You don’t have to be a Medici to support and champion artists

After binging on art documentaries, artist Daniel Holfeld steps away from Netflix and looks to artists, exhibitions, Instagrams and hashtags to support and follow. 


I’ve been reliving my pre-lockdown memories, second-guessing if they were real or if those free and fanciful days were a figment of my imagination. One such memory was visiting the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea in early March, where I was celebrating the sale of some of my own work.

My moment of joy was somewhat derailed, however when an attendee of the fair joined our party and proudly admitted to commissioning imitations of some of his favourite, and let’s just say, eye-wateringly expensive works of art. 

As I lifted my jaw up off the floor, my heart sank at how at ease he felt revealing this at a fair, designed to support artists and encourage collectors to buy original work. Bashfully, he sensed the cool breeze blowing in his direction and frantically back peddled by rationalising his actions as a legitimate love of art. 

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Daniel Holfeld at his RIAI exhibition

Daniel Holfeld with his work at the RIAI 

Back in Dublin, I braced myself to enter lockdown. My Netflix binge kicked off by way of Medici The Magnificent, all three seasons. And aside from the battles and occasional romp, the show highlights the impact the Medici family had on the Renaissance and their profound love of art. This love was a defining value of their family’s ethos and led them to become patrons of the greats. 

Perhaps we are about to enter our own renaissance of sorts. New York Magazine’s senior art critic Jerry Saltz claims the old models of the art industry orbiting around a select few artist-giants are dead and gone; that in fact we have now gone back in time, circa 1991 when “really great art” was being made.

In a recent Talk Art podcast hosted by actor Russell Tovey and gallerist Robert Diament, Jerry continues to proclaim his conviction in this special moment in time as a renewel of artistic talent across the world, believing now is the time for powerful and critical art to emerge.  

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Closer to home, our own Minister for Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan has just announced €25 million in supports to help the arts and culture sector though the Covid-19 emergency, thanks in no small part to the National Campaign for the Arts.

Throughout lockdown, we have really seen how valuable arts and culture are to our lives, and how necessary they are, and will be, to help us interpret what we all have been through.  

So, at a time when every day presents a new context to use the word ‘unprecedented’, why not make your own contribution to arts and culture unprecedented? There are already many examples of interesting people doing interesting things, who you can support, even if you don’t have the deep pockets of the Medici’s.

The Positive Space

Enda Bowe

Photograph courtesy of the artist: Enda Bowe

Stylist Corina Gaffey and promoter Anthony Remedy have been inspired to use Dublin’s empty poster spaces as an exhibition platform for some of Ireland’s image makers. The exhibition, The Positive Space will see artists like Boo George, Naomi Gaffey, Dorje De Burgh and Enda Bowe occupy these empty spaces in a bid to breathe life into the city.

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Taking their work out of the confines of a gallery or magazine, the nine artists included will showcase their work from June 22-July 12 and you can support the exhibition costs through this GoFundMe page.

Khaled Morad

the guide Khaled Morad

Painting courtesy of the artist: Khaled Morad

As it goes, every action has an equal and opposite reaction and Egyptian artist Khaled Morad is the yin to Instagram’s yang. You won’t find him on the social media platform, instead his work is made widely available through his own website or via his Saatchi Art profile.

Steeped in Egyptian ritual, iconography and heritage, Khaled’s paintings invite you to imagine yourself in his world. A delicate and very elegant world, whereby he has used handmade papers to paint upon giving his work a tactile visual feel, even if you’re viewing them on your desktop. As we emerge from lockdown, Khaled’s The Guide, pictured above, offers us a faceless yet familiar shepherd to follow.

A Call to Art

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Jason Symes

Photograph courtesy of the artist: Jason Symes

As fashion houses and publications use their platforms to help carry their creative contributors through the uncertainty, Brown Thomas has responded with a call to both art and poetry with #BTACallToArt.

Luke Reidy

Screenprints courtesy of the artist: Luke Reidy

An invitation was sent out across social media for artists to submit a work of art or poetry that responds to the times, and the resulting work will be exhibited online and in store during the month of July.

Dee Walsh

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Painting courtesy of the artist: Dee Walsh

Submissions came in by the hundreds and will include works from Luke Reidy, Dee Walsh and Jason Symes amongst others. If you’re looking to find and follow Irish artists online, this hashtag is a great one to dip into.

Instagram escapism

Oisin Byrne Studio by Jasper Conran

Oisin’s studio, courtesy of Jasper Conran

Like most of us hungry for information and imagery from the outside world, Instagram has me glued to my phone willing a new reality into being. One account that has had my constant attention for the last year is that of British designer and all around visionary Jasper Conran.

His swoon-worthy glimpses into his Bridport house and garden, which he shares with his husband and Irish artist Oisin Byrne, leave even the most skeptical city slicker lusting after a life in the countryside. 

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Little did I know my wish to own a small piece of their heavenly retreat was soon to be granted when Oisin started painting the irises and tulips, which had come in to bloom during lockdown.

Quite poeticly Oisin succeeds in transforming the trauma of lockdown in to something very beautiful. Full of Oisin’s sense of whimsy, his paintings abstract from their original setting and offer a fresh take on the romantic still life genre. Oisin’s saturated tones immediately hold your attention as you delicately allow your eye to travel across the remaining tableaux, becoming lost in his medley of lines, shape and pattern.  

Protest Paint

Phoenix Rising Pigsy

Phoenix Rising by Pigsy

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One of the most startling things about this year has been the velocity at which bad news becomes eclipsed by more bad news. Phoenix Rising by Ciaran McCoy AKA Pigsy, was originally painted during the height of Covid-19, however it’s impossible to ignore its evolved resonance during the wave of protests taking place globally for Black Lives Matter.

Pigsy offers us a Basquiat-style response to the great leveling of old ideals. Using mixed media on canvas his paintings often take time to unravel, and rightly so, as they are loaded with symbolism. What may seem aggressive to one, are poignant and sensitive to me. 

His work is oftentimes semi-biographical and lean on his architectural sensibility when his composition allows for his messages to crescendo in an explosive centre point of focus. His paintings are brave in their abstraction and reductive use of language, a perspective I’m beginning to lean in to more and more, as sometimes one word is just enough. 

Photographic Fantasies

candy floss beach Nadia Attura

Candy Floss Beach, image courtesy of artist Nadia Attura

As global travelling seems to be paused for the foreseeable future, a dreamy wanderlust has sunk in for many of us. For that very reason Nadia Attura’s photographs from around the world offer us voyeuristic views of what life looks like through Nadia’s eyes. 

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At first glance her photographs seem like vintage negative scans or medium format sun drenched tableaux’s caught on punchy transparency film. It’s not until closer inspection you realise she has carefully painted or washed layers on to her photographs or enhanced them by introducing elements from other scenes she has caught earlier that day. 

CACTUS OASIS Nadia Attura

Cactus Oasis, image courtesy of artist Nadia Attura

In short, her work embodies everything the world needs right now, borderless travels and fantasies seen through an empathetic eye. 

Featured image: Candy Floss Beach, image courtesy of artist Nadia Attura


Read more: A new crowdfunded photography project is set to brighten up the shuttered streets of Dublin

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