Staying afloat as an artist can be challenging at the best of times, but the current COVID-19 pandemic has seen a huge number of artists left without work – fewer people are buying art when so many have found themselves in precarious financial situations of their own, and even teaching, gallery and technical support jobs are becoming thin on the ground. The mandatory closure of non-essential businesses means no more exhibitions or demonstrations (though of course online viewing spaces are still available), so the creative industry has found itself in sudden trouble.
In an attempt to alleviate some of the pressure this places on individual artists, artist Matthew Burrows has initiated the Artist Support Pledge, or #artistsupportpledge.
Burrows is a UK painter, currently living and working in East Sussex. He’s represented by VIGO GALLERY London and prior to organising #artistsupportpledge was also founder of Artist Support Projects, a mentor on Turps Studio Programme London and an artist lecturer at the National Gallery London. His involvement with the UK art scene is extensive and ongoing.
The concept behind Burrows’ Artist Support Pledge is simple but effective: Participating artists post photographs of work that they’re willing to sell for £200 or less (excluding shipping) to Instagram, and anyone interested in buying the work contacts them by direct message. For every £1,000 an artist makes, they must agree to spend £200 on work by another artist participating in the pledge.
Pledges are made by simply including the hashtag #artistsupportpledge under each piece of work, and following the tag to see others’ posts. In this way, artists can create a thriving mini-economy with a culture of mutual support and generosity.
So far, the pledge has been a roaring success. In its first week of existence, the online marketplace generated around £9 million through 9,000 pledges. In an interview with The Art Newspaper, Burrows stated that “It’s been unbelievable—after about four days it went absolutely crazy and I didn’t really have a lot of choice but to run with it because it was too big a wave to duck under.”
The new online support system by and for artists is only growing stronger, and shows no sign of slowing down. Although it was started by a UK artist, it is now being used by artists and creators all over the world to support themselves and each other through this global crisis – just another example of the creative community pulling together to make something truly exceptional.
For more information about the Artist Support Pledge, check out Burrows’ website:
You can also follow them on Instagram, @artistsupportpledge.
Article by Toby Buckley.
All images courtesy of Matthew Burrows.