Creative Crowdfunding: An Exhibition

Vincent Ward
Falling I: Apprehension (2012) Mixed media on canvas
Born in a Caul (2011) Photograph
Vincent Ward tells us about turning to his fans, and famous friends, to take his exhibition Auckland Station: Destinies Lost and Found to the Shanghai Biennale.

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As well-known filmmaker Vincent Ward has focused on his art career in recent years, he’s also been faced with the reality of funding it.

Ward tells us about turning to his fans, and famous friends, to take his exhibition Auckland Station: Destinies Lost and Found to the Shanghai Biennale.

He is one of only three artists to be offered a solo pavilion show at Shanghai Biennale in China, and the first New Zealand artist to be invited to show there.

What are you crowdfunding for?

That makes me think of lots and lots of people in a tiny room. My campaign is to complete the artwork and bring my work to the heart of Shanghai at the 2012 Biennale. I’m told over 800,000 people will attend, so it’s a pretty big deal!

How much research, strategic thinking, and time went into the campaign?

It took a couple of weeks to work out a campaign strategy and what kind of rewards we wanted to offer. When Robin Williams decided to come on board it took us another month to work through the paperwork – American lawyers! (though they were incredibly helpful just careful).

Why did you crowd fund instead of using other sources?

Because there are very few other sources for funding in New Zealand and at the time funding from Creative New Zealand wasn’t available to us, but it’s been really eye-opening to learn about these new ways to get work made.

Was it part of a wider marketing and business strategy?

Yes, I’m known as a filmmaker so over the last two years I’ve put a lot of energy into my art career and building a profile as an artist. Kickstarter is a great platform to let people know about the work I’m doing.

Why did you use the Kickstarter platform? What were the pros and cons of it?

I’ve worked and lived in the US for some time so I have a lot of contacts there. Also when Robin Williams, who I’d directed on What Dreams May Come, said he’d take part, that gave us another reason to appeal to the US market. Having said that, it’s the people who know you and believe in your work who will always back you, so it’s critical to appeal to your audience at home too.

What ‘rewards’ did you offer? Which were the most popular?

Postcards, posters, artwork, DVDs of my films, books, invitations to the Biennale and a dinner with me (don’t know if that’s a reward or a punishment). So far a small limited edition print of one of the artworks (worth above $99) has been most popular, followed by a Shanghai Biennale exhibition poster plus DVD (over $49) then the film lover’s package (above $199).

How long did it take to set up and manage the campaign? Was it cost effective?

The campaign is ongoing – there are four days to go so we are absolutely down to the wire at the moment. There have been plenty of costs but if we make it, it will have all been worth it.

What channels, online and offline, did you use to engage with your fans during the campaign?

Email, Facebook, a little bit of Twitter, newspaper articles and an item on TV3’s Nightline.

What have you discovered are the pros and cons of crowdfunding?

It’s been a great excuse to connect with old friends and acquaintances. I’ve been really heartened that people all over the world, some who I haven't seen for 20 years, have wanted to come aboard. We thought the average pledge would be $10 or $20 but in fact we have had lots of pledges over $100 and even several over $500 from people I don’t know. I can imagine crowdfunding would be much easier if my Facebook and Twitter accounts were a bit more active than they are, still I’ve been forced to find my way around that sort of stuff.

What feedback have you received?

People have been really excited about the images and that a New Zealander has been invited to the Shanghai Biennale for the first time to present works on such a large scale.

Would you do it again? What would you change?

It depends if we reach our target! I would probably make sure my social media presence was bigger.

Any tips for others wanting to try crowdfunding?

Prepare in detail who you think you can reach or might be interested well in advance. Offer good stuff. Have lots of friends. Be really good-looking (God, I don’t know if I’m gonna make it).

Now pitch your project and why we should support it?

I’m the first New Zealander to be invited to the Shanghai Biennale, and one of the few artists who’s been offered a solo show in the Biennale. My work fuses paint, motion and film, which is a unique concept that I’ve been developing for some time. After investing a great deal of my own funds into creating the artwork, I’m now asking for help to complete and install it at Shanghai. 

What’s your big idea for 2013?

I have exhibitions planned elsewhere in China and I’d love to show my work in other parts of the world.

* * * The Big Idea 10th Birthday Questions * * *

What does The Big Idea mean to you?

You guys have been around for ten years? How do you get funding?! But seriously, The Big Idea is a great platform for artists to connect.

What changes have you noticed in film and art in the past 10 years?

There’s a meeting ground forming between art and film that could be very exciting, and an openness to find new ways of conveying ideas and for people to discover those ideas.

What are some of the opportunities and challenges for the next decade?

In theory new digital media means it’s easier for people to become filmmakers or artists, but because of that it’s harder to break through and reach a wide audience. I really admire the artists and filmmakers who are endeavouring to create great work. For me, I have a couple more films on the back-burner that I want to make, some stories I want to explore and of course continue making art that I hope reaches people in some way. 

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

14 Aug 2012

The Big Idea Editor

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