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fig-2: a new art exhibition every week for 2015

fig-2: a new art exhibition every week for 2015

Interview with Nicholas Wroe for Guardian

Cast your mind back to the London art scene in early 2000. There was no Tate Modern and no Frieze art fair. But, difficult as it might be to imagine, despite these absences there was plenty of art. Mark Francis, now of Gagosian gallery, was then an independent curator who had been working abroad. He returned to London just before the millennium, “primarily because everyone was saying there was so much going on”.

But when he arrived he found that much of the new activity was not readily available to see. “The museums were doing their four or five shows a year. And I understood the practical reasons why they couldn’t do more. But the point was that more than four or five things were happening – that was the excitement of being in London. So I asked myself how could you make, say, 50 things happen in a year?”

The answer he came up with was, he says, “a series of exhibitions and events in a small space in the centre of the city, each lasting a week. Not accountable to any institution or to commercial pressures. Free of sales, storage, shipping, dinners, mailings, not for profit, no bureaucracy or infrastructure. Experimental, energetic, epic.”

He wrote a list of requirements on the back of an envelope: a space, two assistants, and a small budget for materials or equipment for each show – and soon realised that when “you can’t do any of the things associated with big shows, suddenly the system sort of falls away leaving the artist, and the curator, free to experiment”.

The modest finances were raised, mostly from Bloomberg, and fig-1, as the project became known, began in January 2000 with a work in progress by Richard Hamilton, who promised to return for the last week of the series in December with the finished piece. “So that was two shows in the bag, and we were rolling,” says Francis.