Last winter, Adam Yokell was looking to expand the scope of his fledgling Brooklyn gallery. But he was hard-pressed to find emerging, unrepresented artists outside of New York—and he was intent on developing a diverse and expansive program. Then an idea hit him.
“What if there was a tool that helped artists become more visible to an interested base of curators, gallerists, and academics?” Yokell tells me, over coffee on a recent morning in Brooklyn. And further, he adds, “What if curators and gallerists could search more broadly—but still deliberately—for an artist or artwork that resonates with their interests, or helps to develop their program, or relates to an exhibition they’re curating?”
For the next year, he continued to organize shows at his gallery, Hometown, and search for new artists as he best knew how: through his art-savvy friends and colleagues, and by attending MFA presentations within the New York area. But he still felt limited, and the idea for an online platform that extended this process beyond the limits of his personal network and the local art community lingered. (Prior to opening his gallery, Yokell served as legal counsel at Artsy for over four years, after earning degrees in art and law.)
He closed Hometown this past summer, and two weeks ago, he launched Foundwork.art
: a website that serves to connect artists with curators and gallerists. After signing up, users are given two options: “Find Artists” or “View Artwork.” Both buttons are portals into a searchable database of primarily emerging, unrepresented artists and their work.
Right now, the site features just 36 artists. But that’s because Yokell is growing the directory slowly—and within a specific framework that sets his project apart from other online artist registries, like those hosted by White Columns, BRIC, or Saatchi Art.
Perhaps Foundwork’s most defining characteristic is that all featured artists are either enrolled in a U.S. MFA program, or are alumni of one. Any artist who falls into either of these categories is welcome to create a profile on the site. This criteria acknowledges the influence of an MFA degree in the art world—both in terms of the development of an artist’s practice and their visibility to galleries and curators.
It also fills a gap in the online art space. There is currently no website with the stated intention of gathering together artists who’ve matriculated through a broad range of MFA programs.
While Yokell recognizes that there is a “whole universe of incredibly talented artists who fall outside of this scope,” he wanted to provide Foundwork with an initial focus. “It was important to me that the platform wasn’t overwhelming to users, while still trying to include and serve a really substantial population of artists,” he explains. This initial MFA focus, he adds, “leaves room for growth and for the site to evolve.”