating them equally without considering representation, if they’re too young or too inexperienced, but it’s actually based on the work. We would also like to support emerging artists and connect them with the “correct” people; unfortunately it’s quite a challenge to be able to live from their work at such an early stage. We’d like art to be more public, and not so “private” and based on interest relationships or collectors. In this sense, we invite and welcome all of our audience to our exhibitions, without considering their status or position. We also try to introduce ourselves to the guests that attend to our exhibitions/events, avoiding the awkwardness of nobody speaking to each other at private views, but rather embracing dialogue.
You describe your approach as ‘honest and intimate’ can you expand on this?
MM: We believe that every relationship, either professional or personal, is built on the basis of honesty, so we always try to build up this trust bridge between the artists and us before working with them. Then, once we feel confortable with each other, real things start to come up. Many artists who’ve been part of our online platform have also been part of our exhibitions or events later on, and we want to grip this relationship and push it further, to grow with the artist.
VM: As mentioned before, the artist is the actual boss at the time to publish our content, they decide how they want to look like through the interviews and studio visits, so based on what you read about them in our site, you will know them a bit more. That’s why our work is honest and intimate, and also because we don’t get paid by the gallery or the artist to shape our views of the exhibition or the artist’s practice, but we rather write and display works with complete transparency.
Can you name three artists whose practice compliments DATEAGLE ART’S aesthetic?
VM: We believe Daisy Parris is at the core of DATEAGLE ART’S aesthetic, this is why we commissioned her to design our star-shaped logo! Her artwork is very much based on a DIY aesthetic, and she’s the founder of several clubs (where she’s the only member) as a reaction of not feeling part of something. Daisy mentioned to us that that these clubs are “all fantasy, but they give me a strength because if you’ve got a club, then it’s like you’ve got a whole army behind you.” In that sense, DATEAGLE ART embraces this community aspect of feeling and being part of something. Daisy’s works incorporate language and gesture, and sometimes present you with very violent questions such as deciding between a “YES” and a “NO” which can seem to reflect on a very personal thought although she’s actually placing these decisions or words on a wider scale. I believe this is what we want to transmit at DATEAGLE ART, a personal approach that can be understood and interpreted on a wider scale.
MM: Other artists that we feel strongly connected with are Tanya Ling and her husband William Ling, they both created the first gallery and art fair focusing specifically in Fashion Illustration when that wasn’t seen as an art form, back in the day. They are a strong inspiration for us. Artists such as Bob Bicknell-Knight, whom apart from his own practice has also founded “isthisit?” an online platform that showcases emerging to mid-career artists, which hosts guest curators to experiment with the medium of the Internet; along with Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad, the faces behind “The White Pube”, whose art criticism has been labelled as “embodied criticism”, are also an influence to us.
You have also launched DATEAGLE STUDIO; can you explain what this provides?
MM: Initially inspired by the lack of authentic platforms that supported artists in the initial stages of their career, we established DATEAGLE STUDIO as a creative agency to collaborate, converse, and work with individuals who inspire us. We actually are the first creative art agency that offers services for contemporary art galleries, collectives and individuals, focused specifically on giving visibility to emerging artists. The creative agency developed as a continuation of DATEAGLE ART, and as a source of income to be able to sustain our online platform.
VM: We didn’t want to rely on advertising, or sponsored content to be able to sustain our platform. We also didn’t want to change our views and get paid to write exhibition reviews that didn’t feel honest to us, so we decided to launch DATEAGLE STUDIO as an excuse to work people that inspire us - and be able to fund our online platform with the income gained from our services! The services we will offer will vary from production services, such as video, photography, podcast, or graphic design to Press and PR, or consulting services. Our clients will be very specific. We aim to work only with clients that are supportive with emerging arts and this way, our services and our content will work separately yet be unified by the same ethos.
Can you name three London-based galleries whose exhibition programme and representation of emerging artists you admire?
MM: In an increasingly challenging “art world”, where smaller galleries are struggling to survive, we’re fascinated by the gallery model of Lily Brooke, who’s established Lily Brooke Gallery in her living room space, and has a strong identity linked to the artists she showcases. We’re also captivated by the growth of Griffin Gallery, who’s teamed up with Elephant magazine in their new project space, Elephant West, which will be located in White City and will showcase a curated selection of artists working in a variety of mediums and will also allow public engagement though a programme of performances and events.
VM: Our editor Fiona Grady, who’s been involved in curating a series of exhibitions titled “Recreational Grounds” along with Tim Ralston, is also pushing the limits of what a gallery space can be, by curating site-specific art in a public parking lot, located in Elephant and Castle.
What are your plans for 2018?
MM: 2018 has is been a great year so far, our first exhibition “The Pink Panther Show” happened in February, thanks to our friend Sara Berman, in collaboration with artist Evangeline Ling at Gallery 46, Whitechapel. Then the second exhibition, “Home Alone”, which responded to the domestic environment, took place in May. Afterwards, we launched our new website and creative agency in June! In terms of the future, we have some projects coming up, such as “The Sticker Club” which is based in an ongoing series of limited edition stickers created every month by a different artist, where the sales of the current artist will commission the next one, working as a continuous funding project in which artists will support other artists!
VM: We might also launch our first publication (not a magazine, as we believe there’s too many!), and we have also confirmed three more exhibitions to curate before the year ends; the first one taking place at Blank 100 during the first weeks of October, and the second one at Von Goetz Art during the last week of October, focusing on material-based works! There’s much more, but let’s make a surprise out of this, right?
Images courtesy of DATEAGLE ART
words LARA MONRO
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