Art Basel’s Kickstarter Partnership Off to a Very, Very Slow Start

Crowds at Art Basel in Miami Beach.
Photo: © Art Basel.
Crowds at Art Basel in Miami Beach.Photo: © Art Basel.

Crowds at Art Basel in Miami Beach.
Photo: © Art Basel.

We were skeptical when Art Basel recently announced a new joint venture of sorts with crowd-funding website Kickstarter. The “digital initiative,” as it is described, is intended to serve as an online fundraising platform for creative projects.

Reactions from art media organizations ranged from straightforward to  mildly enthusiastic to downright critical. As Jillian Steinhauer pointed out in her post on Hyperallergic: “Supporting nonprofit visual arts organizations means, you know, supporting them. With resources and stuff. The only resource being offered here is publicity. Of a certain, very specific (and not yet entirely clear) nature.”

The initiative includes a curated page on Kickstarter’s website featuring an array of projects selected by an independent jury that includes Hammad Nasar, curator and head of research at the Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong, Glenn Phillips, head of architecture and contemporary art at the Getty Research Institute, and Mari Spirito, founding director of nonprofit organization Protocinema.

So how is it going so far? Potato salad it is not.

Of six individual projects listed on the Kickstarter Art Basel page, the highest sum that has been raised for a single project is $25,615 (£15,640) for two new artists’ studios for Gasworks, a London-based organization that supports emerging artists. This represents 39 percent of the hoped-for goal, and there are 25 days to go. That is currently the most successful project of the bunch…relatively speaking.

Of the others, the response so far is anything but encouraging, especially considering Kickstarter’s “all or nothing” approach whereby organizations receive not money at all if the crowds and the funds fail to reach a certain number. Of the other five initiatives Art Basel’s curators have chosen to highlight, response has been most dismal for the Long Island City-based ScultpureCenter and its project “Sculpture Center Presents: Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook,” a planned exhibition featuring works by the Southeast Asian video artist. So far the campaign has raised pledges totaling $592, or 4 percent of its goal. With 45 days left to go, the campaign could still turn around, but it seems Art Basel’s endorsement isn’t doing much to help.

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