Cure Cubed 2020: TNG talks to Artwise, Bonhams & The Cure Parkinson’s Trust
In September, The Net Gallery had the honour to scan the Cure3 (Cure Cubed) 2020 exhibition at Bonhams on New Bond Street, London. Established in 2017, Cure3 is an acclaimed contemporary art fundraising exhibition curated by Artwise, in partnership with Bonhams, to raise awareness and funds for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust.
With Cure3 2020 marking the initiative’s third edition, the underlying concept remained the same: each artist was given a bespoke Perspex cube measuring just 20cm3 as a compact space to interact with in any way, to create original artworks on or within. Over 90 artists participated this year, including renowned visual artists – such as Ron Arad, Anish Kapoor and Chantal Joffe – as well as leading names from the world of fashion.
The success of the 2020 exhibition and sale means this incredible initiative has now raised over £1m, with the funds directly supporting the work of The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, a UK-based charity whose major goal is to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease.
To learn more about Cure3, The Net Gallery spoke to Laura Culpan and Susie Allen form Artwise, the curators behind the project, as well as Helen Matthews – Deputy CEO of The Cure Parkinson’s Trust – and Harvey Cammell, Global Director of Valuations, Trusts & Estates at Bonhams.
Frank Bowling RA – ‘My Cup Runneth Over’, 2020. Acrylic on Perspex. 20x20x20cm. Image by Dan Fontanelli.
Laura Culpan & Susie Allen – Directors, Artwise
The Net Gallery: How did Artwise first get involved in organising a fundraising project in support of The Cure Parkinson’s Trust (CPT)?
Artwise: We were approached originally (via a mutual contact) by Bonhams and the late Tom Isaacs from CPT and asked to manage a fundraising art auction they were hoping to host at Bonhams for CPT. We already had a solid reputation for working with charities on fundraising art projects, but we knew from the outset that this was an opportunity to create a new format of a project that would be more appealing to the artists (who generally don’t like auctions) and be more creative curatorially for us. CPT and Bonhams were open to our ideas!
TNG: The concept for Cure3 was inspired by Tom Isaacs’ description of living with Parkinson’s as feeling like being ‘boxed in’. How did you develop on that to come up with the idea for the perspex cubes, and did you work through different potential materials and sizes before selecting the final style of cube?
Artwise: Before founding Artwise in 1996, Susie Allen worked at the Royal College of Art, when there she established the ’Secret Postcard’ project that still runs today and has raised millions for the student hardship fund. The idea behind the postcard project is that the format and scale of the postcard is consistent, the artists remain anonymous and the prices are the same for all the works. It was, and still is, a fantastic concept that has been used as inspiration and copied many times over!
We wanted to come back to the format of small, consistent, accessible and collectable. Inspired by Tom and his description of living with PD we then came up with the idea of providing artists with this small ‘blank space’ rather than a small ‘blank canvas’. We did work through many ideas of materials and sizes before settling on Perspex as the main material, but the cubes are flexible with a ‘base’ panel that can be used as a 2-D wall hanging surface too. Since then, some of the artists have noted and commented on the scale being ‘human head size’ and noting the relevance to the cause as a neurological condition.
TNG: Have you found that artists enjoy the challenge of creating work to sit inside the cubes, particularly if the scale diverges from their wider practice?
Artwise: Yes, we have found the artists have enjoyed it and many have contributed more than once, but challenge is the appropriate word to use as I think many of the artists who are used to the two dimensional plane find the third dimension extremely challenging! We have had a number of artists then go on to create a series of works incorporating cubes and we have had painters such as Peter Doig, Chantal Joffe and Hurvin Anderson present three dimensional works for the very first time. We like the idea that the commission can be the catalyst to experimentation and ideas that the artists continue to explore through their practice.
TNG: What feedback have you had from artists about why it’s important for them to support CPT?
