In Conversation with Maribelle Bierens and Gianina Ivodie

Thursday 25th March, 2021

Co-founders of online gallery where's the frame? talk to Credit about their practice and what waits in store for them. Text by Jamie Johnson.

where's the frame?, as implied by their intentionally provocative name, do not wish to stick to the same formulas seen time and again in London's art ecosphere. The two co-founders of this online gallery, Maribelle Bierens and Gianina Ivodie, felt that there was a need to create a platform for the vanguard artistic styles of their creative friends at Central Saint Martins, as well as their peers of other arts schools. In their own words, "We were surprised how the 2D works seemed to have disappeared in most contemporary art galleries but were omnipresent at art schools. Hence, the question 'where’s the frame?'".

With the overall aim of connecting both new and seasoned collectors with these emerging artists, where's the frame? champions artists by untangling and contextualising their work through vital and energetic editorial content, alongside providing a platform for artists to share – and sell – their work.

To discuss their position as one of the most recently established galleries listed on Credit X, Maribelle and Gianina recently caught up with Credit to discuss where's the frame?, Credit X, and all manner of things in between.

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What is where's the frame?'s model as an arts entity? What differentiates you from others?

where’s the frame? is a young online gallery dedicated to a new generation of artists. What sets us apart is that we approach art in a very personal and grounded way. While offering an informative experience, we break away from an very academic focus on theory. Instead, we prioritise storytelling and artists themselves. We are a platform where artists can learn about each other’s practices, where people can discover the newest generation of artists and collect their works as well. So, in other words, we’re a one-stop URL to discover, learn about, and collect vanguard art.

What do you feel defines "emerging", in the context of the output you provide?

For us, "emerging" relates to the idea that an emerging artist has recently arrived on the art scene. They might still be in school, recently graduated or self-taught, but are relatively new to the field. It also has the connotation of being not yet acclaimed, or without blue-chip gallery representation or not having had exhibitions in major institutions, but that is honestly less relevant to us. We actually work with the term ‘vanguard’ instead of emerging because that’s more related to how the artists we work with are at the forefront of what’s happening right now in the arts.

How important is visibility for an emerging space, such as where's the frame? What are some of the methods you have adopted to increase visibility?

Visibility is of importance to everything we do. We want to be a platform that fosters a sense of community between artists, to communicate what a new generation of artists is doing right now, to connect these artists to a new generation of collectors. We can’t do any of those things without visibility. Instagram is very important for us to connect with people. We can reach a lot of people with a nicely branded Instagram campaign, haha. And hopefully people will find us on Credit X too.

How have you decided to make yourselves more accessible through an entirely virtual presence?

Widespread accessibility is one of the big advantages of operating online. The artworks we sell, interviews we conduct, and articles we write reach a lot of people around the world. That might have been different if we would be a more traditional brick and mortar kind of gallery which are primarily accessible to locals or tourists. But when it’s possible again, we’re going to do IRL pop-up exhibitions as well.

What do you see as being most important regarding the everyday running of WTF?: the local community, or the international community?

Hands down the local community, mainly being our London-based artist community. The artists we work with are always front and centre. Although we want to reach as many people as possible, it all starts with working with artists. But we have to say that it has been such an exciting experience to build an international community of international artists, readers and collectors as well.

Do you feel it’s important to challenge the current, predominant culture of the art market? If so, why? Does transparency play a part in this?

The art market is such a vast apparatus in which the most powerful players, the most established artists, gallerists, auction houses have a completely different culture to ours, a small online gallery that is just starting out focusing on a new generation of artists.

The thing is, the upper crust of the market is highly, highly competitive, highly, highly impenetrable and highly, highly exclusive. We don’t necessarily feel the need to challenge other ways of navigating this complex system. We’re creating our own niche by approaching art in an unpretentious way, focusing on artists at the beginning of their career, and connecting them to a new generation of art collectors.

What impact has the current COVID-19 pandemic had on establishing – and then maintaining – WTF?, both short- and long-term?

Initially, we wanted to start a magazine and do IRL pop up exhibitions, but because of the outbreak, we started to build an online gallery-magazine hybrid instead. Because of COVID, the stakes have been even higher and made us more dedicated to creating new avenues and opportunities in the arts.

Our daily operations happen online, our pitches, meetings, check-ins, writings, studio visits. For the collection Lick The Future, we closely worked with the artists for months, and the first time we would see them online is when we picked up the artworks when they were sold.

What the long-term impact is going to be for us is really hard to say. We will stick to mainly operating online because we have found that it’s a great way to reach many people. As said before, it has been great reaching people all over the world with our platform. But it would be great to organise irl events, exhibitions, get-togethers or whatever it may be, when it’s possible again.

In one sentence, how do you see the emerging art market changing in the future?

We expect that a new influx of art millennial and Gen Z art collectors who want a different attitude to art, such as demanding transparency and an ethical approach to art, will change the industry for the better.

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Maribelle Bierens received her BA in Art History from the University of Amsterdam, followed by her MRes in Exhibition Studies from Central Saint Martins. She has worked in commercial and non-profit galleries all over Europe and in New York.

Gianina Ivodie graduated from Central Saint Martins with an MRes in Art: Exhibition Studies where she was a recipient of the Trask scholarship for academic merit. Before where’s the frame?*, she has worked in numerous design and publishing firms in Jakarta and London.

Discover more about where's the frame? through their website, Instagram and through Credit X.*