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Interview with Thanks for Nothing

This Arty Friday, Artsper celebrates its first collaboration with the association Thanks for Nothing

Interview with Thanks for Nothing - illustration 1

Created in 2017, the association Thanks for Nothing is already making huge waves. Its 5 female founders decided to apply their knowledge and experience from their hugely successful careers in the art world (with the FIAC, Musée d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou and Palais de Tokyo to name but a few) to create social change. Dedicated to education, human rights and the environment, they organise artistic and cultural events to raise money for various organisations, and encourage artists as well as individuals to use their voices to act and bring about change. This is why Artsper has chosen to join their cause for Arty Friday, the first project in a promising collaboration.

1. Firstly, your name! Why did you choose it?

We place the artist's voice at the heart of our actions. Our projects are systematically named after the work of an artist moved to support the cause we have chosen. Poetic and unifying, the artist's voice carries the voice of those left unheard. The very name "Thanks for Nothing" is a tribute to the artist John Giorno and his eponymous poem, which addresses both the beauty and complexities of life. It is this breath, sometimes ambivalent but always conscious that it is possible to act, that we want to carry.

2. Could you tell us more about how you decided to start Thanks for nothing?

While working as director at Galerie Chantal Crousel, I decided with four other women to create a platform to combine our passion for art with a solidarity-driven commitment that we had as individuals. Our aim was to create a link between the art world and social responsibility. We realised that our personal social commitment could benefit from the networks and visibility of the art world. That is why we created the non-profit Thanks for Nothing, to link the top end of contemporary art with concrete social commitment. 

3. Obviously there are plenty of areas of social responsibility that you could have chosen to focus on; why did you choose education, human rights and the environment?

We chose these 3 pillars of engagement because they represent the areas in which we were each personally involved, so it made sense to keep up this momentum. Furthermore, these contemporary issues are of course also addressed by the voices and work of artists.

4. Why do you think art has the power to make such important changes?

I think that art has a real power to awaken a sense of duty and consciousness. This awakening power and the impact that art can have in society are at the very centre of Thanks for Nothing and its initiatives. Our events are always free and accessible to all. We pay particular attention to raising awareness amongst audiences of all generations and sharing knowledge, and to each individual's participation in the acting in the public interest.

We want to create a dialogue so that the voices of associations are at once both heard and supported by those of artists, and to inspire citizens to get involved.

Interview with Thanks for Nothing - illustration 1
Interview with Thanks for Nothing - illustration 1

5. How do you decide what to do at events, and which associations to partner with?

Thanks for Nothing works with a committee of experts to identify which organisations we invite to take part in our projects. These partner organisations are integrated from the first step. This way, we can accurately identify their needs and design a project that will have the greatest impact for them both at the time and in the future. They are also an integral part of the projects, on the same level as the artists, and can share the reality of the causes they defend on a daily basis.

6. What is your favourite part about the work that you do? 

What makes us most happy about the projects that Thanks for Nothing supports is the display of collective strength. The mobilisation of numerous artistic and solidarity-driven actors for each project shows that, together, it is possible to create a link between two worlds that were previously distant. The art world and that of non-profits aren't - a priori - directly linked, although they share so much, in particular social engagement and questioning what is real. We are therefore happy to support the idea of a tangible relationship between these two worlds that both address and confront us with the major issues within contemporary society.

It was, for example, a magnificent project to design and implement the collaboration between artist Melik Ohanian, represented by Galerie Chantal Crousel, and the organisation Bibliothèques Sans Frontières (Libraries Without Borders). And, invited by Gaël Charbeau and the City of Paris for the Nuit Blanche (White Night) 2018, Thanks for Nothing produced its book 'Conscientia': a limited edition of 15 white papers given to the organisation. Their sponsor, Augustin Trapenard, has since offered them to beneficiaries of the organisation in Bangladesh, Colombia and Baltimore.

