Artangel, London’s Wildly Ambitious Art Nonprofit, Raises More than $2 Million—and Embarks on a Top-Secret Project

Future projects include a mystery artist transforming Tate Britain's Duveen Galleries into a vast school-group photograph.

Tate Britain. Photo by Tony Hisgett, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Artangel, the London-based nonprofit organization that commissions and produces ambitious site-specific artworks by significant artists, has raised  £2 milion ($2.5 million) so far to help future projects—thanks to the help of 37 grateful artists who contributed works to fuel the effort. Projects include turning Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries into a vast, school-group portrait. Details of the “Tate Year 3 Project,” a Tate-Artangel co-commission with a “globally renowned artist,” are under wraps for the time being.

The ongoing fundraising initiative called Artists for Artangel entailed a live auction at Sotheby’s, an online auction with Paddle8, and an exhibition at London’s Cork Street Galleries in June. Works were donated by noted artists, including Susan Hillier, Francis Alÿs, Nan Goldin, Vija Celmins, and Rachel Whiteread. Artangel hopes that three new commissions for sites provided by collectors will mean that the drive hits its target of £2.5 million ($3.3 million). The proposals come from Susan Philipz, Roger Hiorns and Cristina Iglesias. 

The estate of the late artist Mike Kelley contributed work to the successful live auction, along with ten other US artists—including Laurie Anderson, Kim Gordon, Cary Loren, Paul McCarthy, Tony Oursler, Jim Shaw, and Raymond Pettibon—who created a hoard of photographs, drawings, and sculptures that were placed in a Kelley-inspired case called Sub-basement box for Mobile Homestead and kept secret, under lock and key, until the auction. Now only Artangel and the buyer who snapped up the box for £70,000 ($92,000) know its contents.  

Mike Kelley’s Swag Lamp (2016) hanging above Sub-basement Box for Mobile Homestead (2018) by Laurie Anderson, Cary Loren, Paul McCarthy, John Miller, Tony Oursler, Jim Shaw, Marnie Weber, Raymond Pettibon, and others. Photo by Todd White, courtesy of Artangel.

The idea for the mystery box is very much in keeping with Artangel’s MO, which is to follow the ideas of artists wherever they lead: “Jim Shaw, who was one of Mike’s closest friends, had the idea that it would be great to come up with a bunch of artists who were associated with Mike, or the kind of artists who have been into the basement of Mobile Homestead,” explained Artangel co-director James Lingwood, referring to the mysterious underground level of Kelley’s famous 2010 replica of his Detroit childhood home that was co-commissioned by Artangel.

Kelly used the subterranean space to stage “what he called ‘aesthetic rites and rituals of a more covert kind,'” Lingwood said, adding that no one was supposed to know what transpired there. The art in the box is of the same tenor: “There’s nothing too pretty down there,” he said.

Roger Hiorns, Seizure (2008). An Artangel commission. Photograph by Marcus J. Leith, courtesy of Artangel.

The three site-specific works that are part of Artists for Artangel were not included in the auction and are still available. They are a sound installation by Susan Philipsz, a landscape or building by Cristina Iglesias and a signature crystal building or secular chapel by Roger Hirons, meant for “a natural environment, preferably a field, wood or forest,” according to the sale catalogue. Lingwood said Artangel has been fielding expressions of interest from would-be patrons. The fee for developing one of the proposals with the artist is £5,000 ($6,500); realizing the work, which could be either long-term or permanent, is variable according to the scale and site.

“One of the great things is that we’re not having to ask permission from anyone—permission will be from the commissioner,” Lingwood said, explaining that it can be very difficult to secure spaces in London to realize ambitious commissions for the length of time Artangel requires. Mike Nelson, for instance, who represented Britain at the 2011 Venice Biennale, has been working with Artangel for more than three years to realize a project, but so far no space has been available for sufficient time.

“We’ve had great ideas for particular sites, but they have depended on different parties,” Lingwood says. “You can get spaces for pop-ups or a couple of weeks, but it is quite challenging if you want them for several months.”

Susan Hiller, London Jukebox, (2008-18). Customised jukebox with 70 songs selected by the artist. Image by Todd White Photography, courtesy of Artangel.

One particularly complex and especially ambitious Artangel project, however, is in the works. Tate Britain and Artangel are co-commissioning a six-month-long installation that will transform Duveen Galleries into a vast group portrait featuring thousands of school children from across the city. Details regarding the installation remain tightly under wraps, and a Tate spokeswoman would only confirm to artnet News that it will be called the “Tate Year 3 Project,” and that the concept comes from a “globally renowned artist.” The project will culminate in an exhibition of tens of thousands of children, according to the website of A New Direction, which is co-commissioning the work with the Tate and Artangel.

Currently photographers are being hired to collaborate on the initiative, which will start in earnest when the academic year begins in September and will involve photographing seven- and eight-year-olds in more than 100 primary schools across the capital, according to a job posting on the Tate website. Further details are due to be announced in the fall.  

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