Arts & culture
To just look at the pictures is to be
completely floored. VOMA’s architecture
has been created by Emily Mann, who
came out of the Bartlett School of
Architecture at the turn of the millennium
– a seminal year for architecture, as
digitisation exploded and impossible
buildings could be, not only visualised, but also rendered. She has resisted the allure of drifting into fantasy, instead grounding the impossibility of the space – and its illusory nature – in simple forms, designing it to play with light, creating the perfect environment for interaction with the art itself. She explains: “It’s vital to root the experience in a common physical visual language in order to assist the transition into a digital landscape.”
It’s beautiful. To think of a museum space intended only to live online seems
terrifying – and yet liberating. A brave
new world indeed. Up until now, much
conceptual architectural work has existed,
and the technology has been there to
deliver it digitally. VOMA gives it a vital
sense of utility. Whilst this is a fantasy
building, it is designed to be used,
interacted with and inhabited. And anyone can inhabit it, millions of us at the same time if we want, at the same time, from anywhere in the world, and on any device – computer, tablet, phone, or VR headset.
THE VIRTUAL ONLINE MUSEUM OF AR T – VOMA – IS NOT JUST A FAD FOR THE AGE OF LOCKDOWN, BUT A PLACE TO FIND THE BEST IN FINE AR T FOREVERMORE. BUT WHA T IS IT THAT MAKES IT SO UNIQUE? OUR CUL TURE TEAM FINDS OUT…
After hearing about VOMA, ‘the world’s
first virtual museum’, there was a little
scepticism. Weren’t there dozens of virtual exhibitions already online? In short, no. Unless you consider a grainy Google Maps walk-through a truly ‘museum-worthy’cultural experience.
Opening next month, VOMA (the
Virtual Online Museum of Art) will
present exquisitely curated exhibitions
to feature seminal works on loan from
major institutions around the world,
alongside those by our most celebrated
contemporary artists. To be fair, we don’t yet know exactly which works will be on display, but it’s an impressive space to say the least, even without the art yet installed.
While other galleries are developing
virtual spaces to show their own
artists’ works, VOMA is the first truly
digital museum – not simply a known
establishment presenting known content,
but a global institutional project showing the best contemporary art together withhistorically significant pieces. Constructed from scratch, from its earliest pixelated foundations, VOMA was conceived by artist Stuart Semple, who has been working with a global team of architects, CGI designers, gaming experts and curators to give life to the vision.
“It feels very unique in as much as the focus is audience-led, which means the experience of visiting is unlike other experiences I’ve seen. There are some wonderful museums making their
collections available to see, and some
digitizing their spaces and photographing
them in 3D, but this isn’t about mapping
the physical world and bringing it online –
this is about building a new online world
specifically for the art. It’s not about
pictures on screens; it’s about a really
Curator and contemporary art specialist Lee Cavaliere takes up the post as VOMA Director ahead of the inaugural
exhibition and will be continuing to curate
and commission new work.
“VOMA is a new platform to hear the
stories and histories of artists from across
the world. Without the limitations of a
physical location, access to a museum is
possible to anyone with an internet connection.
We want VOMA to be active, to
speak to the present as well as art history,
and to be at the centre of discussions
throughout the community. Key to this
is the commission of new works, and
we’re in talks with artists and groups
about sculptural installations, interactive
performance pieces and more. It’s a new
world, and artists are best placed to take
full advantage of it.”
So is the online artworld here to stay?
Semple seems to think so.
“I have to all intents and purposes
been an online artist for 20 years – I’m
seeing the online community around
art growing at a massive rate, and this
was happening before COVID; we saw
galleries starting to hire managers for
their Instagram account and make private
online viewing platforms. I think the online, connected aspect of the artworld is here to stay. To me, it seems like a lot of us have been living like this for a long time and it’s exciting that the wider artworld has come in and started experimenting with the tools that are already here.”
