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500 signatures

Gathering 500 artist signatures to apply to an exhibition

Art ‧ Self-initiated ‧ 2015

The Salon de Montrouge is a call for young artists, where the jury selects 2% of the 3000 applications. To be selected, I gathered 500 actual signatures of other artists. This refers to a French law that requires presidential candidates to get 500 signatures of other elected officials. I gave the artists carte blanche (and an actual white card to sign on). I got selected and built a big frame to display their signatures, as a platform for their identity.

Pierre-Buttin_500-signaturesPierre-Buttin_500-signatures

CONTEXT AND CHALLENGE

For 60 years, the Salon de Montrouge is a group show for young French artists. Out of 3000 applications, 60 are selected. I had taken part in only one exhibition before and barely knew anyone in the art business. Make up for it with an application that stood out already worked once, so I decided to do something similar.

FINDING AN IDEA

I started by studying the social media accounts of members of the jury. Those curators and collectors knew a high number of French artists and they name-dropped a lot: “I had dinner with artist X yesterday” “Private studio visit of artist Y”. I assumed that if all those artists recommended me, this could be enough social proof to be selected.

I looked for social proof in other contexts, like the French presidential election: if someone wants to run for president, he needs to get 500 signatures of other elected officials — mostly city mayors and MPs. This rule, implemented to avoid far-fetched candidates, is known by most French people.

By analogy, gathering 500 artists’ signatures seemed a legitimate piece of art. Beyond social proofing, it felt both like a performance and an Arman-style accumulation. This would make up for my largely design-based portfolio. Also, some of the artists would probably tell the jury before I even sent my application — so it would stand out. To end with, the concept of a signature made sense in the art context: some artists sign their work and other don’t.

I also liked the collaborative side of it: my job as an artist would simply be to provide a platform to other artists. For this reason, I would send them all the same white card and no brief, so they were free to do whatever they liked, as long as they signed.

FINDING THE ARTISTS

I first set some criteria for the artist I’d reach out to. They should (1) have works in their portfolio that I liked, (2) be France-based: sending letters abroad would cost too much (3) have taken part in many art exhibitions (this excluded most musicians, filmmakers, designers and comic artists). I looked at thousands of artist websites — found through galleries, art directories and social media. I selected 1200 artists.

GATHERING DATA

I needed the artists’ post addresses (to send a letter explaining the project), their emails and phone numbers (to remind them to sign). Yet, artists often did not have their email on their website, and about a quarter had no website. Besides, most did not have their post address and phone number listed online. To get all the missing information, I used online directories  (mostly phone and business), or simply ran a whois on their websites.

The freshness of the data was low: many artists had moved from the address they registered their website or business at. I consequently had to cross check different data sources. In tricky cases, I guessed addresses based on accounts of art critique’s studio visit, public interviews and Google Street View investigations. The final data set was still flawed: 18% of letters got back to me with a “No longer at this address” note.

ASKING FOR SIGNATURES

To gather the signatures, I sent the artists a letter to explain my project, with a mock-up of how the final artwork would look (to establish trust) and my own signature (to foster reciprocity). I attached a blank card to sign on, and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

This direct marketing set-up felt too salesy so I hand-wrote addresses on all envelopes (images obstructed on purpose).

I would then send one or several emails to remind artists of the project. This was quite effective and led to insightful conversations and new friendships. I started with the most famous artists. Once a handful of big names had send me their signatures, the rest followed quickly. In 2 months, I had the 500 signatures. Moreover, five artists told me they had talked about my project to members of the jury.

RESULTS

I got selected. At the Salon, I displayed the signatures in alphabetical order so visitors could locate their favorites’ artist signatures (with the help of a list printed on an A4). The piece was mentioned in national media such as Télérama. Besides, I built a network in the art business and got invited to other exhibitions.

I built a custom 4 meters x 2 meters frame. To avoid theft, I sourced a nonstandard gigantic plexiglas panel (a much requested feature from the artists).

