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multiples

snowcase presents an exhibition of artists multiples. Here's a quick guide...

what's that then?

One approach for contemporary artists, designers and crafts people to making art that can be sellable and collectible is by producing the multiple.

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what is a multiple?

Multiples have been called the most accessible and reasonably priced contemporary art on the market, value for money and fun. They are usually a signed limited edition made specifically for selling. They could be multiples of a 2D print, 3D sculpture or installation piece. The multiple offers artists a way of selling work without compromising their artistic integrity and makes their work accessible to a wider market.

snowcase 2002

Multiples are united by their lack of uniqueness, usually regarded as a prerequisite in a work of art. Many are by artists who work solely with the concept of the multiple. The challenge to the artist is in finding ways of realising an idea that can be repeated time and again. Thus part of the creative challenge comes in researching new methods and sourcing new materials, leading to some unlikely collaborations between artist and fabricators.

history lesson:

multiples are not a new idea. Many artists in the 20th century tinkered with the concept. Spurred on by Marcel Duchamp's ready-mades, the multiple became a subversive art-form. Hand-made, limited edition books were around long before that - William Morris and Walter Crane were using mass production methods to take art to the masses true to their socialist ideals in the 19th century.
It was Josef Beuys (1921-1986) that really took the multiple idea further. Disillusioned by the approach to everyday objects manifested by Fluxus, Beuys wanted to reclaim the role of the object as art. He felt that as an artist he could channel energy from everyday objects and inbuke them with new powers and meaning. His political stance against the Vietnam war brought him to cult status in mainland Europe. His felt suit (left) was mass-produced for years.

In 1993, artists Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin took over a disused shop in London's East End and, with other artists friends including Damien Hirst, sold T-shirts, mugs and other customised items as works of art. This artist-led approach to selling art directly to the public not only re-popularised the artists multiple, but was a key moment in the subsequent Young British Artist era, culminating in the Saatchi collected "Sensation" exhibition.

Hmmm... taking an old shop and selling multiples... that all sounds a little familiar...

for more information on multiples, see the Arts Council of England's Multiplication exhibition, or the Hayvend multiples vending machines.

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