Avant Arte & For Freedoms

Our collaboration with the trailblazing, artist-run collective.

artwork and books on workshop table
How Do You Keep Your Heart Open? (For Susan) by Christine Wong Yap, photographed by Andria Lo.

In late 2021 we're collaborating with artist-run collective For Freedoms on a series of public art activations in London, accompanied by a pair of print editions from Christine Wong Yap and Hank Willis Thomas.

The collaboration represents the first appearance of For Freedoms’ emblematic billboards outside of the US, as well as the first time artworks from their campaigns have been realised in edition form.

6 billboards from For Freedoms' 2020 Awakening campaign
?, Ai WeiWei. Photographed by Gabe Ford in Knoxville, TN; What Have You (Un)Learned Today?, Kameelah Janan Rasheed. Photographed by Jonathan Dean in Knoxville, TN; Wake Up To Justice, Shepard Fairey & obeygiant.com. Photographed by Jeff Scroggins in Oklahoma City, OK; Facts Don't Equal Truths, Alexandra Bell. Photographed by Mike Butler in West Columbia, SC; Can You Feel The Way You Feel, Garrett Bradley. Designed by Sam Shmith and photographed by Jonathan Dean in Shreveport, LA; Say Her Name, Phenomenal & AAPF. Designed by Sam Shmith and photographed by Jonathan Dean in Dallas, TX

For Freedoms

For Freedoms was founded in 2016 by artists Hank Willis Thomas, Eric Gottesman, Michelle Woo and Wyatt Gallery. The collective assembled with a mission to create new forms of public art that engage far-reaching public conversation. In Eric Gottesman’s words, “our goal is not to support a political party or push a partisan agenda, but to empower everyone to feel welcome in civic conversations.”

Over the years, the work has primarily taken shape as monumental billboard campaigns conceived in collaboration with hundreds of international artists — setting world-leading names like Ai Weiwei and the Guerrilla Girls alongside a spirited cohort of up-and-coming practitioners.

a series of four dramatically staged photographs to illustrate Roosevelt's four freedoms
Four Freedoms, Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur in collaboration with Eric Gottesman and Wyatt Gallery of For Freedoms, 2018.

The collective’s name references the ‘four freedoms’ outlined in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famed wartime speech: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. In 2020, amidst a global pandemic, the collective put forward four new principles befitting today’s world.

test-based artwork in black, white and chartreuse reading 'Listening, healing, awakening, justice'
Listening. Healing. Awakening. Justice. Courtesy of For Freedoms.

For Freedom's 2020 Awakening campaign saw 85 artists create billboards to catalyse civic participation. In 2021, the focus will be Justice. Using art to incite progress, For Freedoms are — in their own words — “building the future, now.”

For the first time ever, two artworks from For Freedoms' emblematic billboard campaigns will be available to purchase as limited print editions.

Christine Wong Yap

Christine Wong Yap uses her collaborative, text-led practice to understand and amplify sites of belonging.

“For me the project is a prompt, a provocation, and I’m really excited about seeing the artwork take space in billboards and posters in the UK. I hope people see it, think about it, and actually engage in some self reflection.” – Christine Wong Yap

text-based artwork reading 'how do you keep your heart open'
How Do You Keep Your Heart Open? (For Susan), Christine Wong Yap, 2020.

How Do You Keep Your Heart Open? (For Susan) poses a question that exists at the core of Yap’s practice. “To keep one’s heart open is to embrace a mindset of abundance, rather than a mindset of scarcity; to opt for connection and generosity, rather than self-preservation; and to work towards belonging, rather than othering.”

Created as a tribute to the life and legacy of the artist’s late friend Susan O’Malley, the work — realised as a pencil drawing with the telltale marks of a preparatory sketch — intentionally retains a sense of being in progress, and of continual exploration.

Hank Willis Thomas

artist standing behind a tapestry artwork on a workshop table
Courtesy of Levi Mandel and Ben Brown Fine Arts, London.

Art, for Hank Willis Thomas, is a means to visualise a message. His expansive practice layers history and image to show that anything is possible when motivated by love.

Placing images in the public that are designed to encourage critical thinking and uplift joy and celebration is paramount to us. We believe that art is a tool for social change and inner meditation.” – Hank Willis Thomas

text-based artwork in black, green and red reading 'who taught you to love?'
Who Taught You To Love?, Hank Willis Thomas, 2020.

Who Taught You To Love? demands profound self-reflection from its viewer, reprising Thomas’ billboard design from For Freedoms’ 2020 Awakening Campaign.

The work’s billboard incarnations stage direct comparison with corporate advertising aesthetics, investigating the loaded intersections of identity, collective consciousness and consumerism.

Credits

Christine Wong Yap video by Augusto Lopez.
Christine Wong Yap artist portrait by Andria Lo.
Hank Willis Thomas artist portrait by Levi Mandel, courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts, London.
Billboard images courtesy of For Freedoms and Unfinished.