The Internet in 2016, is a boon. It’s not only helped make the retail segment affordable, but it has also given design and art firms a chance to flourish. Thanks to the online boom, and the rise of young curators who are making this possible.
In this sea of online art platforms, we recently crossed paths with Aditya Mehta – the founder of Art&Found, a new online art website based in Mumbai. What makes this website different is the fact that all the artists showcased here are selected through invite-only, and the pieces are limited edition. Another interesting aspect of the company is their segment called SHOWCASE – an exhibition, the firm hosts every month to help artists. We catch up with Mehta, who told us more about the platform, what it stands for, the artists and the exhibition, which is today evening. Details on the venue here.
How did Art&Found start? A little back story on how it came into being – why did you think of starting something so concrete?
Two years ago, what started off as an idea to bring together the growing artist community in India has gradually grown into Art&Found – a curated platform to discover beautiful art by emerging Indian artists from around the world. The last six months or so have been crazy – from talking to the most talented artists hiding in our agencies, design houses or as freelancers in their homes to constantly improving the user experience on the website, which is only going to keep getting better and beautiful as we look ahead. What lies ahead is uncertain, yet exciting as we prepare for everything from featured collections and lovely newsletters to artist interviews and gallery exhibitions. Paul Graham’s advice to Brain Chesky was to build something 100 people love and not something 1 million kind of like. Starting with our artists, I think we have our 100.
I come from an Advertising background. Working as a Senior Art Director in agencies like Ogilvy & Mather, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented artists across the creative industries, some of who also happen to be my friends (smiles). This gave me perspective into a disorganised artist community that deserved better intrinsic and monetary value. Art&Found was born with a need to empower the artist community. I also love art and want to do up my walls with beautiful art, but why does art have to be so expensive?
The USP and significance of the firm?
Art&Found is and will always remain curated and invite-only. Our focus is also on Indian artists, based in India or abroad. For art lovers, we make art buying easy for a new generation of art collectors.
Things you learnt since you started Art&Found?
The online art market is hot, yet cluttered, with a number of platforms doing pretty much the same thing. We started off by directly addressing some of the paint points of artists and buyers and used that to come up with a fresh approach to an existing idea. What we learnt most, and as almost a discovery of sorts, were the number of artists hidden in our agencies, design houses and studios or even as freelancers at homes.
You are currently working in Ogilvy & Mather. How do you balance your time at the office and your firm?
I manage to keep these two separate. It also keeps me focused, spreading my energies evenly between both. I think it’s important to explore side projects that give you a chance to realise your potential find what you can be great at. Simply put, balancing between the two is a mix of hard work and hustle!
The challenges you faced while you commenced this firm – good and not so good experiences you might remember?
What started off as a side project eventually became a full-blown startup. As any startup, the challenges are in all areas. The trick is to see every problem as a challenge and every challenge as an opportunity. One of the toughest areas for us was in the initial stages to sign up artists and get them to put up their artworks. Interestingly, it was also one of the most satisfying processes shortlisting and curating the best works to build something fresh and disruptive.
Let’s start from the very beginning, how was life growing up in Mumbai, things and aspects that helped you in your creative process? Your influences where you were growing up?
I didn’t go to art school. I can’t draw. I can’t sketch. I can’t paint. I get a complex when I see works of talented illustrators and artists – the I-wish-I-could-do-that feeling, you know? I think in the creative industry, you’re either a creator or a curator. Becoming a curator was almost out of an elimination process of not being a great creator, or an artist. I knew I had an eye for good design and talent with strength in creative direction – both of which are essential to a curator’s role. I believe being like a sponge and wanting to consume everything with an innate need for curiosity and learning really helps until you find what you really want to do. I didn’t necessarily have talent but I had perseverance, which took me where I wanted to go.
The platform went live about a month back, and you already have your second curated show. Could you tell us a little about the Art&Found Showcase, and how and where does it fit in the company’s picture?
In addition to our online presence, we are also providing artists an on-ground space via art exhibitions where they can sell their art and engage with art lovers. Art&Found SHOWCASE is an on-going series of art exhibitions for select artists on the platform. What we’re trying to do is build a space to connect artists and art connoisseurs for the common love of art.
What can the audience expect in the second showcase?
The first SHOWCASE was with a Chandigarh-based artist named Gaurvi Sharma who has been making collages since 2008. Her work set the tone for our interest in contemporary, graphic art by emerging artists. It was great to see people coming in with curiosity to learn about the artist and the handmade process of traditional cut-paste collage art. Gaurvi managed to sell two of her larger pieces. Currently, we’re exhibiting the pen and paper works of her sister, Upasana Mehndiratta. Upasana’s art is an emotional reaction towards the juxtapositions put forward by daily mundane situations and the society. The show will be on till the weekend.
The aspects that differentiates Art&Found for other similar platforms in India?
The online art market is hot, yet cluttered, with a number of platforms doing pretty much the same thing. We started off by directly addressing some of the paint points of artists and buyers and used that to come up with a fresh approach to an existing idea. We make art buying easy, for a new generation of art collectors. And we make sure to keep our artists happy.
We also saw that you have interesting artists like Kaveri Gopalakrishnan, Garima Gupta, Dangercat and many more on your site – how do know that these are the kind of people I want in this space? The process you follow while scouting for artists?
What began as immense amount of homework has become standard procedure for signing up artists. We screen artists thoroughly and select them on the basis of the style, quality and originality of their work. We’re steadily gaining respect as an art platform that not only provides artists a space but also curates their best work. We maintain a healthy range of all styles of art without interrupting the artists’ work process.
How does the art scene in India look like in 2016? Is the Internet changing the way we look at art? Your comments, please?
Convenience is at the core of online retail for consumers. The way we can price the art online makes it an inexpensive experience and less intimidating. This has definitely caught the attention of a lot of people who are either art lovers or hunting for affordable art. Online is a small but rapidly growing segment of the market. The art market in India is pegged at $200 million (1,300 crores approx.). The demand for art online has risen substantially and expected to grow at a rate of at least 25% per annum.
Artists you adore, and still don’t have in the site?
Sameer Kulavoor, Lokesh Karekar, Rishidev RK, Janine Shroff, Meera Sethi, Jasjyot Singh Hans, Karan Singh, Mira Malhotra, Hari Panicker, Kunel Gaur, Ranganath Krishnamani.
What is art according to you?
Art is a medium of expression for the social, cultural and political landscape of our times.
Plans for the future?
My vision is to make Art&Found an art lifestyle brand that encapsulates everything from an online marketplace and an on-ground art fair to an art publication and an annual art conference.
Aren't we glad that the internet is helping bring creative things together? What did you think of this new online art platform? Let us know in the comments below.