How Richard Reed brought art to the roadside masses

Entrepreneur Richard Reed has found a new way to bring art to the masses, writes Matthew Chapman

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Like many of the best ideas, the concept behind Art Everywhere, billed as Britain’s biggest art exhibition, was hammered out in the pub.

Hatched during a conversation between Innocent founder Richard Reed and Richard Morris, managing director of media agency Vizeum, the fledgling idea was then put to Glen Wilson.

Managing director of out-of-home communications agency Posterscope, Wilson rallied the outdoor industry and secured 22,000 sites to showcase the nation’s finest art over a two-week period this summer.

Reed’s wife persuaded him to take on the project to share his own experience of walking past a "beautiful bit of art" at a derelict poster site during his old commute to work.

"It could have so quickly and easily become a marketing initiative," he says. "The typical way you would do this is get a sponsor and have their logo on it."

Rather than sign up a sponsor, the poster industry agreed to take a hit by giving up "millions of pounds" in media spend, while all other partners involved in the project, including Tate and creative agency 101, provided their services free of charge.

Operating costs, including the printing of the posters, were covered by a crowd-funding project led by the Art Fund, which raised £130,000.

Richard Flintham, a founding partner at 101, believes the "beauty" of the idea plays off the cynicism surrounding the marketing industry. He claims there was an "absence of agenda" that was likely to make people ask whether it was a teaser campaign for a new product such as the Citroën Picasso.

Reed says it was the existing relationship between Tate and 101 that helped persuade the art institution to back the project. "Tate curates the world’s greatest art and has an incredible amount of trust invested in it from the art community. It cannot abuse that," he explains.

The sheer number of poster sites dedicated to the initiative meant it was equivalent in size to national outdoor campaigns for Apple and Coca-Cola combined, and a tantalising prospect for Tate and the Art Fund.

It is estimated that during the course of the campaign in August, 90% of the population would have seen at least one of the posters 15 times.

This summer’s "exhibition" is likely to be just the beginning, although Reed predicts that next time the project could be based on philosophy or art from local communities.

"You can do it in every medium, can’t you?" he adds. "I guess the ultimate vision is every country doing it using all their advertising media."