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Camden-based crowdfunding site ‘to save art from the wealthy’

Emma Monteil, assistant curator at the Free Space Gallery in Kentish Town, and Thanos Koukoutsakis, director of Crowd4Art. Picture: Polly Hancock Emma Monteil, assistant curator at the Free Space Gallery in Kentish Town, and Thanos Koukoutsakis, director of Crowd4Art. Picture: Polly Hancock

Friday, March 14, 2014
9:45 AM

An innovative website helping struggling artists sell their work has turned its sights on saving an entire art gallery in Kentish Town.

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Crowd4Art, an online crowdfunding venture set up in Camden in August, was launched with a mission to help stave off the threat to the arts community in a time of public spending cuts.

The website allows members of the public to join other amateur investors in buying shares of artwork or receiving unique “rewards” in exchange for donations.

With some 200 users already ­using the site, the venture has begun helping up-and-coming artists all over the world get their work ­noticed and funded.

But its founder – Dr Thanos Koukoutsakis – says his original concept has rapidly grown in ambition and the group is now hoping to help stop the Free Space Gallery in Bartholomew Road, Kentish Town, from closing.

“We started out just offering a space to sell paintings but we’ve realised it can do so much more for our arts community.

“This mission is of critical ­importance for the arts community of Camden and Kentish Town, especially in times when public spending faces cuts.

“Without help from the public, the gallery could close in the next few months.

“We hope the site will raise the money it needs and, much more than just public funding, promote the engagement between the funder and the funded.”

The Free Space Gallery is looking to raise £4,500 from art lovers to fund its operating costs.

Donations ranging from £10 to £200 will give people a range of rewards, including free tours, one-to-ones with artists and the chance to have your name printed on the building.

Curator Melissa Hardwick said the new funding platform could be a saviour.

“Our gallery was established to give under-represented artists, individuals and organisations a space and voice in an important public building,” she said.

“We are free to visitors and ­exhibitors – all workshops are open to all, and free.

“It’s important that such a wide range of social, community and physical health and art-related ­activities is allowed to flourish and to continue its development.”

Hoping to extend the site’s reach even further than artists and galleries, Dr Koukoutsakis ­believes the crowdfunding platform can shake up the “murky” world of art dealerships.

“The marketplace for high-value artwork is neither efficient nor transparent,” he said.

“Price manipulation, behind-closed-doors deals – if it was any other properly regulated market many people would be in jail. So we want to open up the art market.

“One of our big aims is to keep the UK’s art collection in the country and out of the hands of wealthy foreign collectors.

“Temporary export bans are placed on some pieces in order to give UK-based institutions or ­individuals the opportunity to raise the funds and match the overseas buyer’s offer. The amounts requested are often at the level of millions, which standard charities find difficult to raise, resulting in a number of cultural treasures being lost.

“Offering individuals a way to pool their money together could change how things currently work.

‘‘I mean, who wouldn’t want to put in £50 to own part of a Rembrandt or Monet?”

n Visit https://crowd4art.com/en/Asset/Details/31.

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