Engaging minds for the value of art
Discover Open Mic, a series of articles that celebrates Hennessy’s cultural richness and the passions of our communities. This month, editorial author Edd Norval explores the change of perspectives in the urban art world, powered by organisations and collectives like Underdogs Galerie. Building new opportunities for cities and global creativity.
Over the last several years we have witnessed a sea-change in the way that urban art has been perceived around the world. Embraced by high fashion, film and the general art establishment, the way that we understand our world has been enhanced by our acceptance of urban art’s value too.
Following a similar trajectory, cities across the globe have entered the conversation of important art hubs. If you wanted art, everybody knew about Paris or Berlin for urban culture, but Lisbon - an emergent powerhouse of creativity - became the new enfant terrible.
The work of Underdogs has been two-fold. First, it promotes artists that are capable of changing the face of a city. Artists like ±MaisMenos± and his politically charged slogans or Wasted Rita, with her original and unique take on contemporary life, pop culture and human behaviour expressed through angst-ridden poetic invectives, have challenged the placid preconceptions of the limitations of art produced in the urban environment.
Providing a platform for artists helped feed the second most notable shift - the global change in perception of urban art’s validity. Through the curatorial work of Alexandre Farto aka Vhils and Pauline Foessel, Underdogs utilises a holistic approach to promote, develop and explore visual urban culture through a multitude of directives giving unconventional and ground-breaking voices the opportunity to express themselves.
Through the production of artist special editions (in print or 3D), organising exhibitions with distinctive internationally renowned artists or promoting ground-breaking public interventions, Underdogs has cemented its place as a pioneer in Europe and ambassador to the wider world.
Indeed, Editions are a central part of its work and mission, contributing towards the democratisation of art with creations by both established and emerging artists, as shown by a recent super release with works by Camila Nogueira, FAILE, Felipe Pantone, JonOne, Kruella d’Enfer, PichiAvo, Ruído, Shepard Fairey, Tamara Alves and Vhils. Art has, hitherto, been prohibitive for prospective collectors - something that many people wanted, but couldn’t afford. In overcoming this boundary, Underdogs introduced a whole new generation of engaged minds to the value of owning art.
Another aspect of changing public perception came from the way that the platform integrated the physical and online audience into its new universe. Its content and exhibition openings became ‘do not miss’ events. The celebratory atmosphere, where friends were made as the ruminative gallery environment gave way to the outpouring of revellers on the street acted as precursors to the other iconic platforms like the Iminente festival which acts as a microcosm of what Underdogs has spent so long building - blending music, art, dance and other aspects of contemporary urban culture.
Fostering this close relationship between the creators, curators, public and cities is the modus operandi of Underdogs. A crucial part of understanding - a necessity when building a revolutionary new vision for something as established as a city - is education. Fulfilling this space are the various community programs and workshops held by Underdogs, shaping the future of the city through its youngest minds, as well as offering opportunities to those who would otherwise have gone without.
From more local programs like Community Workshops - promoting engagement with art in socially segregated communities – to wider programs like the Council of the European Union, which recently collaborated with Vhils in the “Commotion” installation, Underdogs is always focused on shaping the future of spaces through art. Investing so heavily in the urban art scene in these various manners has situated this platform as part of a global network of like-minded groups, attesting to the growing influence and impact of local scenes in a hyper-connected age.
All around the world cities are gaining exposure as new urban art hubs, each buoyed by the success of one other. The narrative of urban centres is being re-written by those who know it best, not from the top down, but the bottom up, constructing environments that are both a joy to behold, a wondrous walkthrough and built for the future, composed pertinently in the present by organisations and platforms like Underdogs.
A Scottish editorial author living in Aarhus Denmark, Edd Norval focuses on the psychology and behaviours within Art and Sports. Edd collaborates with compulsivecontents.com, featuring the faces of today's best international urban art, one of Hennessy's most beloved artistic expressions.
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