Art collector Sarah Elson offers a new model for arts patronage through "Launch Pad"

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Art collector Sarah Elson offers a new model for arts patronage through "Launch Pad"
Sarah Elson. Photo: Raymond Lewis, 2014.

LONDON.- Launch Pad is a commissioning series that pioneers a new approach to supporting contemporary art, offering a unique platform to artists who have not yet exhibited in the UK.

Challenging existing models of public and private commissioning, contemporary art collector Sarah Elson is inviting up to three artists a year to produce site-specific installations within the space of her own home in West London, which she then opens for inaugural week-long ‘exhibition’ periods, to offer public access. The crucial next step is to introduce the artists to her own wide network of art world contacts – opinion-makers, collectors and curators – who can provide potential avenues to future commissions and exhibitions. This is the kind of vital support that artists need early in their careers and the key founding principle of Launch Pad.

The concept for Launch Pad arose when Elson, a trained art historian and consultant to private and corporate collections, identified a need to bring focus to her own somewhat impulsive collecting habits. She realised that what she found most satisfying about the consultancy process was working intensively with an artist to fulfill a brief “and what could be more fulfilling than working to one’s own brief?” she says.

The process involves a period of intense creative interaction between artist and collector, in which the artist is invited to live at Elson’s home, initially for a recce period and then during the installation of the new work. Elson has described how this approach creates a very personal way of engaging with both the art and the artist, which in turn grows into a collaborative working relationship.

"Launch Pad has surpassed my own expectations of what a collaboration could look like”, says Elson, “The more time I spend with the artists I've selected, the more the work and the working relationship develops in exciting ways."

The programme began in January 2014 with an installation of the work of German artist Suse Weber, who recalls how “the atmosphere in Sarah's house is one impossible to create in an institution... I was interested in this new kind of atmosphere to exhibit my work - one that did not ask for immediate business outcomes or goals. It created a form of having conversations about my work - productive talks and thinking processes where a kind of free speech was made possible.”

Launch Pad continues with The Mauve Decade this June, an exhibition of hand-woven and embellished sculptures and installations by San Francisco-based artist Josh Faught. The final commission of the year will take place in October to coincide with Frieze week, with a further commission following in January 2015 of work by The Old Boys Club – the artist formerly known as Katya Bonnenfant.

The Mauve Decade will be open to the public from 23 - 29 June 2014 by appointment between 12-6 pm daily. A conversation between Director of the Whitechapel Gallery Iwona Blazwick and Josh Faught will take place on Wednesday 25 June from 6:30 - 8:00 pm. Booking is essential.

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