Jack Smurthwaite is a founding member of Advertising Exhibitions, a mutually beneficial initiative for aspiring creatives. We spoke to Jack ahead of AE’s exhibition Lines to find out more about the collective and venturing into the world of art promotion:
Tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to form Advertising Exhibitions?
As students, myself, Hannah James (marketing) and Elliot Draper (design) were not seeing the opportunities we wanted around us so we decided to create them. Advertising Exhibitions is not a business venture; it is a collaborative experience that seeks to give opportunities to those looking for experience in the cultural field. For me personally, it was great to start something from scratch, to say “I want to curate an exhibition” and buck every convention because I didn’t know the conventions to start with.
With your first exhibition Lines coming barely a year after the collective was founded, it seems you have achieved a lot in a short space of time. Have you experienced many challenges along the way and what keeps you motivated?
I don’t know if it is because we are all so determined and unwilling to let the small things diminish our outlook, but the last year has been worryingly painless. The initial online response from artists, designers and creatives to our unknown organisation was outstanding and I think this filled us all with confidence and gave us the momentum to carry on. Working with such an interesting and varied group of artists also means that no two days are the same.
Your debut exhibition features work from 30 artists. How did you discover them and what criteria do you look for when choosing new artists to work with?
All the artists responded to online open calls and from the nearly 1000 submissions, 100 works were chosen on the merit of revealing their inner workings through their final outcomes. The brief we gave ourselves was to get a selection of pieces that could be seen to start in the same place but finish in totally different artistic realms. To re-contextualise the exhibited pieces in this way, I think, makes Lines slightly different in terms of a group exhibition – it is not a themed exhibition in the usual sense because the works do not share one theme – it is an exhibition that will hopefully engage the viewer in creating their own links between the works.
Lines had an interesting selection process. How did you find your panel of industry experts and how did the judging process work?
The Selection Panel were great throughout the entire process – three students with no credentials [looking to curate an exhibition] ask you for a favour and what do you say? They said ‘yes’. Ben Street is a great Art Historian who does a lot for contemporary art in London. Lawrence Lek is a designer and I saw his work at the Design Museum in 2012. We definitely wanted panel members from different backgrounds. The selection process involved building bridges before we could cross them, developing survey websites and all sorts. It’s fantastic that everything has come together.
Any profits from this exhibition are to be donated to The Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts. Why did you choose to support this charity in particular?
We wanted to donate something to charity – after all, the entire operation is designed to benefit as many people as possible. The things that The Prince’s Foundation do are fantastic. For someone to not discover something they may potentially love is a great shame.
What’s next in store for Advertising Exhibitions?
One thing at a time! We definitely want to do another exhibition, working so closely with artists has been inspirational. First thing on my mind is…I have a degree to finish!
Lines can be seen at The Strand Gallery between 12th- 15th June.