Nightclub Art?

Lunar Work by the Rowland Augur Team

I’d heard of Lunar, the new concept nightclub in downtown Cincinnati and rumors of its link to the local arts. Though I expected little chance I would visit. Not because I’m a “snob,” but because I stopped “clubbing” years ago. Though when Kim Sheridan contacted me about seeing the space and meeting with local artist Andrew VanSickle, I jumped at the chance. My visit was in the middle of the day, well before the crowd and Lunar’s “Experience Box” lighting.

First, all nightclubs look the same during the day…like they need darkness. Lunar is no different. But the natural lighting was the best way to see the artwork.

I was interested in seeing Point of Ascension with works by Evan Hildebrandt and The Rowland Augur Team. I was familiar with their work and recognized immediately how it would enhance Lunar even before I visited the club.

I first saw Evan’s work about a year ago when I visited Bromwell’s, where he is the resident artist. His enormous mixed media painted sculptures of the moon, earth, and other celestial forms fit beautifully and conceptually in Lunar. Similarly, the collaborations created by the Rowland Augur Team are a good fit. I imagine their composites of metalwork and photography provide a added stylized design to the darkness of the night club scene.

Though the visual and textual detail of the works of these artists risk being lost in a blur of lighting effects. Andrew VanSickle described a situation during Lunar event when a prospective buyer would see the works and swoop one or more up by the end of the evening. (one of VanSickle’s smaller pieces was stolen from the club the night before I visited). However, like VanSickle’s Lunar Ink Blots, the work of Rowland Augur’s Lunar, Under The Surface Of Life, and Evan Hildebrandt’s Point of View series are intended as design elements to merely enhance the experience.

Seeing these works in natural lighting lead to a discussion with the artists about the Angels at the Taft Museum of Art. The classic questions of origin, spirituality, nature, as well as light and multimedia and textural compositions found in their work evoke similar mysteries and and elements found during the Middle Ages. I think we were all surprised by how this conversation developed, but I was excited to have encouraged the Rowland Augur Team to visit the Taft as soon as possible. A nightclub is hardly a venue that would suggest this discussion. I’m almost sure Lunar at night would not, but that’s what happened that afternoon.

Soon after taking a break from teaching in order to spend time in the local art community, I was surprised (puzzled, really) with the number of coffee shops featuring local artists on their walls. I enjoyed seeing the work in local establishments, but troubled to think artists may have been used as a branding tool for coffee shops and the like. Hanging and selling works by local artists brands you as local. I wasn’t sure how many works really sold or if the business owner took a bit off the top. But what seemed clear was the little opportunity for the average customer to know much about the artworks or the artists. Though the space is perfect, I saw no organized openings, artists talks, and almost no reviews of the artwork hanging in coffee shops.

When Wendy Smith opened Red Tree Gallery and Coffee Shop in Oakley, I grew less suspicious. As an artist, Smith’s commitment is to the artists in and around Cincinnati. The coffee and other menu items simply afford her (all of us!) the opportunity to recognize artists during monthly gallery openings.

As it happens, I first noticed the work of Collin Rowland (of the Rowland Augur Team) at Windmill Coffee in Florence, KY.

Can Lunar be the beginning of a new night life space for art? I asked VanSickle how anyone could learn more about the work of the artists showing in the club. He said the staff can provide information if requested. I do see a possibility for Lunar to adopt some traditional gallery programming that focuses on the art and artists. Though I think the best way to see what these artists are doing and fully engaging in their work requires gallery time and space.

As an artist, VanSickle may agree with me. But as a club promoter and not the owner of Lunar, he may not have the flexibility to lead an evolution of nightclub life to art venue or vice versa.

But perhaps, as with the opening of Red Tree Gallery, I may grow less suspicious. Though this may have to depend on an art critic who frequents the club scene.

I’ll stick to the museums, galleries, and coffee shops and hope to see the work of these artists again soon.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Nightclub Art?”

  1. visualingual says:

    I find these venues to be an exciting alternative to commercial galleries and other spaces. I’m sure it doesn’t always work to provide artists with more than just the nebulous benefit of “exposure,” but it’s an interesting model, and it’s great to see these places pick up some of the exhibit slack locally.

    I am sometimes skeptical, though, of how these exhibition opportunities are structured. A venue taking commission? Okay, sure. But an exhibition schedule with monthly group exhibits featuring many, many artists, each of whom paid a non-refundable submission fee, with a commission if the work actually sells? If I start to put together the projected numbers, that starts to seem like using artists to pay rent on a commercial space. That’s when I wonder if the intent is necessarily to sell the work, or just to promote the calls enough to ensure many submissions.

  2. kathy says:

    Your concern is one of the reasons I stopped posting artist calls. Seems like there are too many of them that bleed the artist for income.

    I’m not sure that’s the case with Lunar. In fact, I think all of the art were commissioned for this space. I just don’t see the nightclub as a good space for viewing art or really selling it.

    • Kim Sheridan says:

      Kathy! Glad you enjoyed the show – it actually can be a great outlet for artists – when Van Sickle was the Art Director for club Clau in the early 2000s they sold several of Paul Lewis’ works directly off the walls including a celebrity who bought his own self-portrait – incidentally the artist was little-known prior to hanging his pieces at the club…

  3. visualingual says:

    From everything I’ve heard and seen [having never been inside], Lunar seems to have a particular POV when it comes to the work, which would hopefully attract like-minded potential buyers.

    I do have to point out one thing — the sterility and “perfect” lighting found in your average gallery is usually not the way art is lived with in the home. That’s one reason why I enjoy viewing work for sale in different kind of spaces, especially among other kinds of objects. It seems more true to the experience of living with something. So, in the case of the work at Lunar, maybe the space and the lighting are an accurate reflection of the buyers’ homes and lifestyles?

    That wasn’t an insinuation aimed at Lunar, but the call-for-artists-machine is something I’ve noticed at other venues here and elsewhere. We participated in one of these schemes locally, which gave us some insights into what seems to make the process viable, and we’ll never participate again.

Leave a Reply

What is 3 + 2 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)