Mission & Vision
Art21 is a celebrated global leader in presenting thought-provoking and sophisticated content about contemporary art, and the go-to place to learn first-hand from the artists of our time. A nonprofit organization, Art21’s mission is to inspire a more creative world through the works and words of contemporary artists.
Art21 provides unparalleled access to the artist’s voice to diverse audiences around the world, using the power of digital media to introduce millions of people to contemporary art and artists. For over two decades, Art21 has changed the paradigm for teaching and learning about the creative process.
In addition to its Peabody Award-winning PBS-broadcast television series Art in the Twenty-First Century, Art21 produces the digital film series New York Close Up and Extended Play; and special artist projects including the Peabody Award-winning feature William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. Art21 also creates educational resources and professional development programs; annual public programming; an online publication featuring guest contributors; and a comprehensive website at Art21.org.
“I still think the social function of art is that kind of negative aesthetic. Otherwise there’s no social function for it.”
In addition to its flagship PBS-broadcast series, Art in the Twenty-First Century, Art21 produces short-form documentary series, viewable on multiple digital platforms.
The Extended Play digital series provides unmediated, behind-the-scenes access to the world’s leading contemporary artists. The New York Close Up series provides an intimate look at artists in the first decade of their professional career, living and working in New York City. The Artist to Artist series features artists in conversation with their peers in shared exhibition settings.
Art21’s first feature film, William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible, premiered in national primetime on PBS in October 2010. This one-hour film received a Peabody Award in March 2011 and has been broadcast internationally since its premiere.
The Art21 Michael C. Sandler Education Program engages audiences in dialogue about the contemporary art and the artists featured in Art21 films. Art21’s educational initiatives include the Art21 Educators learning community, the production of interpretive resources, professional development workshops and lectures, and participatory programs and screening events.
Art21 serves educators and their students by providing free materials and programs devoted to the exploration of contemporary art and artists, including a widely distributed series of Educators’ and Screening Guides. In the months following the broadcast of each new season of Art in the Twenty-First Century, Art21 encourages a wide variety of partners—schools, universities, libraries, museums, non-profit organizations, galleries, arts and cultural spaces, community centers, and more—to join the Art21 Screening Society by hosting public screenings of Art in the Twenty-First Century.
Art21 also presents a wide range of writing on contemporary art. Drawing connections between Art21-featured artists and the larger context in which they thrive, Art21’s digital editorial space chronicles this landscape, post-by-post—posing broader, meditative questions about the place of art in our world.
Through 2012, Art21 published companion books for each season of the flagship Art in the Twenty-First Century series. The books presented the featured artists through excerpts of interviews juxtaposed with rich, full-color illustrations of their work. The books also included introductory essays by Art21 founder and former Executive Director, Susan Sollins, as well as artist biographies and production stills from the series.
Published in 2018 on the occasion of Art21’s 21st anniversary, a new compendium of artist interviews, Being An Artist, captures the engaging and seminal conversations that have taken place over the organization’s history, serving as an essential primer on a generation of contemporary artists for those interested in the artistic process as a tool for curriculum building.
Digital channels serve as a primary means for disseminating much of Art21’s programming. In addition to providing instant access to Art21’s films and accompanying resources though Art21.org, Art21 uses digital platforms to further serve and engage with its audiences.
Art21 maintains a constant presence across social media platforms, providing opportunities for direct engagement with Art21 staff, featured artists, and projects, and offering extended perspectives on Art21 activities and resources. The Art21 social media presence—overseen by the organization’s digital media department—includes platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Art21.live, a curated streaming video channel on contemporary art, delivers 24/7 programming to audiences worldwide. The channel draws from over 60 hours of film from the Art21 video library, all hand-selected and programmed by Art21 staff.
The Art21 Translation Project is committed to making Art21 films accessible beyond English-speaking communities. The project brings together a community of volunteers to help transcribe and translate Art21 videos. Through the efforts of the translation community, the words of artists become more accessible to audiences across languages, as well as to viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Art21’s digital initiatives also include projects created in collaboration with artists. Previous projects include avaf + art21 comboworks (a special collaboration with artist collective assume vivid astro focus) and Twitter “takeovers” by artist Eleanor Antin.
Art21 maintains an extensive library of all of the films and educational materials it produces. The core of the Art21 Library is nearly one thousand hours of original documentary footage amassed during the production of Art21’s films. Art21 continues to film with previously featured artists, documenting art installations, exhibitions, and performances at galleries and museums worldwide. The Art21 Library also includes film documentation of Art21’s education and public programs, including hundreds of hours of video by Art21 Educators participants. The filmed material in the Art21 Library is supplemented with transcribed interviews, research materials, educational publications, Web pages, books, and digital and analog artwork reproductions.