ArtSmart Contemporary is a brand new online art gallery popping up the week of 10 March at Space W10. The Resident meets founder Luca Jakab to find out how ArtSmart will take the London art scene by storm…
WORDS: Alexandra Cronin
On the eve of ArtSmart Contemporary’s first pop-up week, I watched founder Luca Jakab and her team setting up at Space W10. Opening night will feature an auction, music, a comedian, an interactive live performance and a live painting. A wide range of emerging and established artists are taking part, with conceptual, contemporary pieces and many different mediums hanging on the walls.
As we talked, artists filtered in and out. For example, Roberto Grosso was happy to discuss how his experience as a professional musician is one with his digital art. Take special note of his digital masterpiece Cossi Forte that when viewed through a phone lens plays the song that inspired it. Others — like Colin McMaster — dropped off his Pop-Art inspired paintings and ran out, boarding what looked like the exact same bus that delivered him. It’s an ambitious range for a gallery still in its inception, but Luca Jakab is up to the task.
Every time you buy something, you make a decision; you always support something
Jakab, who studied arts management, social sciences and Buddhism, sits with me in the corner of the gallery, where she can oversee the preparations, and takes me back to the beginning of ArtSmart Contemporary. “For me it didn’t make sense to just create a company to make money,” she explains, “I wanted to create a social enterprise that involved art.”
Here’s how it works: along with the steady online sales — 5% of the profits going to charity — there are also going to be bimonthly auctions where the starting bid amount goes to the artist and the rest of the sale, up to the final bid, is donated. This is vastly different from most other galleries, where auctions take place maybe once a year and require the artists to donate pieces and forfeit their own profit.
ArtSmart Contemporary, Jakab explains, is built on a totally new art fundraising model that offers more frequent auctions, continuous art fundraising for charities, profit for the artists and full-time publicity from ArtSmart’s dedicated team. Luka Jakab hopes to attract the attention of Londoners with a similar excitement for fine art and charity. “Every time you buy something, you make a decision; you always support something,” she says with a shrug. She seems proud to offer a high quality product that goes toward a good cause.
But being online has its challenges. “It’s harder to find your audience,” Jakab admits. “It’s harder to keep people interested in what we do.” An online gallery requires top-notch social media, market research and business savvy, all of which the ArtSmart Contemporary team has in spades. Regular free networking events and pop-up weeks in temporary venues are essential to Jakab’s vision. She’s all about fostering connections: between buyers and artists, fine art and charity, social justice and business.
“I don’t think it makes sense to be competitive. I think it makes more sense to come together and think about new things we can do together.” Jakab works primarily with UK artists, ideally London artists, so that she knows them and their work well. “London is huge. There are so many artists here,” Jakab says, smiling as people curiously look in at the gallery from the street.
London is the place where people are looking for new things
Though the artists have all contributed vastly different artworks for 10 March pop-up, Jakab let slip a few hints about what brings them together. ArtSmart Contemporary has found many pop-surrealist works—many of them digital and many of them political—with what Luca called an additional twist.
“London is the place where people are looking for new things,” Jakab says. “But they also want to see something that is has a message; that is more than just a pretty picture.” Here, we turn to the art itself. James Mylne’s Miss Moss 2 is a deceptively photographic, coy image of Kate Moss that took McMaster 300 hours to create with a ballpoint pen. And a viewer could enjoy at Grosso’s Cosi Forte without even realizing that there’s a whole digital world around it that can be discovered with a touch of a button.
Artists: Colin McMaster, James Mylne, Blandine Bardeau, Roberto Grosso, Agent X, Simon McCheung, Kerry Beall, William Blanchard, Naomi Vona, David Studwell, Mauricio Ortiz, Andrew J Millar, Zoe Moss, Kev Munday, Michelle Loa Kum Cheung, Nora Levai, Kill the Sofa & Andras Ridovics.