On 3 July 1998, there was a sense of anticipation in the Cardiff artscene: a new artist-run space was being launched. The inaugural exhibition preview was packed with artists, students and suits, curious about the new project; it was met with both a sense of expectation as well as the doom-laden predictions of a short lifespan. Fortunately g39 is still here, quietly but determinedly delivering a programme, providing a meeting place for artists and a focus for graduates. To celebrate g39 is marking its ten-year anniversary with a commemorative programme of events, starting with If You Build It, They Will Come an attempt to present the works of each and every artist g39 has worked with in the past decade.
g39 has survived ten years in Cardiff while larger spaces have come and gone. It has partly been flexibility and a responsive attitude that has lent the project its longevity. Though the physical space is small the size of a three-storey townhouse its catchment is far larger, encompassing networks of artists, groups and galleries that the space is actively involved in. It is clear that our attention to this network, and a commitment to working with artists to present pioneering work in a clear and accessible manner, that has generated and sustained support from visitors and artists alike. This ongoing success confirms that g39 is functioning as it was envisaged and that it is crucial that we continue to play an influential role in the visual arts in Wales and the UK. By virtue of surviving this long the space may have become part of the establishment, but its history of adaptability keeps the threat of bureaucracy, and the stagnation that comes with it, at bay.
If You Build It, They Will Come demonstrates the extent to which g39 has supported artists as well as the wealth of talent that has grown from g39's activities a retrospective of sorts. Every artist that has worked with the space has been invited to produce a single work for exhibition and eventual publication. The show is a demonstration of the links between artists, official or unofficial, forged at g39 or made subsequently. We know these exist, whether they are swiped at as nepotism or viewed as a collective zeitgeist or artscene, but it is these relationships that maintain a flow of ideas and theory, dialogues and interconnections. For the rest of its tenth year g39 will host a series of symposia that look at the promises artist led activity seemed to offer, at different ways of working and at the role(s) this activity can assume. It is the first step in a year-long review; an open evaluation of the last decade and a period of planning for the next.
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