In collaboration with Martine Aballéa, Adel Abdessemed, Claude Abeille, Claire Adelfang, Olivier Agid, Hatem Akrout, Jean-Michel Alberola, Jean-Paul Albinet, Hervé All, Wilfrid Almendra, Marcel Alocco, Nicolas Alquin, Yuna Amand, Pierre Antoniucci, Philippe Apeloig, Pierre Ardouvin, Blaise Arnold, Art Orienté Objet, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Damien Aspe, Bernard Aubertin, Guillaume Aubry, Florent Audoye, Éric Aupol, Aurèle, Georges Autard, Sylvain Azam, François Azambourg, Fayçal Baghriche, Clément Bagot, Sarah Bahr, Clément Bailleux, Dominique Bailly, Bertille Bak, Roland Baladi, Fabienne Ballandras, Élisabeth Ballet, Delphine Balley, Gilles Balmet, Léa Barbazanges, Gilles Barbier, Virginie Barré, Vincent Barré, Cécile Bart, Véronique Barthe, Joël Bartoloméo, Michel Batlle, Éric Baudelaire, Cécile Beau, Pierre Belouin, Caroline Benech, Carole Benzaken, Berdaguer & Péjus, Mathieu Bernard-Reymond, Philippe Berry, Julien Berthier, David Bertram, Jean-Pierre Bertrand, Vincent Bioulès, Thierry Bisch, Julien Blaine, Dominique Blais, Michel Blazy, Sylvie Blocher, Cathryn Boch, Jean-François Boclé, David Boeno, Nicolas Boillot, François Boisrond, Olga Boldyreff, Christian Bonnefoi, Bernard Borgeaud, Aglaé Bory, Étienne Bossut, Bruno Boudjelal, Stéphane Bouelle, François Bouillon, Lilian Bourgeat, Marine Bourgeois, Marie Bourget, Rebecca Bournigault, Catherine Bouroche, Nathalie Boutté, Michel Bouvet, Emmanuel Bovet, Jean-Yves Brélivet, Benoît Broisat, Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion, Jean-Baptiste Bruant & Maria Spangaro, Nicolas Buffe, Pierre Buraglio, Daniel Buren, Damien Cadio, Stéphane Calais, Sophie Calle, Martin Camminiti, Antoine Carbonne, Patrice Carré, Jérôme Carrié, Christophe Cartier, Pierre-Laurent Cassière, Antoine Catala, Stéphane Cauvin, Philippe Cazal, Olivier Cazenove, Jean-Jacques Ceccarelli, Dominique Cerf, Olivier Chabanis, Carole Challeau, Fabien Chalon, Laurent Chambert, Claude Champy, Philippe Chancel, Nicolas Chardon, Étienne Charry, Max Charvolen, Pierre-Gilles Chaussonnet, Mathieu Cherkit, Miguel Chevalier, Denis Christophel, Clark & Pougnaud, Nicolas Clauss, Jacques Clauzel, Clédat & Petitpierre, Claude Closky, Jean-François Coadou, Philippe Cognée, Arnaud Cohen, Gérard Collin-Thiébaut, Pascal Colrat, Philippe Compagnon, Pierre Comte, Pascal Convert, Caroline Corbasson, Faustine Cornette de Saint-Cyr, Jean-Loup Cornilleau, John Cornu, Vincent Corpet, Jocelyn Cottencin, François-Xavier Courrèges, Yves Crenn, Thibaut Cuisset, François Curlet, Raphaël Dallaporta, Nicolas Darrot, Denis Darzacq, Jacqueline Dauriac, Jean Daviot, Étienne de Fleurieu, Charles de Meaux, Simon de Saint Martin, Jephan de Villiers, Alain Declercq, Marie-Noëlle Decoret, Marjolaine Dégremont, Anne Deguelle, Luc Delahaye, Hélène Deléan, François Delebecque, Anne Deleporte, Jéremie Delhome, Éric Delmare, Alain Delorme, John Deneuve, Mathilde Denize, Morgane Denzler, Daniel Depoutot, Martine Derain, Monique Deregibus, Damien Deroubaix, Gilbert Descossy, Thomas Devaux, Patrick Devreux, Hervé Di Rosa, Bruno Di Rosa, Pierre di Sciullo, Marcel Dinahet, Noël Dolla, Pacal Dombis, Philippe Droguet, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Amélie Dubois, Marie Ducaté, Thibaut Duchenne, Joël Ducorroy, Frédéric Dumond, Laurent Duthion, Sammy Engramer, Marc Étienne, Arno