SNAC finalists' paintings SNAC finalists' paintings A screenshot of some of the many incredible featured works that will be in the SNAC catalog. (All images courtesy of SNAC)

Online art competition unites cultures

Israeli artists from around the world participated in the first official Social Network Art Competition.

A new art competition is using social media platforms to provide exposure for artists to share their work with the world – and in the process, unifying cultures in the name of beauty.

The Social Network Art Competition (SNAC) expo kicked off its first official contest, with a focus on Israeli artists. A total of 219 pieces of art were submitted by 72 artists, with voters participating from no fewer than 93 countries. Some 33,000 people saw the works of art, and almost 8,000 cast their votes to choose the winner.

"Third Eye" by Tomer Aviram"Third Eye" (watercolors and acrylic on canvas) by Tomer Aviram of Tel Aviv, Israel.

Promotion and discovery are the two guiding concepts behind the project, Guy Clément Cohen, co-founder of the project, told From the Grapevine. Cohen said that what he has desired most as an artist is visibility, and now he's passing on the opportunity to lesser-known artists representing different countries all over the world, starting with Israel's expo. Cohen admitted that at first he knew very little about contemporary art in Israel, and he felt the urge to fill this void in the American art scene by inviting Israelis around the world to share their art. 

The San Francisco-based Cohen is a sculptor now, but hasn't always been – in fact, it is his 35 years of experience at tech giant HP that has allowed the project's website to really take off. "I am really thrilled that I am able to connect my past technical experience together with my art experience into a unique offering that unites artists," Cohen said. 

Robin Williams tribute painting by Nathan Pollock"'Old Friends' A Robin Williams Tribute" (acrylic on canvas) by Nathan Pollock of Lubbock, Texas.

How it works

Artists submit their work via the website, and once it is approved it is shared on nine separate social media platforms, from Facebook to Pinterest and everything in between. Votes are cast on the website, while data from the social media sites is aggregated and immediately reflected on the website. The resulting number is called the SNAC ratio – the higher the ratio, the higher the artist ranks in the competition.

The highest-ranking artists move on to the curating stage, where judges evaluate which artists dominate in terms of proportion, emphasis, rhythm, balance, harmony and the potential to break new ground in the art scene. About 100 semifinalists make it into the SNAC brochure and catalog, for their art to be purchased, while 30 pieces go on to star in the traveling exhibition. Each piece of art goes on sale with proceeds benefiting programs in Israel.

"Ben Shemen Forest" (oil on canvas) by Avraham Shemi Shoham"Ben Shemen Forest" (oil on canvas) by Avraham Shemi Shoham of Bat Yam, Israel.

Creating a community

"Art is definitely a unifying platform," Cohen said.

Artists who join the community are free to network and get to know the other competing artists, uniting complete strangers with the same goal.

"It's just fantastic to see an artist in Israel communicating with people in Spain and France," Cohen said. 

Paintings at the ZK galleryPaintings by Evgenia Espinoza of Madrid, Spain, on display at the ZK Gallery.

At the opening of the first exhibition at ZK Gallery in San Francisco in November, the community came together to support the artists.

"Put a glass of wine in their hands and have them look at art and talk about art – everybody was together, it was incredible," Cohen said. "It was one big party."

ZK Gallery Director Yoad Bar-Noy told From The Grapevine that the event was a success for both organizations, with hundreds of visitors. "It was the perfect occasion to welcome locals to our gallery, and we were very excited about how the event connected people from varied backgrounds," Bar-Noy said. "SNAC unifies disparate places and peoples by breaking down cultural barriers."

For one Israeli finalist, the competition was life-changing. With one of the highest SNAC ratios of all of the finalists, three of Haia Hason's colorful paintings were on display.

Haia Hason (left) poses in front of her painting with Guy Cohen at ZK Gallery

"I have always loved creating art and reading about the artists I liked," Hason (pictured left with Guy Cohen, in front her painting "East" at the ZK gallery opening) told From The Grapevine. The Toronto-based artist said her mind has always been immersed in art.

"I see it everywhere, and want to create what I want," Hason said.

Hason channeled that passion in this competition after she heard about it from a friend in what she light-heartedly calls a "what the hell" decision. Despite her hesitations, her work did so well that she was overwhelmed. 

"My three works garnered tons of votes that came at me through left field," she said. "It was an absolute honor having that attention from the online community."

Hason said that becoming a finalist in the SNAC competition has encouraged her to approach more highly regarded galleries in the U.S. with resounding success. Her work will be exhibited at a gallery in the renowned Miami Wynwood Art District for a three-month stint starting in January. After years of teaching and raising her family, she's finally acting on her impulse to create. 

That's what the SNAC competition is all about – inspiring artists to get out into the virtual world as well as the real world to network and share their art, ultimately raising awareness about their respective communities. 

With plans in the works to bring the next expo to India, it's clear that Cohen and his team are truly living up to the SNAC motto: "Uniting the world one art community at a time."

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Online art competition unites cultures
Israeli artists from around the world participated in the first official Social Network Art Competition.