20 July 2022

Still from ‘Tinitus’ – August Getty Atelier, produced and directed by Patrick Rees.
Still from TinitusAugust Getty Atelier, produced and directed by Patrick Rees

Patrick Rees

Co-founder of The Big New
Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours)

Everything Patrick Rees does is big. His Bachelor of Visual Arts, with Honours, from UniSA is only one of his three degrees. Now based in Los Angeles, he works in art fabrication, bringing the large-scale artworks of others into being. His company, The Big New, has expanded into promoting emerging artists through film, and he dabbles in NFTs, those unique digital artworks turning the artworld on its head.

Artists FriendsWithYou Painted Bronze Sculpture 'Cloud Boy' produced by The Big New for the Christies Auction at Art Basel Miami in 2021
Painted Bronze Sculpture Cloud Boy 2021
by FriendsWithYou produced by The Big New

Despite huge advances in technology, just as the Old Masters relied on assistants, today’s cohort turn to art fabricators to bring their artworks to life. “Not many people know that when you go to a gallery and see a 20-foot-high sculpture by Jeff Koons, that he didn’t actually build it himself. Artists pay companies like ours to build their artworks for them.”

Patrick moved to Los Angeles on an Artist in Residence program in 2012 and while continuing to paint and exhibit, he was sponsored by art fabrication companies – learning on the job how to weld, grind metal, pour molten bronze and steel, and how to build moulds – until he obtained his green card and was able to go out on his own.

Now Patrick’s team work in bronze and stainless steel in series of large buildings on an enormous lot and their creations go to leading museums and into collections and galleries all over the world. Tony Matelli’s Hera – a piece Patrick's company produced in 2017 – was commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria for their 2020 Triennial.

On the floor at The Big New
On the floor at The Big New, Los Angeles

“We’ve come to a point where we’re producing work at a very high level, and we are fortunate enough to work with some of the biggest artists in the world.” Internationally renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is one. Another is Sterling Ruby, an artist Patrick has always admired. “It’s one of the reasons why I came here, because artists I admired like Sterling are based here in Los Angeles. It is an incredibly vibrant global art scene in LA and is constantly growing and expanding.

Patrick Rees
Patrick Rees has been LA-based since 2012

Patrick and his co-founder of The Big New, Eduardo Ortiz, are striving to build a hybrid company and he credits his education at UniSA, and a subsequent law degree, for providing the skills and confidence to take on major projects – many are years in the making – and diversify into other areas. He doesn’t put limits on what they can do, and is buoyed, rather than apprehensive, about staying flexible and taking advantage of opportunities such as filmmaking.

The company name evokes thoughts of “what’s new” or “the next big thing”. “We’re giving a platform to emerging artists and promoting artists from diverse backgrounds. We can promote these artists through filmmaking – from creating their work to showing in an exhibition series – with these films reaching an audience outside of the gallery space. We are also working with the new digital art form of NFTs (Non-fungible token) which are fascinating, and we work with artists that are at the cutting edge of this new medium.”
Permanence, written and produced by Patrick Rees

His dedication to promoting a diverse range of artists is clear in the face of social justice issues that have hit the United State particularly hard. One of Patrick’s first film projects was two films entitled Tinitus, (2021) made for August Getty Atelier. “August Getty is a very talented, down to earth fashion designer. They have made dresses for Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Katy Perry,” he says.

The Big New’s planned 10 by 10 Project will pair 10 leading female artists with 10 leading female directors to produce 10 unique documentaries about their collaboration. This work is currently in development with an agent in Hollywood, thanks to an introduction from Patrick’s wife, Sarah Lindsay, who is herself a talented and multidisciplinary creative and executive in the entertainment industry.

Staff at The Big New in Los Angeles painting a bronze work by Sterling Ruby
Staff at The Big New working on Sterling Ruby's
bronze sculpture Double Candle

Learning on the job and later managing a company employing around 30 people who worked on some “really crazy” projects that caused a lot of stress, Patrick recognises this valuable experience would not be possible to learn in business school. However, with a well-rounded visual arts degree in his toolkit he felt uniquely qualified to establish his own company. Not only can he understand how artists think and the things that are important to them, he also knows how to position the company in the industry – where they need to be, and who are the best people to work with.

“It was a very rigorous degree in terms of the lectures. We had to learn to really understand contemporary art, and the issues in contemporary art and the art world. And we were encouraged to embrace the new … and be progressive in our output,” says Patrick.

“There’s been a history of UniSA art graduates doing really amazing things. The art faculty promoted a very open minded, progressive and globally contemporary curriculum and approach to art making and thinking about the art world. I think that equipped me really well to come into a global art industry and feel very comfortable. I was well prepared for the next step.”

You can view some of Patrick Rees’ projects at www.thebignew.co.


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