Celebrating the art of the small

Emma LeeThe Norfolk art collective Troika is holding an exhibition with a twist, which opens at Dragon Hall in Norwich on Saturday. You can buy a postcard-sized work of art for just �10 – but you won't know the identity of the artist behind it until you've bought it.Emma Lee

The artworks on show might be small - but it's an exhibition with big ambitions.

On Saturday, May 16, the Troika 7 Small Art International Open starts at Dragon Hall, in King Street, Norwich.

For artists it's a chance to see their work on show in one of Norwich's most beautiful historic buildings. And for art lovers it's the chance to own what could become a collectable of the future.

But this is an exhibition with a twist - you won't find out the identity of the artist until you've handed over your money.

Running for two weeks alongside the annual Norfolk Open Studios event, artists from across the world have submitted miniature works, no bigger than the size of a postcard, which will all be on sale for �10.

'The response has been phenomenal,' the exhibition's co-organiser, David Davies, says.

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'Not just in the UK but from all over the world. We've been receiving work from France, Switzerland, Germany, USA, Australia, with people looking at our site and making inquiries from more than 20 other countries so far .

'The thinking behind the exhibition was that artists can become more experimental when money is not the real issue and when the works are small, which in turn makes them easy to just post off and receive back via the post. Also, for those with established reputations in one field or other, the anonymity aspect appeals,' he says.

Troika formed a few years ago as a loose co-operative of visual artists who exhibit together during the Norfolk Open Studios season. A few core members organise exhibitions, but invite new artists to take part every time so that the audience gets to see something different.

The idea for the Small Art International Open came about earlier this year when two Troika members got involved with an international drawing exhibition in Berlin.

They were so enthused by the diversity and spirit of the event that they decided to do something similar in Norwich, alongside its usual Open Studios contribution.

'Unlike the Berlin exhibition which was purely for drawing, we've opened it up to artists working in all two- dimensional media, but they have to be no bigger than postcard size. The artists submitting remain anonymous until sold - we hope this would encourage people to buy what they liked rather than chasing 'names' for an investment,' David says.

He describes the response from artists as 'amazing'.

'The spirit of this show quickly grabbed attention abroad, and after a few inquiries from the continent, we put a few announcements out on international artist notice-boards,' he says. 'The result was unbelievable. To date, our website has been viewed in over 25 countries, and so far submissions have been coming in from the USA, Australia, France, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Croatia as well as a multitude of UK artists.'

David and co-organiser David Ancell have been touched by the efforts that the artists submitting works have gone to.

'Artists everywhere have really entered into the spirit of these ideas, with some even donating the works and any sales money towards future events of this kind.

'We've received oil paintings, acrylics, watercolours, collages, photography and drawings. People don't seem too worried about spending time on them and are clearly retaining their usual quality despite size and their low selling values. We are seeing works that should be 10 times this value. It's going to be a great show to snap up some real little bargains for artists and buyers alike.'

And they hope that it could become a regular event.

'I don't think Norwich has seen anything quite like this.

'We are making many international connections with possibilities for exchange shows and such. This is most definitely a good thing for Norwich and its artists,' David says.

Troika 7 Small Art International Open runs from May 16 to 31. Dragon Hall is open 10am-5pm Monday to Friday, 11am-4pm Sundays. Closed Saturdays. For more information visit www.dragonhall.org.uk and www.troika-arts.net