New anonymous exhibit is the “anti-branding” of artwork

Waterfall Arts new ‘Anon’ show sparks a guessing game

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 1:00pm

Story Location:
256 High Street
Belfast, ME
United States

    BELFAST — When a piece of modern artwork becomes more recognizable because of the artist’s name, rather than his or her signature style, there’s going to be a debate.  This concept prompted Mike Fletcher, a part-time art instructor at Waterfall Arts, to come up with the concept of hanging a show of anonymous works at Waterfall Arts this month as a counter (might some even say protest) to the way modern artwork has been so branded.

    “Anon” is a new exhibit at Waterfall Arts in Belfast that features work done by artists in something other than their customary style. In the Corridor Gallery of the Belfast art center, a wide variety of artwork is identified only with a title, medium and date of execution.

    “I personally have always been interested in the idea of anonymity as an artist as a reaction to artist branding,” said Fletcher. “I think it’s a fairly recent phenomenon, maybe mid-20th century with the abstract expressionist movement, such as art critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg, and the galleries in New York that would find artists that they thought they could make into celebrities. ”

    Fletcher especially admits he has a hard time with superstar artists who produce nothing but a concept and have a team of assistants to execute that concept. “Then the work gets out there and is sold for outrageous amounts of money only because it’s been branded,” he said.

    For working artists everywhere, he makes an excellent point. Fletcher thinks that the branding of art does a disservice not only to other artists, but also to the viewing public as well. “If I go to a museum or even a show in this hallway here and I’m looking at work and passing some work by, then realize the one I passed by was made by a recognizable name,  I come back and find myself liking it,” he said. “I didn’t mean to, but I’ve been corralled, I’ve been cajoled and this happens all the time. How much of it is a constraint on the viewer and how much is a constraint on the artist because he or she is expected to work on the confines of a certain genre or of certain expectations?”

    Fletcher contacted more than a dozen local area artists to ask if they would like to be part of a totally anonymous show. He said about 85 percent of those contacted wanted to participate without their names attached. ”I was hoping that artists would put something new into the show that didn’t fit into their normal style, so that they could have fun and be liberated. And some did. But interestingly, a lot of the artists put in older, earlier work that didn’t fit in with their current style.”

    Quite accidentally, the exhibit produced a fun little guessing game for viewers. So, the Waterfall Arts staff decided to put together a ballot for people to match the artist with the artwork, which will be revealed later this month when Waterfall Arts hosts an artist’s salon.

    The Anon artist's salon is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. to provide an opportunity to discuss the show and share thoughts and insights. The salon is open to everyone.

    The Anon show opened Sept. 26 and will continue until mid-December. For more information visit:

    Kay Stephens can be reached at