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Validation Beyond the Gallery

In 2015, Axis Commissioned research into How do artists working outside of the gallery system receive validation of their practice? 

This report presents results of research investigating how artists operating mainly outside of the gallery, gain traction and visibility within their chosen idiom and field.

Through interviews with producers, commissioners and artists, the researchers sought views on current routes to validation and asked opinions on whether existing structures enable, or impede, artists’ visibility and externally-affirmed success.

The findings reveal an ad-hoc and informal approach to validation in the field. The commissioners, producers and artists interviewed agreed that the responsibility for seeking and maintaining validation falls largely to artists. While this was accepted as the norm, the majority of artists perceive a lack of support structures to help those operating outside the gallery system achieve and maintain external validation.

Artists working outside of galleries are not a homogenous group. Practices, terminology and attitudes differ. The majority put high value on self-direction and “learning on the job”. Whilst there is fluidity between gallery and non-gallery contexts, most artists differentiate between their own value systems and those of galleries. Many believe that public gallery commissions command higher status than the majority of “community” commissions; several experience “second-class citizenship” in the mainstream art world, finding their practices side-lined when positioned in gallery and museum education contexts; most do not view gallery validation as a good fit for their values and practices.

The report points to specific gaps in the ways these artists are currently validated, including a lack of critical writing, art reviews, mentoring, website exposure, commitment by organisations to artists as opposed to commitment to fixed term projects, and lack of funding streams for those working outside galleries.

The report concludes that the difference in values and ways of working between this field and gallery culture, demands a new and different structure of validation, one based on in-depth consultation with artists, participants, producers and commissioners.


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Further reading

Knowledge base

Aberdeen Summit: Artists' Exploitation


The Zero-Hour Artist

By Lucy Wright

‘Care-fuelled Leadership’: an artist’s perspective

By Lucy Wright

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