apexart :: small space big ideas

Mission and History:

apexart is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit contemporary visual arts organization located in Lower Manhattan. Through our exhibitions, international residency programs, publications, and events, we are committed to cultural and intellectual diversity and aim to stimulate public dialogue about contemporary art. We are interested in employing democratic processes within the art world and involving our audience in the decision-making process to ensure that our activities reflect the interests of our viewers. Over the years we have worked with more than 1,500 artists, from emerging to established and from all over the globe, have organized over 170 exhibitions, and hosted more than 110 residents from diverse fields. We have produced four books on timely subjects in the arts such as the changing role of independent curators, the varying missions of alternative spaces, and the nomadic lifestyles within the contemporary art world; and we print brochures for each exhibition that includes an essay by the curator and images of the pieces in the show. Each season we distribute 70,000 full-color interpretive exhibition brochures to individuals and institutions in 110 countries. In addition, our web-based audience consists of over 10,000 unique visitors monthly from more than 100 nations. This widespread distribution and outreach of our programs is vital to apexart's ability to develop new audiences and to bring new voices and critical perspectives to New York.

Founded in 1994, apexart's original mission was to facilitate independent curators – a new employment at that time – by giving them a space in which to experiment. To avoid functioning as a promotional gallery space, all organized shows had to be idea-based and include the work of at least three artists. Over the years, as independent curators flourished and became staples of the art world, apexart shifted its focus to providing curatorial opportunities to individuals from any background, encouraging creative ideas from fields outside of the visual arts. To that end, in 1998 apexart developed the Unsolicited Proposal Program (UPP), an open call that accepts proposals for group exhibitions from anyone in the world of any background. Still in place today, the UPP receives hundreds of proposals each year, which are read by a jury of 200 international arts professionals who vote online and determine the three winning proposals, which then become part of the apexart exhibitions season.

As the art world found new inspiration in business practices, apexart began to play with the idea of museum franchises by starting The Franchise Program (FP). The FP is an open call with the same guidelines as the UPP, but the resulting exhibitions are mounted in locations around the world outside of New York City, where the curator has proposed the show take place. This results in projects that are deeply integrated with the local cultures, traditions, economies, and people of the areas where the shows are presented, and winning exhibitions have taken place in Bangkok, Thailand; Stockholm, Sweden; Amman, Jordan; Mexico City, Mexico; Lima, Peru; Johannesburg, South Africa; Kampala, Uganda; Memphis, Tennessee; Marfa, Texas; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and Ramallah, Palestine. Once again, the three winning exhibitions are selected by our audience in accordance with our goal to facilitate exhibitions on subjects of interest to our viewers.

The apexart International Residency Program began in 1997 as a more traditional studio-based program. Over the years, the program evolved into an educational and cultural-immersion model, designed to address issues of production and inspiration. Residents are selected through a recommendation process in which individuals rooted in creative communities around the world are asked to recommend a resident whom they think would benefit from a non-production-based, non-promotional, exploratory program in New York. Recommenders are asked to consider individuals who have not received as much opportunity as they might deserve, have not traveled extensively, and who would take advantage of the opportunity to gain experience outside of their chosen field of interest. Residents must be at least 30 years old and can never have been to New York before, which indicates to apexart that they have made the commitment to being a professional artist while not yet receiving an exhibition or residency that might have taken them to New York in the past. Once in New York, residents are asked to refrain from working on professional projects and instead follow a custom-made 30-day schedule that includes events, lectures, classes, workshops, visits to little-known cultural institutions, and meetings with individuals in various fields throughout the city. Residents are not given a studio and there is no exhibition of their works at the end of the residency. The program is an opportunity to take a break from the pressures of production and instead focus on learning through doing: exploring a new culture, city, and people and exposing them to as many new ideas as possible with the hope that a new spark of inspiration will hit that they may later incorporate into their work. In keeping with its focus on international experiences, apexart developed a mirror Outbound Residency that sends New-York-based art professionals to locations around the world for similar programs, including residencies in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Athens, Greece; Kellerberrin, Australia; Bangkok, Thailand; Sao Paolo, Brazil; and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

apexart is also committed to developing public programs that are free and open to our community. Three events are organized in conjunction with each exhibition. These events are designed to address subjects related to the show and include lectures, screenings, panel discussions, workshops, and more. apexart also organizes a reading series each season, working with author and editor Albert Mobilio, in which writers are paired together and asked to write original short pieces on a shared experience. Readings are held at least four times a year and are free and open to the public.

We have been privileged to work with such well-known individuals as Vito Acconci, Martha Rosler, Dave Hickey, John Baldessari, Hou Hanru, Ute Meta Bauer, David Byrne, Janine Antoni, Kerry James Marshall, and Jean-Hubert Martin as well as other known and lesser known individuals from around the world.