“This current situation has been the
kick in the backside that the artworld has
needed for a long time. There has always
been a reticence to go online, for various
reasons. Opening up access is a good
thing, and the possibilities of the internet
remain largely unexplored; thankfully,
we’ve all had a sharp lesson in how to do
this, and what value it can carry. In terms
of audience reach and engagement, online
is where the future lies and we should all
be enormously thankful for that. We all
have the opportunity to contribute to its
development, and VOMA aims to be a
leading forum for this.”
VOMA will open to the public Summer
2020. For updates head to
AWAKEN THE ART
COLLECTOR IN YOU
KOVET.ART IS A NEW PROPOSITION FOR THE ART WORLD, AN INNOVATIVE SOLUTION FOR DISCOVERING EMERGING ART THAT DISRUPTS THE TRADITIONAL GALLERY PARADIGM – AN ART GALLERY THAT IS METICULOUSLY CURATED, MORE ACCESSIBLE, FAIRER AND TRANSPARENT.
OUR CULTURE TEAM AT KENSINGTON & CHELSEA REVIEW SPOKE WITH THREE IMPRESSIVE LADIES LEADING THE CHARGE BEHIND A NEW ART WORLD ECOSYSTEM…
In the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea we have our fair share of world class museums, galleries and auction houses. So why can it seem so hard?Saras Rachupalli, CEO and Founder
of Kovet.Art is on a mission to change that for everyone with a creative curiosity, especially when it comes to supportingthe emerging talent coming out of our leading colleges right now. Looking
towards a future artworld ecosystem, Kovet.Art combines art market expertise with a rigorous development and artist liaison programme, representing a closed number of top-class art degree students to develop their practice and profile in credible and authentic ways.
The framework is twofold, and it seems a good model of how selfcultivating such an ecosystem could be.
Firstly, Kovet.Art aims to support young, promising and collectible artists through a critical stage in their creative and commercial development. Secondly, the goal is to nurture seasoned collectors as
well as those ‘dipping their toes’ for the first time, through a series of ‘Kovet Club’ events, talks and panels. Delineating Dreams, the first
exhibition in Kovet.Art’s schedule opened in June 2020, featuring work by eight artists of exceptional talent, coming together to highlight the dynamism of the UK’s emerging art scene: Kristy M Chan; Tom Faber; Max Gimson; Candice Jewell; Christopher Pearson; Giovanna
Petrocchi; Loreal Prystaj; and Janet Waring Rago.Born into a distinguished lineage of creative visionaries, including poets and painters, Rachupalli certainly has credibility. Her grandfather was the notable P T Reddy, a key artist of his time who played a significant role in the evolution of the pivotal “Modern Art” movement of Europe in India, and who in 1941 formed a group of ‘Bombay Contemporary India Artists,’ branded as the now prolific ‘Young Turks’.
“I can easily say those were some of the best and happiest times in my life,” she says, “hanging around my grandfather (P.T. Reddy)’s neck while he was painting in his airy studio and listening to fascinating stories from novels my grandmother was writing. ‘Thatha’ (granddad in Telugu) was a prolific painter and sculptor, he was an incredible force in the Modern art movement in India and an inspiration to me – unknowingly.
“And I only realized when I left for New York to study and work, how much art was an integral part of me. It is my core; I cannot live without it.”
It wasn’t necessarily the call of the art world that first took her to New York – instead, it was technology and finance. But it’s through these combined great passions that, so delicately combined, her new venture has sprung. As a child, she says, she loved physics and “gobbled up every article on science and technology in the local papers and the libraries. We are talking pre-internet, kids.”
After following a natural route to studying Electronics Engineering, she then received her Masters in a finance-related course at Columbia University.
Graduating in 2008 – a “perfect year to start your career in Finance!” she jokes – she saw major institutions including the Lehman Brothers crash, their office closing and the press buzzing as she walked over to her new job as a finance consultant on 5th Avenue. She went on to work with the C-suite in the beautiful and historic building of ‘One Wall Street’ which was right next to the NYSE - and the bank she worked at also sponsored some stellar shows at the Guggenheim and the Met.
