The Svane Family Foundation Has a Solution for Artists Hit Hard by the Pandemic: Give Them Money

At the peak of the pandemic in June 2020, nearly every artist was facing devastating cancelations and many became fully unemployed. In response to that, Mikkel Svane, the Bay Area-based CEO of Zendesk and a prolific collector of local artists, directed his recently formed foundation to act.

Svane, working with gallerists, curators, and artists, conceived of Ark, a nontraditional commission of $10,000 in unrestricted funds awarded to 100 Bay Area artists. This September, all of the artworks will be exhibited at San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) and auctioned on Artsy. One hundred percent of bids will benefit ArtSpan, a beloved local nonprofit currently fundraising for a permanent home.

“I think of art as a great equalizer. More than your network, influence, schooling, or connections, art is about aptitude and attitude,” said Svane, “The economic fallout from the pandemic threatened the entire art scene of the Bay Area. We need the vibrant joy and raw expression artists bring to our lives.”

Ark’s roster represents the diversity and range of the Bay Area art scene, spanning the region’s emerging artists to its most high-profile. All were asked to reflect on the question: what do you want to carry into the future?

The Svane Family Foundation’s unique “giving loop” is a new, ecosystem-wide approach to arts philanthropy, providing resources to artists upfront and giving the public the opportunity to pay the investment forward while acquiring work from this historic moment in time. It’s a model that could be applied, during the pandemic and beyond, to any major city where lack of direct funding and sky-high living costs severely impact local artists.

Artwork commissioned by Ark will be exhibited at SFAI from September 7–27 and auctioned on Artsy from September 16–30.

See the full list of artists and subscribe for the auction preview at svaneff.org.

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