A new breed of art fest
Free rein A unique setup and a loyal, tribal following has made the indie upstart Trojan Horse was a Unicorn the best art event around
It’s a small miracle that Trojan Horse was a Unicorn (THU) returned for a second time this September. It may have established a passionate following, but last year’s debut left its directors half a million euros in the red. THU 2014 shouldn’t have happened at all, but it did for all the right reasons.
Held near Setúbal, Portugal, the most talented creatives in the VFX, animation, game and design industries came to speak and inspire 500 ticket-buyers, all hell-bent on cracking the industry themselves. Friendships were forged, projects planned, all with no barriers between the festival goers and guests.
People were actively encouraged to speak to their art heroes – whether that was concept artist Jana Schirmer, Rockstar North’s Ian McQue, pin-up boss Serge Birault or Avatar lead artist (and Oscar winning) Andrew R Jones. The addition of mentorships saw ticket holders gather around these artists during the day, soaking in their hard-won art advice. Elsewhere, life-drawing and sculpture classes ran either side of the daily free beer happy hour – a time to let it all sink in.
This year’s THU happened because of sheer obstinate passion. “Last year the potential sponsors didn’t get what we wanted to do,” says THU co-director André Luís. “They didn’t believe in what we were doing. They wanted money in advance, but to begin with I had zero euros in my pockets. But I thought, ‘Let’s do it anyway.’”
Taking a moment’s rest in the restaurant of the five-star Tróia Design Hotel where THU is held, André is a changed man from last year: battle-worn for sure, but also verging on relaxed; confident in the friendly monster he’s created. Across the restaurant, Industrial Light & Magic art director Christian Alzmann shares a joke and a glass of wine with one-time head of the company Scott
The THU tribe grew from 150 last year to around 500 in 2014.
Alex Oliver takes a sculpture class and Christian Alzmann chats with Jeremy Mann, and the wine flows before another evening ‘fireside’ chat.