Saras soon realised she loved art, business and technology almost equally. So, after a move to London, time spent studying at Sotheby’s and also a post-grad on the Stanford course on Innovation, the time was ‘ripe’.
Although cogs were turning many years ago, as it has turned out, Kovet.Art is now launching during the biggest global pandemic of our time, when galleries, museums and auction houses are closed to the public. Of course, this was not always the plan. Saras explains:
“We were always technically – with art and technologically – with solutions, driven to find the most relevant way to present the high calibre fine art carefully sourced directly from UK’s top universities.
The world quickly shifted early this year into a crisis fighting an unusual enemy. After assessing, we felt that the role of art becomes even more critical at a time like this – as a refuge, inspiration, and a solace. The art industry has quickly moved digital; digital exhibitions were not at all common up until January!
This shows great resilience, creativity and forward thinking, restoring the confidence in what was once thought of as a slow-moving industry. We have gone few steps further to add a Virtual Reality (VR) show to extend the feeling of discovery and three dimensionalities as much as possible. We are also developing ideas on increasing engagement from the art curious. We are moving our panels and talks to online only for global access and as soon as the government regulations safely allow gatherings, we will have in person seminars, events and studio visits via our ‘KLUB’ - and, of course, a launch party!”
Force to be reckoned with though she is, no woman is an island. Alongside Saras is an expert team of leading art market experts including Averil Curci, Director of Curation and Artist Liaison, and Chief Art Officer Camilla Grimaldi, co-founder of contemporary photography gallery Brancolini Grimaldi and advisory board member of Photo London.
Curci, who has worked with both emerging and established artists for over a decade, is the driving force behind selecting Kovet’s artists. The selection process is a careful one, involving portfolio reviews, studio visits and interviews. Kovert.Art has structured their programme around four yearly exhibitions, and her search for talent continues actively throughout the year, with new artists recruited and added with the launch of each exhibition. She says:
“When recruiting artists, I try to have a broad overview of their whole practice to date. I’m especially interested in a practice that shows a strong visual language and artistic voice. Sensitivity to the medium and innovation in technique are also important. At Kovet. Art we really value artists that push the boundaries of their practice with ambition in credible, original and meaningful ways.”
There is no doubt that the way in which we are interacting with art and artists has changed dramatically. Collectors must rely on digital means to communicate, but this doesn’t necessarily mean things have to lose a personal touch. Camilla Grimaldi, with extensive experience in the art world as gallerist and international art advisor for over 20 years, has a keen understanding, not only of the needs of the artists, but the expectations of collectors. While lockdown continues, she ensures that collectors have the best access and insight possible, not only through social media and traditional newsletter communications, but also Kovet talks and the Kovet Klub.
“There is exciting news for Kovet Club,” she says. “Subscribing collectors will have direct access to a VIP preview of our exhibitions and participate at our panel discussions and talks. We are working on a strong, exciting agenda of talks; inviting curators, artists, collectors, professors and art enthusiasts.”
As a London-based company, Kovet.Art has chosen to begin in the UK, where they are fortunate to have some of the world’s most outstanding fine art education. However, the team has ambitious plans to expand in time internationally, into leading artistic hubs such as Paris, Berlin, New York, Hong Kong, Mumbai, and Tokyo.
For now, we look forward to attending their first talks and events, including Delineating Dreams, their inaugural exhibition. Following this, four seasonal shows each year will enable any collector, anywhere, to discover and collect works from the artists making their mark, whilst, at the same time, becoming part of the vibrant Kovet community.
Although an online platform for the time being,Kovet.Art will also, when possible, be hosting physical pop-up exhibitions, initially in central London. Regardless, on or offline, Kovet arrives at an opportune time, in a post-COVID world increasingly driven by cultural and emotional values. Artists need to be nurtured; collectors and art lovers need to be inspired.
