FAD’s founder and editor in chief Mark Westall has a bit of a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Starting in style magazine publishing in the 1990s he quickly became known for nabbing then-unknowns such as The Spice Girls and Oasis for coverstars, but the nascent digital world soon captured his attention. Repurposing his magazine’s creative teams to the new world of website development, he was at the forefront of the advance of brands into digital, producing award winning digital experiences for brands including Campaign, Levi’s and Jolly Ranchers. When the advertising industry noticed this new field, he sold his business to Leo Burnett, going on to lead the agency’s digital division for 5 years, working for companies like P&G, Kellog’s, McDonald’s and Disney. Looking for something more, he moved first into community education and culture initiatives, producing the award winning SoSafe.org for the NHS, and the pan-European youth initiative Respect4me.org before in 2008 following his passion for art and founding what has grown to become FADwebsite.
Focused on emerging and contemporary art, FADwebsite aims to shine a light on new talents and develop our understanding of those we already know a little about.
FADwebsite is internationally recognized as a key figure within the emerging and contemporary art world, and has been selected as official partner by organizations as diverse as Moving Image, Volta and Christie’s.
In addition to leading FADwebsite, Mark is a director of fad.agency, the marketing services agency for the art world and those who wish to engage with it, a columnist for City and Canary Wharf Magazines and expert advisor to bi-annual art fair Strarta.
In this interview, Mark talks about his experience of founding and growing an arts publication.
What is FAD?
FAD Website is a curation of the world’s most interesting art and culture. We do news, reviews, and in-depth pieces about the things we’ve found. We also highlight upcoming events, act as a platform for new artists and a place for more established artists to share their thoughts in longer interviews.
FAD Website is the sister of FAD Agency, a strategy and creative agency that creates and implements strategic branding, advertising and communications campaigns for brands and organisations that believe, like we do, that being really interesting makes everyone more appealing.
How and why did you set up the project?
I’d published style magazines back in the nineties before a digital agency I set up got brought by an advertising agency (Leo Burnett). Working for massive brands like McDonald’s and P&G was fun, but I missed the creativity and freedom of publishing, and I wanted to bring together the things I was in love with by then: contemporary art, the digital world and publishing. The agency has grown organically out of the website as brands have approached us to do more in-depth projects and we’ve been able to offer more services.
How disruptive is your business? What do you do differently from traditional media outlets?
In some ways my business is pretty traditional journalism – I find things out and write about them (or one of our writers does). In other ways I think FAD is emblematic of the changes that have taken place across the publishing world. We started out as a print title, three issues later we were a website. We’ve changed a bit over the years and, in fact, will be changing again shortly as the site’s being redesigned at the moment. Watch this space…
You’ve covered a lot of interesting art and culture over the years. Any particular highlights that stand out?
No – FAD is about NOW
Originally set up in London, you now have a global presence. What are the main differences in the art market across the globe?
As a publication we see the art market from a different perspective than other parts of the industry might. We tend to focus on things we think are interesting – and because of that, people come and tell you about things they think are interesting too.
An example of this playing out is that while we know that London’s the busiest art market in the world in terms of volume and value, what we see at FAD is the huge quantity, and extraordinary quality of the UK’s emerging art scene. Similarly, whilst the auction rooms in New York get a lot of press, what we tend to hear about most are things like amazing pop artists in LA, and the incredibly energetic street art scene in Mexico.
What trends do you see happening in the area of art and technology?
Art, like technology is becoming really integrated into people’s lives, and part of that means that like technology, we’re hearing a lot about collaborations. So where you get Apple collaborating with all these fashion people for the watch, what we’re seeing in art is a lot of visual artists working with poets, performance artists and video artists.
What advice would you give to arts entrepreneurs?
Spend a bit of time getting to understand the world you’re getting in to. The art world is full of people who make because they can’t imagine doing anything else, and sometimes that means they are really naive about money. There have been examples of companies coming into the market who have kind of trodden on those people, and I think successful arts entrepreneurs are people who look after the dreamers, as well as the backers.