Online arts project 'The Space' relaunches on mission to find 'the Picasso of the digital age'


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The Independent Culture

After a rocky start, The Space, an online digital arts project, has called in big names from the art world to help reboot, with a mission to find the “Picassos and Eisensteins” of the digital age.

The site, set up by Arts Council England and the BBC to commission and showcase digital art, relaunched at Tate Modern this morning with support from artists including David Hockney, Ai Weiwei and Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller.

The pilot project originally launched in 2012, yet struggled with just 1.5 million views online.  An independent report commissioned by the Arts Council found public awareness of The Space “was low”.

Alex Graham, chairmen of The Space, said the re-launched site was “fundamentally different” from the 2012 project and will now focus on commissioning work and unearthing new artistic talent. “That was a learning curve for everyone involved,” he said. “Quite a lot didn’t work, but quite a lot did.”

“It was only intended to be a beta project. We felt that if it was to be something meaningful it would have to be set up in a different way.” He said the initial project had been “risk-averse”.

The new team running the project have set a target of attracting 10 million visitors to the site, which will put work by establish artists alongside new digital art talent from around the world. There will be about 50 new commissions a year.

Ruth MacKenzie, former director of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, is the site’s launch director.

“This is just the beginning,” Ms MacKenzie said ahead of the opening weekend event which brings 144 artists to Tate Modern to create digital art.

“You may come and see history and see an invention of an entirely new art form. We’re looking for the new Picassos and the Eisensteins,” she said. “We are looking for the great digital artists of the future.”

There will be open calls for submissions, and successful applicants will be commissioned to make digital art, with funding potentially reaching £60,000.

The project also received support from technology grandee Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who said: “Artists wake us up to all that happens in the world.”