Critique & critic

Behold, party for a good cause!


As usual the Club at the Ivy looked quiet, its traditional leather brown couches occupied by whispering elegant figures. Getting out of the elevator at the Loft, two levels up, the atmosphere has totally changed. Welcomed by a crowd of colourful people, one can only notice in a glimpse a farandole of lunar coiffures, ball dresses and glittering make up. Artists, muses, art enthusiasts, sponsors and audacious strollers, everyone is there for a reason. Organized by Bow Arts, a charity dedicated to support young artists in their quest, Behold is the occasion for people from various backgrounds to meet up for a good cause.

“We have brilliant potential here at Bow Arts, but unfortunately the proper of an artist is that they are rarely good at networking. Tonight we would like people to mix up, to create new connections in order for them to understand more about the process behind the charity”, explains Marcel Baettig, founder of Bow Arts and an artist himself. Partnerships are at the basis of the organisation since its creation in 1995.

A good example of successful alliance can be found more recently, when Baettig was governor of a large secondary school in the East London. He teamed up with colleagues from a housing trust. “It was the heart of very rough East London, there were lot of gangs and drug traffickers. The local estate was harassed by squatters. We were looking at a way to stop this and improve inhabitant’s quality of life”. A new idea emerged; turn the rundown flats into artists studios. “Within about 4 months it turned out as the largest artistic work scheme at a national scale, housing about a hundred artists affordably in London. Moreover we were able to spend half of the rent back on education projects onto local schools.” The scheme was supposed to run for 18 months, it started in 2007 and it is still running today.

Bow Arts is a community, “a big family” as like to recall Beattig. But even with the best intentions, the organisation is facing threats. The incredible rising prices of properties make it hard for a scheme based on properties. However, Beattig stays confident about the future. When asked for advices for young artists, he answers in a laugh “Don’t do it, go into finance instead!”, adding quickly “Say yes to everything. Get involved. Be part of something. Having experiences makes great artists”.

On the other side of the crowed room, Julia Hayes holds one of the 14 performances featured during Behold. She has recently graduated from the Royal College of Arts and displayed solo exhibitions at the 269 Gallery.

The masked young woman, dressed in traditional looking brown skirt with a painted apron, is blowing up a pink puppet. When holding it to the audience, the figure appears burlesque, grotesque. The male silhouette has disproportionate genitals. “The illness of individuals can be seen in their excess. People wear masks such as alcohol or drugs to allow themselves to behave in different ways. The fat man is a legendary archetype like Father Christmas who allows the celebration of excess”, explains Hayes smiling after her performance. “Being part of Bow Arts gave me a chance to continue growing with peer artists, to be part of an encouraging system. It is a chance to be helped financially; without it many artists could not be as creative as they are. Moreover, the philosophy of the organisation, receiving today, educating young ones tomorrow, forges a creative dynamic with benefits for all parties”.

Thomas Andrews, a painter, is casually propping up the bar. He fully agrees on the importance of a system framing young artists, linking them with their audience and sponsors. “Being creative isolates you. As an artist to be lonely or misunderstood is unavoidable. Young ones need to be part of a whole, something that connect them to the world”. Bow Arts tends to make that connection, without framing artists’ creativity, it supports them financially but also gives them the opportunity to displays their work.

It is at the Nunnery, the Bow Arts gallery situated in a former Carmelite nunnery built in 1850, that decisions are taken to select masterpieces to displays, as were performers chosen for the Behold party. Rosamond Murdoch, curator with glittering orange baskets, explains the hard process of election. “It is a close association between artists and Bow Arts. We work with them to explain their ideas. It takes time to make a choice. We don’t have specific tastes, but the applicant must show his determination through all steps of the process”. She contributed to the selection of performers of Behold, amongst Gordon Cheung, Tessa Garland, Jon Monaghan, Ulu Braun, James Howard, Joey Holder, Clare Mitten and Alana Lake.

Lost in the crowd is IMMA/MESS, a young artist from New York with tattoos covering his body up to his neck. He admires the Bow Arts concept. “I think this type of art is important for that generation. It is between a family, an art installation, and an experience. We need to remember that art is accessible and should always be approachable”. A few meters away stands Fabiola, a financier and art enthusiast. She approaches Bow Arts with practical views. “It is important for young artists to have exposure especially in London which has a prolific art scene. Moreover, my work environment is far from encouraging creative impulses, it is good to break free!”

Far from the industrial art market, potentials can still be discovered. During Behold, young artists had the occasion to show their skills and connect with their audience, hoping it will last more than the time of a party.


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