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How Bombay Sapphire Balances Commerce and Creativity by Fostering Emerging Talent

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Bombay Sapphire has a long and rich history within the creative community, ever since they first launched nearly 30 years ago. 

Written by Christopher Metler

Images courtesy of Bombay Sapphire and Artsy


Sitting aside the crystal clear River Test in rural Hampshire, England, Laverstoke Mill is a site steeped in natural beauty and home to Bombay Sapphire’s iconic distillery. It’s where some of the world’s finest gin is created, via a precise, one-shot method of production called ‘vapour infusion,’ known to render every last drop of the distinctive spirit with the flavour and aroma of ten hand-selected botanicals.

The uncommon process involves using ingredients picked from exotic locations around the world, alcohol brought in from a separate supplier, water from Lake Vyrnwy, a still originally developed in the 19th century, and a team of meticulous technicians to get everything right. There is no room for error here. Every batch of Bombay Sapphire comes out perfectly.

As a matter of interest, this commitment to artistry and craft is one that Bombay Sapphire has pledged to uphold not only in the gin they bottle, but also through independent endeavours that aim to cultivate and enrich vibrant communities, all while still building out the brand’s own business in an authentic and inspiring way.

In fact, Bombay Sapphire has a long and rich history within the creative community, ever since they first launched nearly 30 years ago. And over that length of time, Bombay Sapphire has continued to reinforce its dedication to the arts sector by supporting emerging artists with programs like the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series, a competition founded in 2010 that advances the talents of emerging visual artists throughout North America.

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Through each edition of the Artisan Series, thousands of submissions from both online and local gallery events get narrowed down to a small number of finalists. These finalists then receive the chance to travel to Scope Miami Beach — the premier showcase for international up-and-coming contemporary art — to feature their oeuvres in front of the top art critics and buyers in the world.

Now in its second year in Canada, the competition has again partnered with Artsy, an online platform for the discovery, education, and collecting of art. Boasting a growing collection that comprises 350,000+ artworks by 50,000+ leading artists, Artsy offers one of the largest bodies of contemporary art available in the digital space.

For Elena Soboleva, a contemporary art specialist who leads Artsy’s special projects, it’s only natural to team with brands like Bombay Sapphire that reflect Artsy’s own values of making art accessible and part of our everyday lives – brands that maintain a genuine engagement with art as a core value, and are committed to supporting artists.

When it came to Bombay Sapphire, she saw a natural fit.

“They have a track record of providing emerging artists with an international platform to showcase their work,” Soboleva says. “While the artists range in age from recent graduates to those taking up art as a second career, most don’t have gallery representation. It’s exciting for Artsy to be able to partner with Bombay and offer these artists an opportunity to reach a wider audience, and position them for next steps in their development. Along the way, we create amazing content that can help all artists as they develop.”

After all, it’s been said that exposure is the holy grail for young artists. Especially in Canada, which plays host to such a fierce and saturated scene for its relatively small population. Consequently, getting eyes on your work — especially when the prospect of international attention comes hand-in-hand — can mean a world of difference in a young artist's career.

Just ask Vancouver’s Benjamin Lee, the 2016 Artisan Series victor. Like a lot of the artists, he entered the competition hoping he might someday get to work with Bombay Sapphire in an artistic capacity. But since winning it, opportunities have come in the form of private acquisitions and interest from galleries to showcase his work.

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Ultimately, the experience taught him that the business of being an artist is almost exclusively about — and here’s that magic word again — exposure.

“That is the only real power behind advertising. It’s the commonality that art and advertising share,” Lee opines. “You can make the greatest work, whether it be a painting or a frypan, but if nobody sees it and nobody knows about it, then its value is finite. But if you share that work, it takes on a life of its own.”

“The old adage rings true: If a tree falls in the forest… You can’t make art in a vacuum.”

Lee isn’t the only success story recently spun from Bombay Sapphire’s Artisan Series.

In 2012, artist Hebru Brantley sold his finale piece to Jay-Z during Scope Miami Beach, and was commissioned to create a custom work for producer Swizz Beatz in 2013. Then, in 2015, artist Kristine Mays sold hers to George Lucas and wife Mellody. The couple went on to personally task Mays with creating two other custom-made wire dresses for their daughter, Everest.

It all serves as testament to the exceptional caliber of talent being supported by the Artisan Series, in addition to the public notice which Bombay Sapphire’s annual arts competition affords.

Furthermore, the Artisan Series has demonstrated that prominent corporate entities like Bombay Sapphire — itself a property of billion dollar spirits titan, Bacardi — can not only partner with the creative community to support emerging artists in an authentic fashion, but still support their own business in the process.

“Leading visionaries within these corporations understand that art has the potential to disrupt preconceptions and be an absolute form of self-expression,” says Soboleva. “Brand support is an amazing way to increase funding to the arts and offer more opportunities to artists, but it has to be done in a way which places the highest regard on the artist’s intent.”

“This means a real sense of collaboration and respect for their work.”

Well, as it pertains to the Artisan Series, it can be confidently stated that the spirit of Bombay Sapphire — self-expression, creativity, and imagination — lives, unequivocally, in its competition’s artists and their opuses.

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