New Art Exchange Launches CULTURE CLOUD

New Art Exchange has launched the CULTURE CLOUD, an inaugural exhibition showcasing the work of 40 artists selected by public vote to have their works exhibited in the New Art Exchange’ main gallery space. The exhibition, which launched on 26 July will run until 25 August 2012 and audiences will be able to view the works from the 40 artists at New Art Exchange and online where they can also vote for their favourite work from the exhibition. Voting closes at midnight on 24 August. Skinder Hundal, New Art Exchange Chief Executive talks to Aesthetica about Culture Cloud.

A: Culture Cloud is such an innovative and exciting programme. How did it all begin?

SH: Culture Cloud is one of eight experimental projects selected to benefit from the new Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture supported by NESTA, Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The fund aims to support arts and cultural organisations to collaborate with digital providers and researchers to understand the potential offered by new technologies.

The fund has allowed NAE to team up with Artfinder to engage audiences in novel ways in championing artists and choosing art. We also have a specialist team of researchers from Birmingham City University, researching the learnings, assigned to the project.

The competition takes part in 4 main stages. In the first stage, Culture Cloud was open to UK based artists of all levels to upload 2D art using a digital platform – Registration closed midnight on Friday 4th May 2012. In the second stage, a team of curators from New Art Exchange and its partner galleries from across the UK, had the difficult task of narrowing down over 900 submissions to the 100 works you can now see on the Artfinder site where audiences select and vote for their favourites. The partner galleries and visual arts organisations have played an active role in encouraging their own artist networks to apply and engage with the Culture Cloud uploading platform, bringing a diverse mix of artists and distinct styles. Partners include, for example Arts Admin in London, Format Festival in Derby and Cornerhouse from Manchester to name a few. The third stage provided audiences an opportunity to vote/like using Facebook connect and help decide which 40 works make it through to the final and exciting stage: the Culture Cloud exhibition at New Art Exchange.

A: What were the main concerns surrounding Culture Cloud?

SH: Culture Cloud is an arts project which utilises digital technologies and the power of social networking to increase exhibition opportunities for artists, and to empower audiences to engage with the visual arts and public gallery spaces. The project aims to bring new and existing creative talent to the fore. In addition, the digital nature of Culture Cloud has enabled a global online community to digitally curate an international exhibition space. The challenge was to see if we could make this work!

A: Talk us through some of the artworks displayed in the exhibition space that we can expect to see.

SH: Culture Cloud showcases diverse and exciting group of new artistic talents from across the UK the works include digital art, photography, paintings, textiles so it is mainly 2d art. The subject matter is very diverse exploring contemporary issues. There is some really challenging work and work that is aesthetically very pleasing too.

A: In this exhibition, the public play an active role in the curatorial process, is this something you would like to incorporate more of in the future?

SH: Culture Cloud offers a unique experience to audiences. For the first time the audience play an active role in the curatorial process. Using the Facebook ‘liking’ system the public select artwork into a physical exhibition, thus transforming how public gallery spaces work with local communities and audiences in curating exhibitions.

Culture Cloud is neither a ‘curated show’ nor an ‘open ’, rather its starting point lies in audience participation. We’ve enjoyed flipping the curatorial model to allow the public to take greater control in shaping the content of a public art space and the project enables us to question how we value opinion and consider broader perspectives outside of standard institutional parameters.

We are aiming to establish the competition on annual basis, to provide visibility to emerging artists, and to allow audiences and communities across the world, regardless of their location, to vote, select and curate a public gallery space.

For us audience engagement is really important and we are always keen to experiment and work in new ways…. I always say NAE aims to think and deliver the new!

A: The Culture Cloud project has allowed a global online community to digitally curate a national exhibition space. What are the benefits you can see in opening up the digital platform for artists?

SH: Culture Cloud innovatively bridges the digital and physical art spaces to showcase and discover new arts talent from across the UK. The model aims to engage artist, audience and curator offering a ‘democratic’ and new approach to curating public space. Our slogan is Your Art, Your Vote, Your Exhibition, therefore an intention of liberating those that engage with it.

Digital platforms have broken boundaries of time and place and toppled hierarchies of expertise, wealth, social standing and power. You Tube, Vimeo, Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest for example have all brought hidden talent to the fore, and allowed unheard voices to reach previously impenetrable networks. Culture Cloud has harnessed this energy and mind-set for the arts sector and artists interested in exploring the democratic possibilities of the digital age, have embraced this model.

The digital platform accelerates the attention of talent so it reaches key networks and curators at a faster pace. Talent however still takes many years to realise. There is no short cut to success in terms of high quality art. However digital platforms are fast portals to reaching key people and sharing one’s journey. This is what Culture Cloud does well.

A: The 2 overall winners are selected by the public and NAE, what is NAE looking for in the winning artist?

SH: There will be two winners – a Curators Choice and the Public Choice. The winner of the Public Choice will be the artist who has received the most public votes for their work on display. The Curator’s Choice will be the artist elected by NAE and their partner curators on the basis of overall artistic excellence, innovation.

The winner announcement will be made at New Art Exchange on Saturday 25 August, 12pm and posted online. Winner(s) will receive a cash award of up to £2,000, a personal ibook app and the possibility of a future project with New Art Exchange.

For NAE and the curators involved in the judging we will look at many things mainly what captures our imagination in contemporary times and art that is of high quality of course.

Culture Cloud, 27 July until 25 August, New Art Exchange, 39-41 Gregory Boulevard, Nottingham, NG7 6BE.


1. Gloria Ronchi, The Colour Of Phi
2. Jim Cowan, L’Inconnu 11
3. Edward Jones, Steaming