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Skinder Hundal sees the merging of digital and traditional as opening up opportunities for new relationships between artists and audiences

Culture Cloud is one of the eight experimental projects selected to benefit so far from a new Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture (see p2, and AP243). Headed by New Art Exchange (NAE), Nottingham and supported by a national network of galleries and visual arts organisations, this is a digital project and real time experiment that is exploring new ways of curating physical exhibitions and engaging artists and audiences using digital technologies. The project also explores the relationship between buying and selling art, when a public space teams up with a commercial digital technology online provider, in this instance Artfinder, to produce limited edition prints, with the aim of establishing a sustainable business model for the artists.

In this way, Culture Cloud is unique in that it combines the digital with the traditional, allowing artists to submit work via an online portal and encouraging audiences to get involved with curating a main gallery exhibition by viewing the work and casting their votes online. Culture Cloud is neither a ‘curated show’ nor an ‘open’, rather its starting point lies in audience participation, flipping the curatorial model to allow the public to take greater control in shaping the content of a public art space. The project enables us to question how we value opinion and consider broader perspectives outside of standard institutional parameters.

NAE has worked closely with eight gallery partners to enhance the geographical spread, quality and diversity of artists and the work submitted. Each partner organisation had a responsibility to promote the project on behalf of NAE and to selected up to five artists to go through to the public vote. The NAE curatorial team then viewed the remaining applications and selected the final 60 artists. Whilst selecting we looked for innovation in concept and quality in production. By including the curatorial eye in the process the project has been able to ensure a minimum level of artistic quality.

Culture Cloud does not seek to eliminate real-world exhibitions. Instead it aims to complement and extend the process by which art is selected for exhibition, engaging new audiences in this digital age, bringing hidden talent to the fore and allowing unheard voices to reach previously impenetrable networks. The key advantage of this way of working is in the unique system of public engagement. The project engages curator, artist and audience within existing and new frameworks of how art is shared and experienced, connecting digital and physical realities, traditional and contemporary audiences, the unknown, and the emergent through to the established artist. In this way it is providing a total system for stimulating artists, audiences, curators and galleries to interact, thereby creating new markets.

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