Kate Bryan on the art world in action

Kate Bryan, Soho House Notes, May 4, 2020

Soho House’s Head of Collections shares all the ways you can support artists now.


Art has always provided light in times of darkness and, as Kate Bryan discovers, our global creative community is coming together like never before to foster new means of exchange, find new kinds of opportunities and give back to society in unique ways.


In the first days of lockdown, I was extremely encouraged by the rapid and inventive responses by artists to create ways to share and sell their work. Artists are at the zenith of the creative industries and the vast majority have no financial safety net, relying on every sale to keep their practice going. With exhibitions, residencies and open studios cancelled, the financial outlook was bleak. But what slowly became even more impressive as the days passed was the receptive and massive audience for artists on social media, not to mention the manner in which charitable initiatives took off.

One of the first enterprises to offer some hope was dreamt up by artist Matthew Burrows with #artistsupportpledge. The premise is to sell more for less and give back to the art community directly. An artist will post artwork they are happy to sell for £200 or less, excluding shipping. And once they reach £1,000 worth of sales, they pledge in an honour system to acquire artwork by another artist who has posted as part of the scheme. In its first month, more than £9m worth of sales were reported and the hashtag has gone global. 

Many artists have also introduced a charitable component. Nina Mae Fowler takes portrait commissions that cost £200 and gives £100 to food banks, already raising nearly £20,000. A beautifully simple project was devised by Tom Croft#portraitsfornhsheroes offers free portraits by artists to NHS workers. In less than two weeks, thousands of artists have been matched with an NHS worker to have their portrait painted as a mark of respect and thanks from the creative world. In a time when mental health charities are being stretched more than ever, established artist Rachel Howard has made her Black Dog edition available for £50, with all of the proceeds going to Samaritans UK.