During a dinner two years ago, Marine Tanguy sat with her friends discussing future cities. She was shocked by how little they thought of the importance of culture. So she wrote an article on the subject for MTart, a visual artist agency and fund, which quickly became the top ranking Google search on the subject – another sign for Marine that there was not enough conversation on the topic.
Drawing references from New York’s former Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who describes “art as a powerful tool, one integral to building the confidence of a city” to Baudelaire, the French nineteenth century intellectual and poet, seeking to map a city onto the pages of his works, Marine's article argues that culture is “inspirational and sustainable” and cities which undervalue it risk damaging their financial and economic stability. With collaborations, events and new art festivals Marine wants to bring the conversation into mainstream consciousness. We caught up with her after her latest week-long festival of the arts with Unfold Space to find out more.
Hi Marine. Can you tell us a bit about your background, what led you to set up MTart?
I grew up on a small island called Ile de Re on the west coast of France. I spent my early years in the classroom of my mother who is a primary teacher – I was the one doodling away in the back of her class. I have always loved art and was in awe with talented visual artists from a young age. I became the gallery manager of The Outsiders Gallery (at the time linked to Lazarides) at 21 years old, my first exhibition was with the incredible Conor Harrington.
At 23 years old, an investor from Los Angeles approached me to open my own art gallery, the De Re Gallery (named after my island) on Melrose Avenue. While in Los Angeles, I got exposed to the Hollywood way of growing and supporting talents and I became more and more frustrated with the gallery model which merely looked at artists for the works they produced instead of the full career they could embrace.The idea of MTArt: the first artist agency promoting influential visual artists and specialising in talent management started here.
Why is public art so important to our future cities?
I am a strong believer of the importance of public art. If you currently go out of London Bridge Station, you will encounter 72 photographs by our artist Jennifer Abessira – this is public art project which was commissioned by Team London Bridge for my agency to be in partnership with Network Rail. The goal was simple: how can we use these bollards which relate to safety and anti-terrorism and make them more inspiring? The narrative we built with the artist is all to do with the community who lives there. There is a lack of quantifying terms and value around the need for public art and this is just what we are doing around each of our public art projects.
What do you think are the biggest challenges artists face today?
Time. Time has become too expensive for creative talents. They need time to think and create incredible works and our city rents and fast expectations has made them struggle.
What can we be doing more to support the next generation of artists?
I hope to see more agencies like MTart over the years to come. We finance the studio costs of our artists monthly to make sure that they are not tied to these costs and can create more freely and we also strategise their full career and reputation over a minimum of three years to allow some time for a solid support system to be put in place. As an individual, I would encourage people to value artists more. Go to their shows, visit the studios, spread the word. We need more people involved in our industry for more artists to be supported! As always, we need people to care about this issue to change things.
Why should we be investing more in artists over other industries? What are the benefits it can bring?
While our computers can now solve all our logical and analytical needs, we, as a society, are in need of connecting with other humans, feeling inspired and thinking more creatively. Art gives you all of this. The more you are involved with creativity, the more curious, rounded, culturally engaged you become. It's important to keep this for the generations to come. The digital screen can't do it all.
You mention on your site that “cities have a story and, like any brand, it is the immersive experience/ storytelling aspect that determines its success.” Can you expand a little more on this?
A great example of this is 19th century Paris. Where leisure, literature, politics and industry success shaped the Paris that we know, with its Haussmanian buildings, big boulevards and cafes where people can still discuss ideas until late at night. London was also shaped by the success of its industries that made it this fast international growing city in the late 20th century. If you look at the Southwark area, the Tate Modern is a perfect example of a building which belonged to the industries of the past and is now an international cultural power. Meanwhile, the inequalities and street art made an impact in East London which gave it its distinct identity. That attracts so many people today.
Talk us through the concept of Unfold Space and how it came about?
Unfold is very much based on all our core values at MTArt: how we can support more artists and make our field more accessible. The concept came about from the four founders (my company partnered with two other companies called Subject Matter and Predella House) and we all felt that there was a need for an alternative art festival during Frieze week. Unfold Space follows our festival last year, called MELT, which was also to do with seeing the art of young artists everywhere in London.
What did you want to achieve through the Unfold Space?
We wanted to show that art was not just something on a wall that you contemplate for 5 minutes, while attempting to say something clever at the same time. Instead, art is life. We had a full time studio with artists discussing their works, creating all week, and greeting visitors as they do so. We also had a space where you could get to sit and hang out surrounded by art. We created another space where you could debate with the most fascinating people, companies and institutions (King's College London, Appear Here, Vastari etc) on all subjects to do with supporting creativity and a beautiful curation rethinking the way in which artists create and respond to the city around them. It was amazing to see the responses! We saw over 2,300 people this whole week.
What were the most interesting things you learned from this series of events?
My god I learned a lot! My favourite was rethinking innovation and experimentation with King's College London – comparing the way scientists experiment with the creative processes of our young artists of today.
Finally, which artists are exciting you the most at the moment, who should we be looking out for?
Our artists are crazy busy – it seems to be the way with creatives. You work incredibly hard for a few years and suddenly it all happens at once! Our current superstar is David Aiu Servan Schreiber which was showing both at Frieze and UNFOLD. A special mention also goes to artist Chloe Early as I admire her works for years.