Cospace is a for-profit and privately funded art space within the North Bund Art Zone, a creative hub made up of a dozen artist studio’s, and several galleries and small businesses within the footprint of an operable park for factories and warehouses, in Yangshu, Shanghai. Each creative business is a stand-alone entity operating from former industrial premises, and no overarching managerial or financial structure is in place currently, although galleries and studios may and do work collaboratively in an ad hoc system based on short term interest.
Cospace consists of the owner and Managing Director, a Gallery Assistant, and myself as Art Director and Curator. Governance is a split system, whereby the owner has financial control and overall strategic decision making, and the Art Director recommends strategic direction and determines the exhibition calendar and content. The Gallery Assistant manages daily activities, marketing, and sales.
Currently, Cospace, and the NBAZ, due to its geographic and economic marginality, struggles to find and maintain an audience, or to engage with its immediate local community, who for the most part are poor factory workers and menial labourers, unengaged from the contemporary art practices that are inhabiting the closing factories around them. We hope that by adopting new strategies for the local creative spaces as a whole, partnering with all our communities, and formalising partnered structures, that we might make North Bund a new centre of creative engagement for Shanghai.
Also, with the agreement of the owner, Cospace is currently trying to navigate the transition from being a wholly for-profit entity, to embracing a new plurality of practice, implementing a programme which negotiates commercial necessity and experimental rigour, allowing for a calendar that expands from exhibitions to a more events based offering, including performance, music, film, and a festival programme. As part of this transition, Cospace is actively seeking to partner its programme with the wider NBAZ community of galleries and studios, to offer a series of timed exhibition openings, music nights, studio tours, film screenings, and other activities, engaging the traditional arts audience as well as targeting specifically the local workers and their families. We also aim to encourage the local street vendors and other marketeers to participate in late night and weekend events.
As part of the transition to an expanded, non-profit exhibition programme, Cospace is also investigating how to expand and operate other commercial ventures to off-set the inevitable reduction of income from sales of artworks. This includes exploring merchandising, on-site food and beverage sales, paid events, sponsorship, and on-line sales.