A piece from the forthcoming collection "Draw a Penis and Run Away" by Pau Sampera, opening on the 8th of November. (View on Beach's Depop store)
Outsider artists don't tend to be in it for the money or the recognition. But when they get either of those things, it's usually down to the help of a particularly zealous curator, like the guys at Beach London on Cheshire Street. We caught up with co-founder Charlie Hood about promoting the outsider scene, and a new app called Depop that's changing the way they share, sell and talk about art.
Two years ago, what is now one of the most respected galleries in its east London set was a small coffee shop with a few art prints on the walls.
"The idea with the café was to build a community around the outsider and DIY ethos," says Charlie. "We find that a lot of illustrators aren't thought of as highly as fine art people. The public might recognise a Pushead, but they wouldn't necessarily know the guy's name."
"Nageuse" (affectionately known as "piss woman") from "La Plage" by Jean Jullien. (View on Beach's Depop store)
Beach's current exhibition, "La Plage" by Jean Jullien, is a series of dark, witty visual commentaries on sleazy seaside pleasures – melting ice cream faces, elegant women relieving themselves in the water, flaccid inflatables and so on.
"Nine times out of ten, humour in fine art never really comes across," says Charlie. "But there's a real playfulness that illustrators can get away with. And for me, Jean is pound for pound the best illustrator in the world right now. His humour's not too offensive but not too cutesy. Take the pissing woman," he says with a grin, "some people think she's got a dress on. It’s subtly sinister."
Charlie with his dog, Merv. (Photo by Sam Scott)
A few visual threads run through Beach's stock: "We're from a skateboarding background, so colourful graphics, zines and self-publishing have been our guiding aesthetics from day one," Charlie says, as he picks up a pair of ornamental ceramic dogs that look like they've had their cocktails spiked. They’re by an artist called Malarky, who was heavily influenced by the vibrant street art in Barcelona, before moving to Stoke on Trent.
"He had this bright aesthetic when he took a liking to Stoke pottery," says Charlie. "I think that’s a nice contextualisation of the work, and one that speaks the language of a fine artist."
Beach are also big on books, most of them published by artists or photographers themselves. Charlie flicks through one by Richard Gillian and reels off his own pretext. "Rich is someone who we've known for years. He's from Dublin and he's shot some really iconic photos of Irish skateboarders. For this book, he visited several countries and took pictures of DIY skate spots. There's a nice description by the architect Ian Borden in here. It's a signed copy, too."
It's clear that Charlie's very proud of his trade, the artists he works with and every single item in his shop. "Promoting and selling this stuff is what we're all about," he says. "Some of the artists we work with have commercial practices but do other stuff that doesn't necessarily make them money. We provide them with an outlet for their work."
Beach recently started using the new social network Depop as a curation and shop platform – think of it as Instagram with a buy button linked to your PayPal account. "Depop made a lot of sense, because we were using Instagram anyway, and the social aspect makes it an extension of the community feel we've built around the shop," Charlie says, referring to how Beach have applied the app to their business.
So far, Beach's profile has clocked 59,000 followers, all of whom can buy and comment on new prints, books and artworks that go up on a daily basis.
"The app's quite playful. Unlike the website, you can get away with shooting stuff on your iPhone – the aesthetics of it are a bit more laid back," Charlie adds. "So if we get something new in, we can put it up on Depop straight away to get people interested."
Upcoming exhibitions 'Draw a Penis and Run Away' by Pau Sampera, will run from the 7th of November to the 1st of December. And Malarky, Title TBC, will also run from the 7th of November.
Click here to download Depop and browse Beach’s catalogue, including Jean Jullien’s full range of prints and items exclusive to the app.