A Matchmaker application to connect artists and collectors

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LONDON – The equivalent of a dating app in the art world: this is the idea behind a subscription service due to debut here on July 31 and which aims to connect artists with collectors – without charging any commission.

Stacie mccormick, an artist and gallery director of American origin, envisioned what she hopes will be an alternative to an art market where the odds are against newcomers.

Today, most transactions between artists and buyers are handled by a small number of large galleries that represent established names and charge large commissions.

Mrs. McCormick runs Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop, an exhibition space and artist residency in a former hardware wholesaler depot in West London. The glass space also contains some of his art: large, swirling abstract works inspired by Asian calligraphy.

“You have a top-down industry. There are these amazing elite galleries that bring phenomenal artists to the world, ”Ms. McCormick said in an interview with Space. “But between this environment and on the ground, there are very few entry points.”

She noted that there were unrepresented artists for you to check out, and many consumers who would be eager to check them out, but few places the two could intersect.

She described her application, Fair Art Fair, like “a Tinder for artists and collectors. It’s one way to facilitate this meeting, ”she said. After all, “in almost every industry the middleman has been cut out.

To join, artists pay £ 15 (around $ 21) for a monthly subscription that includes an account where they can store and display images of works and also initiate commercial transactions, such as generating an invoice or certificate of authenticity. .

Collectors also have a dedicated virtual space on which to store images of their collections and finalize transactions. Curators can mount an exhibition through the app, virtually or live, and create press releases and price lists.

Despite the app’s promise, some in the art world have said that it will take a long time for the app to disrupt the market.

“There is both a growing need and a growing desire on the part of many different people to provide alternatives to the art business,” said Allan Schwartzman, a artistic advisor.

Is the application “something that becomes a parallel reality or a meaningful alternative?” ” He asked. “I think it could go both ways,” depending on who uses it, he said.

Mr. Schwartzman drew an analogy with small art fairs that take place at the same time and in the same place as large ones. These aren’t necessarily “places you’d never want to buy anything,” he noted. Although they can achieve “measured success, these two worlds do not fit into each other”.

The app grew out of Ms. McCormick’s gallery and studio, which she set up in 2015 to try and recreate the kind of uplifting, community-based atmosphere she enjoyed while pursuing a master’s degree at a school of London art.

In Unit 1, the artists in residence donate a work for sale, which enters the gallery’s collection and is included in the exhibitions organized by Ms. McCormick. The gallery then produces a limited edition print series based on the work that generates income.

Ms McCormick said the space had lost money in its first five years and the pandemic would have shut it down completely, had it not been for £ 35,000 (around $ 48,000) of emergency funding from Arts Council England, the body that distributes government grants to cultural institutions.

This initial little lifeline was followed by an additional £ 150,000 brew, which also allowed McCormick to develop and launch the app. She said she needed 1,000 to 1,500 monthly subscribers to cover her costs.

Radhika Khimji, a London-based Omani artist whose work is represented by galleries in Vienna and Kolkata, India, said she tried to connect with collectors through various commission-based apps several years ago, but without success. “Online is a pretty saturated space,” she said.

With the pandemic, however, “people are buying a lot more” online, and her own Instagram feed is gaining more attention than before, she said. The app’s ability to automatically generate documents could be “very beneficial,” she noted.

But to take off, the app must deliver on its promises and have the support of leading figures and publications in the art world, she added. “It’s all about credibility.

Mr. Schwartzman said the new collectors he encountered were generally “much richer” and “much busier” than previous generations of new collectors, and “a comfortable expense at a very high price which in the past , took decades for collectors to get there, if ever. “

Despite Fair Art Fair’s desire to introduce a measure of fairness, “at the end of the day, art is not fair,” he said. “Genius does not multiply to the amount of money that wants to buy it.”

The app had a good chance of success if it was “very well organized and focused,” he said, if the information was “well organized” and if a process was in place to attract high quality work.

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