How Art Works: A show curated entirely through Instagram, is this the future of exhibitions?

Just as you thought you knew everything and understood the art world it all changes, and as it happens that’s exactly what is going on in the world of curation too. Or so we thought.

London based artist Tomo Campbell has put together a group show of artists he’d met and admired through Instagram. Gone are the days where it’s just a bunch of mates living in the same building showing together or from the same university or area, now it’s all done via “friends” on Instagram. The show ‘Glimpse’ starts today at the Golborne Gallery in West London, filled to the brim with paintings by Tomo’s ‘found’ artists and one by himself. Is it the future of art shows and curation? “No” says Tomo but it’s definitely a novel idea.

You must be one of the first people to curate a show solely from artists you’ve discovered via the web, was that intentional?

I'm not 100% sure I am, but I definitely wasn't conscious of that. I follow and discover lots of talented painters on Instagram, it's a really easy platform to view things like paintings. And when the Golborne asked me to curate a show it seemed very natural to contact these people that I had been admiring.

Had you met any of them before hand?

I'd met Shaun Mcdowell and Ralph Hunter-Menzies before, in another group show, but four others I hadn't met or seen their work in the 'real life.'

What attracted you to each of them?

This is where it became interesting for me because the types of works in the show vary quite drastically, but there was an underlying link that was drawing them together. When you're on something like Instagram, you know you’re not seriously engaging, it took a while to kind of understand what it was that was tying it all together. (That's where the idea of the show 'glimpse' came from.)

Do you think this is the future of curation?

No I don't think so. What is happening that's never happened before is that art movements are no longer based on location, the YBA's and their Goldsmiths connection or the abstract expressionists in New York or even back to the impressionists in France. Nowadays I can be linked to any place or any time via the internet, it's all very fragmented and there isn't any dominant way, and I'd be surprised if there ever was again.

Tomo Campbell Sad Sappy Sucker, 2017, Oil on canvas , 130cm x 110cm
Tomo Campbell

Sad Sappy Sucker, 2017, Oil on canvas , 130cm x 110cm

The art world has always had a whiff of elitism and people in group shows always seem to be friends of friends, does curating it with unknowns mean you’ll get a real mixed bag of artists?

Yeah I'd say so, there are artists at very different levels of their careers in this show. But I was never interested with showing just established artists, it would be very easy to do that, but to be honest I was just looking at the work solely on its own merits, you don't have biographies and much info to go on via Instagram.

Did the show have a theme when you asked them to be a part of it?

Not at all, I just contacted them saying that I wanted to use their work in a group exhibition, at that point I hadn't thought more about it than that. Some people curated shows based on things like 'the body' or 'outsider art' but I wasn’t thinking like that to be honest. I just wanted to show these people and see the works in real life.

What drew me to each painter is that you can see their thought processes laid out on the canvas. Some of them are very sure of themselves and others are very tentative and gentle. For me, and how I paint and think about painting, each of the artists in the show excited a certain part of my head.

If you could whose painting would you put a red sticker on a buy for yourself?

Haha I couldn't answer that! They're all there on their own merits, I think if I was drawn to one person in particular then it would have been easier to just offer them a solo show.

You have one painting in the show, but ultimately your role is curator, how did you find being a curator? Were you any good!

I'd just call myself an organiser, to be honest I think very few people are entirely sure what curators do, but they seem to be hot property. I just pulled together a group of painters that I really admire. It was a pleasure to do, but whether it's any good or not is kind of out of my hands now.

What is the premise of the Golborne Gallery, does it speak to a certain person or show a certain type of art?

No, the Golborne Gallery is very new, it doesn't sign artists to its table, I think its plan is to work with a variety of artists and show a range of disciplines and then begin to hone in on what seems to be working and just to let it all happen quite freely. It's a very refreshing place to work with, the owner is so enthusiastic and fully invested in each show, you can't ask for more than that.

Glimpse is on from the 29th March to the 23rd April at Golborne Gallery

Interview by Harriet Verney for Love magazine