Beyond the Opening

-- Demystifying Contemporary Art --

ALPHA60 and the Pigeon

/ mutual benefit: business and art [alternative title]

The video artwork starring an upside down pigeon displayed in ALPHA60’s shop window on Flinders Lane is an absolute delight. Amongst all the important bustle this gorgeous piece made complete sense and brought immediate joy. Although upside pigeons observing pedestrians moving to and fro may not make immediate sense to everyone, the important point here is that this artwork is accessible to the public, and made so by a private entity. Perhaps this initiative is being used as a marketing lever – however the investment of time and resources, and the broader cultural impact, cannot be denied.

ALPHA60 is a clothing store. They have a distinctive design style, they manage the making and selling process end to end, and often collaborate with the arts community to develop innovative designs and fabrics. Celebrated nationally this family business is now making a foray into the European market. ALPHA60’s engagement with the arts seems to be driven by passion and enquiry, however I would also suggest it is rather strategic – creating a complementary ‘win-win’ situation.

Video work exhibited at ALPHA60 January 2018

Artist unknown

By integrating artwork into public/private spaces like the ALPHA60 shop window, shop floor and display, ALPHA 60 is providing fundamental support to the arts community. Not only are they providing an audience, they are providing a space to exhibit work. Gallery spaces can be coveted and difficult to obtain. They are often costly and time between exhibitions can be lengthy. The provision and availability of alternative spaces to display artwork is imperative for artist’s professional development. Not only does the meaning of an artwork shift with context, viewing it in a commercial or non-traditional environment can trigger hitherto unconsidered artistic developments and opportunities. Equally it is important for the artist to see how perhaps a different or broader audience responds.

We all want to be delighted, moved, surprised, enlightened and at times in awe - and great artwork can do this. Perhaps not at the same time. The display of works in public/private spaces invigorates and enriches the experience of passers-by, the community and people frequenting the store. Primarily it does this by providing a disruption to automatic thoughts and activity. The disruption could be positive or negative, controversial or neutral. The artwork could be passive, require observance over time or it may even necessitate participation. Overall it contributes to an experience, and a common experience binds us as a community – makers, patrons, customers, neighbours and businesses.

Businesses that strategically position themselves through conventional marketing techniques often do little to convey authentic values or business integrity at face value. Being sold an item through the reinforcement of fear, cultural assumptions, ideals and behaviours has been done over and over for the past 100 years. Being sold something based on the values an entity upholds is significantly more compelling, and artwork is a sophisticated way to reflect these values.

Integrated with interior design, architecture or product display, artwork can draw people into the business space and around. The customer experience can be augmented through the experience of art that elicits an emotional response on one hand whilst reinforcing certain values or points of view on the other. Additionally these visual cues directly affect staff culture, performance and interaction by defining and reinforcing a way of being.

Business engagement with the arts no longer is a set and forget ‘collection’ gathering dust in the 7th floor lobby. It could be providing support through other means, such as an exhibition space. The upside down pigeon observing pedestrians moving to and fro is discrete, complementary to ALPHA60 values, and relevant to the site character and situation.

This is a wonderful example of how businesses can engage and support the arts - to mutual benefit.

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This exhibition is an ALPHA60 exhibition.

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