7. How can the general public get involved and donate?

Our events are always free and accessible to all; we want to raise public awareness of the different forms of social inequality, while involving the public in initiatives for the public interest and therefore involving them in our approach itself.

The general public are invited to act and become actors of solidarity in every project. We organised a solidarity performance with the artist Michelangelo Pistoletto for the Nuit Blanche 2019 at the Cité des sciences: a tree will be planted for each participant by the association Parti Poétique, while there was a giant collection of cultural property on the Pont Alexandre III where we collected over 35,000 books…

The public can therefore engage in these initiatives in different ways. It is also a new way of encouraging collective action.

Of course, it is also possible to make a donation via our HelloAsso page:

Finally, in order for people to support and participate in Thanks for Nothing projects, we have decided to launch Community, a community composed of individuals who share our values and want to be part of our commitment in the long term.

Interview with Thanks for Nothing - illustration 1
Interview with Thanks for Nothing - illustration 1

8. What is you best memory - your favourite work of art or installation to have been involved with?

Every Thanks for Nothing project has wonderful memories because they represent magical moments of sharing and exchange between artists, associations and the public.

Of course, we'll never forget the 2 million euros raised at the 'We Dream Under The Same Sky' auction, organised with Galerie Chantal Crousel to benefit 5 organisations that host refugees in France and Europe; or the principal dancer Marie-Claude Pietragalla dancing on the Pont Alexandre III, surrounded by thousands of people during the Nuit Blanche 2018; Michelangelo Pistoletto with his 'Walking Sculpture' at Nuit Blanche 2019, in co-production with and at the invitation of the Cité des sciences et de l'industrie, surrounded by beneficiaries of the invited organisations who had created the piece of art during a solidarity workshop at Galleria Continua. The performance started with 80 children, unaccompanied minors, refugees and homeless people, who were joined by over 600 more people for an awesome and engaging performance.

9. Which artists would you like to work with in the future?

We are already very happy to be working with Bill Shipsey, the founder of Art for Amnesty and Art 19, who has involved major artists such as Gerhard RIchter, Kiki Smith and Shilpa Gupta, whose works will be presented at two exhibitions that we are organising in December. The first will be held in Geneva from Wednesday 11 December at the MAMCO, and then at Blondeau & Cie until Saturday 14 December. Parallel to this, the works will be be shown on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 December at the Grand Palais. This project will support the deeds of Amnesty International, in particular a program to support the reception of refugees.

We are also delighted to support the 'Art, Artist, Assistant' project launched by artist Jean-Michel Othoniel and the Fonds LINK (a fund to raise money for the fight against AIDS). From 2020, this programme will enable the integration of young homosexuals who have been excluded from their families through training in artists' studios.

10. We can't wait to see more from this brilliant platform, what is next up in your programme?

We look forward to seeing lots of you at MAMCO and at Marc Blondeau & Cie from Wednesday 11 to Saturday 14 December, and of course at the Grand Palais on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 December to explore the works created to support Amnesty International's actions.

From 2020, we will also collaborate with the endowment fund Merci, created by the Cohen family 10 years ago. To support their initiative, you can participate in 'Solidarity Month' from now until the end of 2019, by going to their partner restaurants and boutiques such as Septime and L'Altro. In Spring 2020, Thanks for Nothing is preparing an artistic day of solidarity to promote the creation of the Horizon project, a host village to refugees in France… All these initiatives will also allow the pursuit of their educational activities in Madagascar with the ABC Domino organisation, or the development of the 'Flight Farm' for socially engaged farming on the outskirts of Paris.

Their favorite artworks

Jardin d'Hélène, Abdessemed Adel

Jardin d'Hélène

Abdessemed Adel

Print - 7.9 x 9.8 inch


Studies into the past (Signed poster), Laurent Grasso

Studies into the past (Signed poster)

Laurent Grasso

Print - 19.7 x 23.6 inch