Artwise: Many of them have personal connections with loved ones who have been afflicted with this very cruel condition and they understand first-hand how important the medical research is. Artists are exceedingly generous to donate their time and work to charities and they are asked to do this constantly. As curators and instigators of fundraising art projects, it is our job to make sure the exhibition is of the highest quality and the artists’ works are presented professionally. We work hard to ensure we get good images of the works – also capturing the work ‘in the round’ and this year we also did a number of artist interviews to increase the communication around the art and the project, along with a published catalogue to accompany the event.
Ron Arad RA – ‘W.E.T (Without Even Trying)’, 2020. Perspex Cube, spray paint cans. 20x20x20cm. Image by Dan Fotanelli.
Helen Matthews – Deputy CEO of The Cure Parkinson’s Trust
The Net Gallery: The Cure3 initiative has been running for a number of years now and has raised a significant amount. How does the trust benefit from the project, both from a funding perspective, but also in terms of having a roster of high profile artists offer their time and support?
Helen Matthews: The total raised from Cure3 since its inception in 2017 has now, incredibly, surpassed over £1 million. These funds are used to power research into an urgently needed cure for Parkinson’s. We have been astounded by the generosity of artists and supporters each edition, though it has been particularly humbling this year to have so many artists dedicate their time and work in these uncertain times. The money raised this year has meant so much, and thanks to their support we are able to raise greater awareness of Parkinson’s and our mission to find a cure.
TNG: Cure3 represents an example of art and science coming together, with purpose. Are initiatives such as this helpful in terms of providing different perspectives, offering people different ways of thinking about Parkinson’s and removing barriers to communication and understanding?
HM: The original concept of Cure3, the artwork being based in or around a clear Perspex cube, was borne from The Cure Parkinson’s Trust’s late President and Co-founder Tom Isaacs’ description of living with Parkinson’s as at times feeling as though you are ‘boxed in.’
To have artists of such international standing support the event is invaluable in raising awareness of Parkinson’s and the urgent need for a cure. A number of contributing artists also have a connection to Parkinson’s, whether it’s a family member, friend or loved one living with the condition, and were able to talk about the condition from experience.
TNG: How far advanced is the research and understanding surrounding Parkinson’s today, compared to when the charity was founded in 2005?
HM: In 2005, most Parkinson’s research was focussed on symptom management; there was little discussion of a cure. The Cure Parkinson’s Trust was founded to change that, and has contributed to changing the course of Parkinson’s research; between January 2019 and January 2020, there were 57 active clinical trials ongoing that aimed to slow, stop or reverse Parkinson’s. It has been shown that 35% of disease modifying trials involve agents that have been evaluated by The Cure Parkinson’s Trust’s International Linked Clinical Trials programme (an initiative focused on repurposing drugs that are already in use for other conditions to treat Parkinson’s), and more than 10% of all the disease modifying trials conducted worldwide are being funded by CPT.
Charlotte Colbert – ‘Atomic Marshmallow’, 2019. Perspex cube, ceramic with pink flock. 20x20x20cm.
Harvey Cammell – Global Director of Valuations, Trusts & Estates, Bonhams
The Net Gallery: Why is it important for Bonhams to support initiatives like Cure3?
Harvey Cammell: Supporting a phenomenal charitable fund-raising initiative such as Cure3 is of fundamental importance to Bonhams: bringing art, commerce and charity together to raise significant funds for a small but dynamic charity like CPT. For the Bonhams team, there is a real sense of pride having been involved in such a successful philanthropic endeavour.
TNG: Given that art can provide original and unique perspectives, do you see these kinds of artistic response to important causes as being beneficial in the way they can illuminate complex or difficult issues?
HC: Cure3 is the perfect demonstration of how artists can illuminate, challenge, amaze and shock the viewer to think about issues in a different way. Via its owner, the artwork continues to prompt and stimulate a wider audience to consider the issues behind its creation.
Chantal Joffe RA – ‘Self-portrait (wax head)’, 2020. Perspex cube, wax. 20x20x20cm. Image by Dan Fotanelli.