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The online support system for artists established in March by the Sussex-based artist Matthew Burrows known as #ArtistSupportPledge, has proved a lifeline in the wake of the coronavirus crisis—and it continues to grow. “There are 371,000 posts on Instagram with #ArtistSupportPledge, generating an estimated £60m,” Burrows tells The Art Newspaper.
The concept is simple: artists are invited to post pictures of their works for sale for £200 or less on Instagram using the hashtag #ArtistSupportPledge. Every time an artist makes £1,000 in sales, they then pledge to spend £200 on work by another participating artist (pledges are made using the hashtag).
Crucially, the initiative is providing thousands of artists with income. “It is giving them liquidity,” Burrows says, adding that the project has spinoff benefits too, driving traffic to artists’ websites which can lead to further higher-level sales.
Burrows says though that the project “did take over [his] working life for three months” and that running the service voluntarily has been exhausting. Donations given via a dedicated website are helping to offset technical costs, and an intervention from Google Arts & Culture, partnering him for 48 hours with MIT Media Lab (research laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) was “catalytic”, Burrows says, giving the platform extra technical support.
He is now looking to develop the scheme; the next step will include translating the platform into other languages such as Spanish, German and Italian. “We could also push into Asia but we’d need the relevant infrastructure,” Burrows says. “The £200/$200 threshold is important in making the initiative accessible, but maybe in the longer term we could look at the potential for shifting the £200 threshold.”
#ArtistSupportPledge has sent ripples through the trade but Burrows says that the scheme is not a threat to galleries. “The £200 threshold is not competition for galleries and I don’t want to step on their toes; dealers need to make a living and need to be sustainable. Their profit margins sit at a certain level; we’re below that.”
Why does Burrows think the initiative struck a chord? It reflected an economic and cultural shift as the world went into lockdown, he explains. “Two things move us to action: fear and love. #ArtistSupportPledge flourished in a context of uncertainty and it also gave people a context for hope.”