Fabre, Gérard Fabre, Fafi, Sylvie Fanchon, Philippe Fangeaux, Bernard Faucon, Roselyne Fauret, Pierre Fauret, Philippe Favier, Favret/Manez, Ivan Fayard, Erwan Fichou, Nicolas Floc’h, Éric Fonteneau, Fred Forest, Mara Fortunatovic, Nikolas Fouré, Gloria Friedmann, Nicolas Frize, Bernard Frize, Erwan Frotin, Monique Frydman, Dominique Fury, Bertrand Gadenne, Antonio Gallego, Jean-Baptiste Ganne, Quentin Garel, Florence Garrabé, Dominique Gauthier, Jean-François Gavoty, Anne Geoffroy, Jochen Gerner, Paul-Armand Gette, Dominique Ghesquière, Gilles Ghez, Delphine Gigoux-Martin, Elisabeth Gilbert-Dragic, Patrice Giorda, Michel Gondry, Jean-Paul Goude, Michel Gouéry, Charles Gouvernet, Speedy Graphito, Guy-Rachel Grataloup, Victor Gray, Anthony Gripon, Philippe Gronon, Elsa Guillaume, Jean-Claude Guillaumon, Marie-Ange Guilleminot, Klaus Guingand, Philippe Guionie, Gérard Guyomard, H5, Philippe Halaburda, Cyril Hatt, Raoul Hébréard, Michel Houssin, Joël Hubaut, Pierre-Alain Hubert, Philippe Hurteau, Carl Hurtin, Invader, Vivien Isnard, Christian Jaccard, Jef Aérosol, Guillaume Janot, Marine Joatton, Michel Jouët, Vincent Victor Jouffe, Véronique Joumard, Valérie Jouve, Jugnet + Clairet, Florence Jung, Joël Kermarrec, Yann Kersalé, Frédéric Khodja, Olga Kisseleva, Fred Kleinberg, Laurent Kropf, Lucas L’Hermitte, Pierre Labat, Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux, Jeanne Lacombe, Emmanuel Lagarrigue, Bertrand Lamarche, Florentine & Alexandre Lamarche-Ovize, Natalie Lamotte, Magali Latil, Matthieu Laurette, Bertrand Lavier, Yvan Le Bozec, Léa Le Bricomte, Emmanuel Le Cerf, Martin Le Chevallier, Gérard Le Cloarec, Jean Le Gac, Le Gentil Garçon, Loïc le Groumellec, Hervé Le Nost, Jean-Jacques Lebel, 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François Morellet, Alice Morlon, Frank Morzuch, Thierry Mouillé, Christophe Mourthé, Patrick Moya, Valérie Mréjen, Mrzyk & Moriceau, Frédéric Nakache, Julien Nédélec, Michel Nedjar, Eva Nielsen, Xavier Noiret-Thomé, Nøne Futbol Club, Olivier Nottellet, Kacem Noua, Prune Nourry, Melik Ohanian, Rajak Ohanian, Vincent Olinet, Matthias Olmeta, Orlan, Aurore Pallet, Gérald Panighi, Ludovic Paquelier, Jean-Luc Parant, Hervé Paraponaris, Cécile Paris, François Paris, Philippe Parrot-Lagarenne, Noël Pasquier, Marc Pataut, Bruno Peinado, Stéphane Pencréac'h, Laurent Perbos, Mathieu Pernot, Laurent Pernot, Philippe Perrin, François Perrodin, Antoine Perrot, Gérald Petit, Didier Petit, Françoise Pétrovitch, Pierre et Gilles, Bernard Piffaretti, Pascal Pinaud, Melissa Pinon, Cécile Pitois, Bertrand Planes, Justine Pluvinage, Éric Poitevin, Charles Posas, Éric Pougeau, Bernard Pourrière, Marion Poussier, Triny Prada, Bernard Pras, Julien Prévieux, Florian & Michael Quistrebert, Loïc Raguénès, Paul 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Terral, Laurent Terras, Richard Texier, Jean-Paul Thenot, Gérald Thupinier, Agnès Thurnauer, Tilt, Gérard Titus-Carmel, Laurent Tixador, Laure Tixier, Georges Tony Stoll, Patrick Tosani, Olivier Tourenc, Nicole Tran Ba Vang, Yves Trémorin, Solange Triger, Delphine Trouche, Morgane Tschiember, Ida Tursic & Wilfried Mille, Béatrice Utrilla, Arnaud Vasseux, Ben Vautier, Bernar Venet, Claude Viallat, Jacques Vieille, Jacques Villeglé, Virginie Yassef, Anaïs Ysebaert, Carmelo Zagari, Raphaël Zarka, Catherine Zask and Christian Zeimert.