Address: DOLPH, ASC Studios, 47c Streatham Hill, London SW2 4TS
Contact: Paul Cole, Tash Kahn
Open Hours: During show dates, Saturday & Sundays 11am-5pm or Monday – Friday by appointment
How is the project operated?
Non-profit and artist-run
How long has it been in existence?
Our first exhibition was in November 2014.
What was your motivation?
To open a contemporary art project in Streatham – an area of south London with no previous visual art provision. The aim was to engage both artists and the local community alike, and provide an intriguing challenge that would entice artists to Streatham. We felt the space and location offered a freedom to do something different without any commercial pressures.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project:
Natasha Kahn and Paul Cole
How are programs funded?
It is funded by the two directors, contributions by exhibition artists, and a donations bar and catalogue sales. We are applying for public and private funding.
Who is responsible for the programming?
The directors select the annual programme of artists. We have a brief that each artist then answers. How the artist does this is up to them. They set their own terms. They are their own curators.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We have around six exhibitions a year. They can each run for between 2-4 weeks.
What kind of events are usually organized?
We organise visual arts exhibitions with a talks programme to accompany each show.
How is your programming determined?
Our curatorial conceit is to choose the artists. After that, they curate themselves and we become their technicians. We select artists we find interesting and would like to work with, choosing a mix of both emerging and mid-career artists across all disciplines. Every year we try to split 50/50 male and female, and try to reflect the diverse community in which we live and work. This is not because we want to be politically correct, it’s born out of curiosity and a desire to know more.
Each artist answers our brief:
The artist’s objective is to frame an exhibition that contextualises the interests and concerns driving their practice.
Their task is to tell the story of what makes them tick. To share their inspirations and influences, and present them in an intriguing, cohesive exhibition. How the artist does this is up to them. They set their own terms. They are their own curators.
Their aim is to create an exhibition that is both revealing and challenging. To conceive a show that offers a rare insight into their creative process and affords the opportunity for greater understanding of their practice.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
We don’t ask for proposals or submissions, however, we are always interested to meet new artists so don’t discourage it.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
The artist doesn’t owe the viewer anything beyond the work itself, but the decisions they make (and fight with) along the way are interesting. And DOLPH is nosey. DOLPH asks for more. We want artists to reveal the blood, sweat and tears of their practice. To literally tell a visual story of what makes them tick. And we’re happy for DOLPH to be a provocation.
It is is also a chance for artists to experiment and an opportunity to play – away from any commercial constraints – and within a functional, slightly-rough- round- the-edges space, not unlike a studio. One artist said that the reason they were drawn to the project was because it gave them a license to try something different with the freedom to fail. And that’s what DOLPH is.
What’s working? What’s not working?
The brief is definitely working, it’s intriguing and is as broad as it is tight. What started out as an exhibition project evolved with each artist that took it on. It’s great when artists move in and treat it like a residency. The fact that they will come and make work here under these circumstances is very brave and incredibly generous, but equally – the residency format doesn’t suit everyone. I think the beauty of this project is that we never know how the next artist will respond. Each will answer the brief in their own inimitable way – each time it is different.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
Currently we are the only contemporary visual arts exhibition project in the area. We are working closely with local community groups, schools and art schools to develop DOLPH as a learning resource, and principal access point for contemporary visual art. We have, so far, provided work experience for UAL Fine art students, engaged with local history groups, participated in local festivals and installed an exhibition in a local church.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
In 2017 we will be working with 500 children at a local primary school. They will make an artwork answering a version of our brief. The whole school will become a gallery for their work and then we aim to install the finished pieces in shops along the high street.
We are also collaborating with a gallery in Germany, facilitating an exchange between two artists, one coming here and one going there; and also collaborating with a project in Cumbria to place an artist with them in order to research and answer our brief. We have an artist from NYC coming to London which is exciting. And we will also continue to work with UAL to provide placements for students to work alongside professional artists.