It started with a connection. James-Lee Duffy and Josh Jones, co-founders of the underground ‘zine Pavement Licker, used to share a studio with Jennifer McCormick, who heads up high-end art dealers Helium London.
There’d been talk of a collaborative project for years, but it never got going until they found the right idea – and a good cause – to hone in on for an exhibition.
Taking their cue from the zine’s name, then pooling their combined contacts, the trio persuaded 50 top artists to treat a slab of pavement as their canvas – each of which would be put up for sale in a blind sale for charity.
“Part of the Pavement Licker ethos is to be a level playing-field,” says Josh. “The bigger names rub shoulders with up-and-coming artists on our pages and we wanted to do the same with this show. Over time we’ve made a lot of contacts and I guess we saved up enough credits by being nice people to ask a ton of favours.”
Getting to this point hasn’t been easy. James and Josh are used to hustling. They met while working at a “Nathan Barley-esque agency” called Cake in 2002 and that’s where Pavement Licker began.
After leaving Cake, the pair kept the ‘zine going while traversing different roles: James going from graphic designer to creative director, Josh travelling the world before becoming an editor and cultural journalist.
“I lucked out by getting a long-term role as in-house journalist for a worldwide music project and that kept me going while I got on my feet properly,” says Josh.
“I’ve since made books and magazines for all sorts of people. My career peaked in when I invented the Instagram account Celebrities in Ramen a couple of years ago. It’s been a downward slope from there to be honest.”
For the Pavement Lickers exhibition, they set themselves the challenge of pulling it off within six weeks – trying to find a venue and drink sponsors while still cutting through the noise taken up by Frieze and London Fashion Week.
The underlying drive has been to raise money for Rett UK, a charity that helps those with Rett Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that mainly affects young girls.
“My niece Esmé was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome about six years ago and I’ve been wanting to do something that would help her and other girls with it ever since,” says Josh.
“I knew there would be some kind of Pavement Licker way but I wasn’t sure how. Once we’d started to formulate a plan with Jenni for this show, we always said that the money raised had to go to charity and Rett UK was a unanimous choice.”
Each piece of artworks is exactly the same size – a 40cm concrete square that weighs over 10g – and sells for £1,000.
To have a chance of buying one, you have to register online before the 1st of October. The artworks will be offered in a blind sale on a first-come, first-served basis – but you won’t know which one you’ve bought until the exhibition night on the 4th of October.
Find out more about the Pavement Lickers exhibition.