At the London edition of the Frieze Art Fair last October, the Studio Voltaire stand was undoubtedly one of the most visited and interesting.
To visitors who have been bombarded by a medley of works with five or six-digit price tags, this particular stand offered a certain sense of relief, allowing them to browse and actually be able to buy works by young, trendy artists like Jeremy Deller and Henrik Olesen, a sweatshirt designed by Mark Leckey or a blanket by Renee So for just a few hundred pounds.
In addition, every purchase came with the satisfaction of doing something good to support emerging art. In fact, Studio Voltaire was founded by a group of artists in 1994 in a streetcar depot on Voltaire Road in Clapham, located in south-west London, as a response to the demand for low-cost studios and exhibition spaces that were separated from commercial influence. Five years later, Studio Voltaire expanded its spaces by moving to an ex-warehouse in Nelson’s Row, where it resides to this day. In the meantime, in 2001, the studio became a charity organization whose goal is to support the development of various artistic practices with residences, exhibits, events and off-site projects on both a national and international level.
This project is both diverse and praise-worthy, one that fits right in to the glorious tradition of independent London spaces like Chisenhale Gallery and The Showroom, which boast some of the biggest names on the creative scene among their clients including collector Valeria Napoleone, design critic Alice Rawsthorn, designers Mary Katrantzou and Hussein Chalayan, artists Francesco Vezzoli and Wolfgang Tillmans… Studio Voltaire finds funding through their studio rentals, public financing, donations and fundraising activities like the sale of works during the Frieze Art Fair that one can also buy directly from the House of Voltaire, the in-house store of the gallery. This is a project that draws inspiration from fashion houses and artists’ stores – for example, Keith Haring’s Pop Shop and Bloomsbury Group’s Omega Workshops; and also from the very British trend of viewing art as a pop phenomenon that belongs to all of society and not just to its most privileged members.
Above: ‘Tis but a scratch’ ‘A scratch?! Your arm’s off!’ ‘No, it isn’t’, Nicole Eisenman, 2012