Not For Sale: The Lost Art of Santiago Bell

by Christopher Bell in Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

£4,071

raised of £9,999 target
53
supporters
41% 19 days left
Flexible funding – this project will receive all pledges made by November 12th 2019 at 8:41pm

Help us bring Santiago Bells work back to life with an exhibition in Cambridge next year

by Christopher Bell in Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

“Everyone is potentially an artist. The inner city is not desperate, but full of talent” Santiago Bell

Crowdfunder for the restoration, preservation and exhibition in Cambridge 2020 of the work of the late artist Santiago Bell.

Santiago Bell was an Anglo-Chilean sculptor who left Chile for Cambridge, UK in 1975 as a political refugee after the violent military coup led by Augusto Pinochet two years earlier.

In the UK, Santiago created a series of wooden sculptures that reflected the poverty and injustice he witnessed throughout his life and the cruelty he endured and observed during his imprisonment.

Santiago created communities simply by generating a space for people to work, talk and realise their talents.

In the early 1980's Santiago moved to Bow in London's East End. Along with Lord Andrew Mawson (OBE) and a collective of local artists including Frank and Margy Creber, he became a founding member of what would later become the award-winning Bromley By Bow Centre.

After he passed away in 2005, we were left with an extraordinary body of work. In our journey to salvage these amazing sculptures, we have come to realise that they are more than just pieces of art but tools that Santiago used to change lives

Our Plea

Since 2005, the work has fallen into disrepair, having been stored in garages, living rooms and attics.

In 2018, we started to track down the pieces one by one, and with the help of David Moore, a dear friend of Santiago and caretaker of many of the sculptures, started to piece together a history of both the work and Santiago’s legacy.

We found that Santiago’s work represented more than just art, but also a means of creating community and bearing witness to the atrocities of the Pinochet Regime. 

We need your help, to first and foremost help us to preserve these great works of art and the story and message behind them. In the process of this regeneration we want to use the work to bring people together and build new works of art and a new community.

Restoration

Much of the work is damaged, has parts missing or is missing altogether. We need proper funding to get a decent work space and assign the right people to bring the work back to life. With the funding we would also arrange shipping of the missing sculptures.

We don’t know the names of many of the sculptures. For some of them, we don't know exactly which parts are missing as not all of them have been photographed.

In the spirit of Santiago, we want this restoration phase to be an opportunity to bring together artists and people who knew him, so that we are able to archive the stories behind his work, get guidance from those that knew his art as well as create new works of art by providing a work space. We’ll document everything and keep you all updated via social media and our web page which, with your help, we will be developing.

Preservation 

The work needs a home where it can be stored, kept safe from any further damage and degradation. Once in a safe and suitable environment they can be easily transported for future projects, meaning they’ll be around longer for people to enjoy.

“I was always essentially an artist. Politics has been defined as the art of the possible, but artists always think in terms of the impossible” 

Santiago Bell 


Exhibition

The main aim of the exhibition. We want people to see the work, and we think that Cambridge, the city that Santiago first called home when he reached the UK, is the place to do it. The messages carried in Santiago’s work about poverty and injustice are as relevant now as they were when he first created them and his inspirational story of perseverance, strength and the belief in community is one that deserves to be remembered.

With your help and through the process of restoration we want to present the sculptures, and the story of Santiago's life and vision through supporting media.

We'd ask all of those that donate to leave their address or email details so that we can extend a formal invite to the exhibition as a backer. Or, if you would prefer, just drop us a line on the Facebook or Instagram page once you've done it and we'll add you to the list. 

So, what will it cost? £9,999

That includes:

  • Transport; getting all of the sculptures in one place
  • A Work space
  • Paying skilled person/people to repair the broken sculptures, sculpt replacement components that are missing and treat the wood.
  • Storage; A suitable home, where the artwork will be safe from damage, degradation and be properly boxed so that it can be moved safely and therefore exhibited in the future
  • Exhibition: A space, staff, supporting artwork and everything else that will make this an event to remember
  • Website: An online source, documenting the life and work of Santiago and everything we hope to achieve in this process

Any donations will be much appreciated and the more people we reach, the sooner we can reach our target, so please tell your friends. The more we raise, the bigger an event this will become and the more people we can involve.

“I was very devout in prison: I decided they would have to kill me not as a communist, which they could feel was their duty, but as a Catholic”

Santiago Bell

About Santiago

Santiago Bell was the ‘Intendente’ of the Nuble province between 1970 - 1972. He was arrested 2 days after the violent military coup led by Augusto Pinochet that overthrew Salvador Allende’s socialist government.

Santiago was one of 28,000 political prisoners arrested, imprisoned, and tortured shortly after the military takeover. Thanks to efforts by solidarity groups in the UK, Amnesty International and due to his British heritage, Santiago was released in 1975.

Many thousands of people in his position were murdered or ‘disappeared’

“Either they shot you or they tried to kill you slowly. They tried to kill me slowly, by beatings and torture and madness in solitary confinement. Ten of my ribs were broken and didn’t set properly. My kidneys don’t work well because of the beatings. People say this has made me wise. Well, I would rather be stupid and not have had the lesson. I learnt things, but they were all dark things”

Santiago Bell

In 1975 Santiago came to the UK as a political refugee, where he would help found the Bromley by Bow Centre and create an extraordinary body of work in the process.

The work

In the UK, Santiago created a series of wooden sculptures that reflected the poverty and injustice he witnessed throughout his life and the cruelty he endured and observed during his imprisonment.

“I have perhaps 20 years left, and so many things left to say. Young people have the time for self-referential art. That is good for them; But I want to bother and disturb with grace. All of my works are about misfortune, but they are also about stamina and courage”

Santiago Bell

Bromley by Bow Centre

In the early 1980's Santiago moved to Bow in London's East End. Along with Lord Andrew Mawson (OBE) and a collective of local artists including Frank and Margy Creber, he became a founding member of what would later become the award-winning Bromley By Bow Centre.

Along with Andrew Mawson, he created an impressive body of work using his ethos that scrap wood, just like people overlooked by mainstream society, could be shaped into something incredible. 

Santiago's concept of what becoming a successful artist meant, was different to most people's, He believed in the power of art to create spaces and dialogues in communities and refused to adhere to a single narrative. 

We interviewed Sheenagh McKinlay and Frank Creber of the Bromley by Bow Centre. Watch the interview  here

Let's make 'Not For Sale: The Lost Art of Santiago Bell' happen

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