Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, galleries and museums have wrestled with intermittent closures and restrictions, largely reducing an experience that was once collaborative to individual interactions through a screen. Lewis & Clark alumnus Andrea Lewis ’20 is seeking to flip this narrative by opening Plural, an online art gallery. Co-founded by Habiba Hopson, an emerging art professional who Lewis met during an internship in New York, Plural is seeking to bring artists together through the elusive, but rewarding, online art world.
“As people, if we’re really embodying the pedagogy of plurality, we’re always moving and transitioning and growing and evolving,” Lewis said. “And so that means the gallery is going to occupy different spaces and look different and find itself within different cultures and languages.”
Plurality, as Lewis and Hopson see it, is the idea that artists are never just artists, they never just work in one medium and not enough credit is given to their depth as people. They believe that artists are too often treated like machines who are expected to churn out pieces for the sole purpose of making money, which not only devalues the work, but disrespects the artist’s integrity as well.
“Artists are often limited to one aesthetic or one style or one medium, when at the same time they are a lot more plural than that,” Lewis said. “They also are activists, professors, they occupy many positions and many titles in society … and so Plural came into being because of that idea that we’re all distinct, but there are also so many points of connection, where someone like me from Berkeley, California can connect to someone from Lagos, Nigeria, and we have very different backgrounds, but at the same time there’s a knowing between us.”
Another reason why Hopson and Lewis opened the gallery was to combat the practice of art flipping, which is all too common in the art world. Art flipping occurs when a collector buys the work (or sometimes entire catalog) of an emerging artist at a low price, then resells it without the artist’s knowledge or consent. Sometimes the pieces go for upwards of triple or quadruple the original price.
In an effort to cut down on this practice, Plural asks that all of their buyers sign the Plural Sales Agreement.
“In order to combat money-driven investments and introduce conscious resell practices, we ask that our collectors invest in the sustaining of artists’ legacies,” the agreement states. “This contract ensures that collectors may not resell works sold through Plural Gallery within 2 years from the time of purchase. If the buyer decides to sell the work after 2 years, the buyer then agrees to provide the artist with 20% of the retail price.”
Though Plural is currently operating solely in an online space, they do plan to open up pop-ups in the near future. In the meantime, the gallery is focusing its efforts on marketing their artists, finding grants and awards for them to apply for and getting their work showcased in museums.
Finally, it was extremely important to Lewis and Hopson that their gallery represent artists of color, and specifically those from around the world. Both co-founders value travel immensely (Lewis moved to Mexico just after graduating from LC, and is now living in France) and it was important for them to connect global communities they have had the privilege of entering.
“We have a pool of collectors in New York and (L.A.) (from when we worked there), now I’m living here in France, and (Hopson is) in New York, and we lived in Mexico for several years,” Lewis said. “So we’re using this community of artists and of collectors and our relationships to give exposure to our artists, and eventually to help them have a community that supports them both financially and artistically.”
Right now the gallery represents six artists, who are based in a variety of places, from here in the United States to Ghana and Nigeria. Though the website has only been live for a little over a month, Plural has already been gaining traction through a partnership with a museum that is yet to be announced, and it is hoping to attract many more artists to join its movement towards a more ethical and artist-forward industry. To check out what the gallery is up to and read more about Lewis and Hopson’s story, visit artisplural.com.