Sunday 8 May 2022

Skater Owned and Artist-Run

Amongst skateboarders the term 'skater owned' has historically been important in defining the serious brands that are worth associating with. In order to stay 'core' it was considered valuable and important for skateboard related clothing brands, board manufacturers and even specialised skateshops, to be owned or operated by people who skateboard themselves.
The name skater-owned, and the associated claims of authenticity, bears some relationship to the term 'artist-run', which is most commonly found in the artist-run gallery or artist-run space. This adjective likewise purports whatever it's associated with to be trustworthy and legitimate, because it's supposedly born out of love instead of commercial interests.

When I decided to start my own gallery in 2019, I think this association was unconsciously on my mind. Not that I necessarily thought that other galleries were only in it for the money, so to speak, but I did notice that there was a deep chasm between those who make art and those who exhibit and sell it. I guess it seemed odd to me that between skateboarding and art, which both posses a large degree of freedom and room for individual approaches, the art market didn't seem to care about creating those close links between the professional practitioners and their customers.
What I didn't realise until very recently is that there is a marked difference between the customers of these two things. The principal customers of a skateboard brand are people who skateboard. As it is natural for a consumer to feel connected to the things one buys, it makes sense for these brands to advertise how similar their owners are to their customers. 
However, things are very different in art. The customers of galleries are not artists, but art collectors. Most art collectors have made their money outside art, and to them art is thus something to be passively enjoyed, not actively worked upon. In this sense, the buyers of art thus more readily identify themselves with the gallerist instead of the artist.
While the term 'skater-owned' is thus an affirmation of the values of those who consume skateboarding, 'artist-run' is much more like a refutation of the common values in the art market.