Art exists all around us, sometimes hidden in plain sight and sometimes in remote corners of the world.
Art Escapes explores exciting art outside conventional spaces, freely available for those willing to discover creativity on another plane.
gestalten collaborated with culture editor Grace Banks, in order to offer a list for art lovers seeking unique experiences. We sat down with her to discuss the book, her perspective on accessible art, and some of her favorite pieces from the collection.
Hi Grace, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you came to be in the art space?
I started out working for glossy fashion magazines like InStyle and New Woman, all of which are now defunct sadly. After taking some time out from leaving my role at InStyle, I felt there was a bit of a gap in the writing I was reading about art and art criticism that was straightforward and accessible. Alongside that, I had always gravitated towards art spaces whenever I was abroad or in a new place, so I decided to start writing about art. Soon after that I interviewed with former founder and publisher of Elephant Magazine, Marc Valli, and started working at Elephant as a features editor. That was a fantastic experience where I worked with Marc and the magazine’s then Creative Director Astrid Stavro on redesigning the magazine, but it was when I started working for NBCNews and Forbes that I really began travelling the world and writing about art.
Let’s talk about Art Escapes. What inspired you to create the concept for the book? And how was your experience working with gestalten, in bringing this concept to life?
Over the last seven years I’ve been so lucky to be sent on assignment abroad for work, writing about the art and culture scenes in Beirut, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Kyiv, and more. On these trips I would always seek out the non ‘white cube’ spaces, such as small former artist studios, tiny chapels painted by Matisse, alternative spiritual spaces painted inky purple by Rothko. Often, these art spaces would be in really unexpected locations, where the destination elevated the power of the art. I thought how great it would be to bring together these locations in a book that people could dip into and perhaps be inspired to make a trip to see one of these incredible artists in locations across the world.
gestalten is the publisher I always had in mind for this book, their publications are unrivalled. Working with the fantastic team at gestalten was such a pleasure, from my fantastic editors Andrea and Anastasia, to the wonderful marketing team, Emily, Faye, Vinnie and Damien.
Why do you feel like now more than ever, it’s important for art to be an accessible medium? And how far away are we from achieving this goal?
I think that art can really change the way we experience the world, but far too few people have access to great works of art. Museums often charge for access to exhibitions, and there’s a bias towards cities and countries that can afford to acquire art that attracts visitors. Government funding for public art is crucial for combating this, making sure that artists and smaller arts organizations are supported and decently funded would mean artists didn’t have to work so hard to fit into the values of the white cube.
Did the pandemic impact or shift your perspective of art in non-traditional spaces, and if so, how?
Absolutely. On my walks in lockdown I started to reconsider what art was and tried to seek out public and outdoors art that wasn’t closed down during the pandemic, such as Corbusier’s hand carved murals in his Unité d'Habitation of Berlin. I also started to see everything around me as art, even a shrub of roses!
When did art in non-traditional spaces, such as those featured in Art Escapes, begin to emerge?
Centuries ago, there are incredible cave paintings in Cantabria, Spain, paintings of livestock which were common at the time, but also expressionist works featuring dozens of overlaid hands. It’s thought that these were created by women, they’re incredible to see.
How did you select the spaces featured in the book? Was there something specific you were hoping to capture or showcase from the pieces you chose?
I’ve always had an ongoing note on my iPhone notes app of places I’ve been to, or places I want to visit that have that art off-the-beaten track element. So when I started researching the book I put them all on a google doc and started editing them down. My editor Andrea also contributed a few destinations that she’d seen. I wanted the works to be a mixture of remote landscapes where the art cuts the skyline like Karl Momen’s totem, to French impressionist drawings in the middle of a busy town, like Monet’s chapel in Venice.
Is there a piece within the book that bears a special meaning to you, and if so, we’d love to know which one (and why)?
It would have to be the Chapel Saint-Perre in Villefranche-sur-Mer in France by Jean Cocteau. Cocteau is one of my favourite painters, I have a tiny relief painting of his, so to step into this beautiful church in the south of France and see it covered with both religious portraits and those of his friends including Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent was a dream.
From the Italian countryside via the Utah desert, to the forests of Finland and beyond, immerse yourself in the pages of Art Escapes, and discover a myriad of works, set in the most unusual of places.