To find out more, visit www.kovet.art
BRINGS FAMILIES OF ELEPHANTS, ZEBRAS, BIRDS, AND THEIR LUSH
SURROUNDING LANDSCAPE, TO
British artist Sophie Walbeoffe arrived in Africa in 1987 as ‘resident artist’ with Operation Raleigh, Prince Charles’ adventure project for young people. She never returned to live in England again.
Having studied fine art at Wimbledon School of Art, later with Cecil Collins at the Central School of Art. Cecil is a teacher inspired by Eastern spirituality, who encouraged his students to use their hands, and more eccentrically, their mouths and feet. From this moment Sophie adopted a spontaneous way of working, ‘It is more impulsive, and creates magic straight away.’ Here below is a quick Q & A with the artist.
HOW SOPHIE FELL IN LOVE WITH AFRICA
‘At sixteen I met my husband, Piers Simpkin, at a boarding school dance in England. He came from Kenya, he was fascinating and gorgeous. I was entranced by his stories of animals, especially Elsa the lioness, and his life in Africa. We met again in a village in Kenya when I was working on Operation Raleigh. After a few days I remembered that first kiss twelve years before. We married a year later. I continue to live in Kenya, the birds are singing in my garden overgrown with spinach and maize. We are self-isolating in my studio. Piers is working for the Kenya county government and looking after his herd of camels. He has made a lifelong study of camels and arid lands’
THE EFFECT OF AFRICA ON MY WORK
Living in Africa has given me the chance to work with beautiful light and warmth, which dries colours quickly, and provides a very loose effect.
Because of the large skies and enormous landscapes, I have wanted to paint bigger and bigger pictures. When I travel, I take large sheets of paper rolled into a plastic tube with a mop stuck in the middle. The mop acts as a large paint brush.
MY WAY OF WORKING
‘.As a travel painter, the world is my studio, forgive the cliché. I designed and built an airy studio in the woods of our garden in Nairobi. I mostly use the studio for still life painting and big compositions. When I work en plein air, I paint what I see very fast, usually with both hands. When in the studio, I paint what I feel and remember, more slowly.
PAINTING ON SAFARI - ADVICE FOR THE TRAVELLER
‘On safari in Kenya, you are not allowed out of the car in any of the parks, in case you might come too close to a wild animal. Painting in reserves or conservation areas often gives you freedom to paint outside your vehicle, but still look out for animals. I prefer not to work from photographs. I often think the camera, rather than the artist, is in the painting. Much more enriching to work from our drawings and feelings. It is astonishing what you can remember about an African landscape, when you have looked at it at length. You remember the smell of Africa, the colour of the bush, the light on the animals and the dust of their movement, the changing colours of dawn and dusk.
THE EVOLUTION OF MY NEW EXHIBITION, ‘BIRDSONG.’
‘For the last three years I have been painting in Amboseli National Park, guided and excited by Dr Cynthia Moss, the world famous scholar of elephant behaviour. In addition to concentrating on the elephants and the stunning landscape of Amboseli, with the towering backdrop of ice capped Kilimanjaro (Africa’s highest peak) , I started to become interested in the birds. Pelicans, flamingos, ibis, waders and water birds, scarlet breastedp bee eaters, and golden weaver birds, I have painted them all. The fluttering freedom and colour of the birds, link the infinite space between earth and sky, in contrast to the heavy, grey and grounded elephants. Birds don’t have any borders, they travel around the world. I love to see the swallows and travellers in my Kenya garden. Climate change has brought incessant rain, but also hot bright sunny days when the birds never stop singing.’
ONLINE EXHIBITION OF 60 NEW PAINTINGS, ‘BIRDSONG’ INSPIRED BY AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK, KENYA. ACCOMPANYING BOOK ‘IMPRESSIONS OF AMBOSELI’ BY SOPHIE WALBEOFFE AND ELEPHANT EXPERT CYNTHIA MOSS, AVAILABLE AT THE GALLERY AND ONLINE.
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Opens 18 September 2020.
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Opens 1 April 2020.
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