Luca Jakab is owner and founder of ArtSmart Contemporary http://www.artsmartcontemporary.com/. As of this writing, it’s a brand new platform and online gallery for emerging artists who want to display and sell their work. When I saw the site, I thought it would be great to chat with Luca. She’s bright and delightful and is very committed to promoting contemporary art for everyone. How can I not support that?
“…Our aim is to build a strong community of people who are passionate about contemporary art and at the same time are socially-conscious too …”
MICHAEL: Hello Luca, Great to be chatting with you. You are the owner and founder of ArtSmart Contemporary. What is that and why did you start it?
LUCA: ArtSmart is a brand new art gallery concept and social enterprise. We launched our website on the 1st of March 2016. The artists’ works are not only available for sale in our online gallery, we organise pop up exhibitions every now and again as well. We also work with charities, involving them in our projects, e.g. organising charity-supporting auctions and other events. We would also like to start a trainee programme for young people interested in the arts and coming from disadvantaged communities, giving them an opportunity to enter the creative industry.
MICHAEL: Wow, that sounds great.
LUCA: Our aim is to build a strong community of people who are passionate about contemporary art and at the same time are socially-conscious too. I think the term coined by sociologist Paul H. Ray and Psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson 'Cultural Creatives' describes them perfectly. In order to find and connect these people, we organise free, networking events for art fundraisers, art collectors, art writers and other art professionals.
I started ArtSmart because I have always been truly amazed and inspired by the arts, but I was also heavily interested in global politics and social issues. I felt that my mission is to create something that raises awareness and creates a platform for both fields. I realised that for me it only makes sense to set up a company if it's a social enterprise, but I couldn't give up my passion for visual art - it took me years to find out how to connect these two things together.
Before I came to London to finish my Arts Management Master’s course, I studied Social Sciences and Buddhist Philosophy at university level, researching the practical and theoretical aspects of helping others. After graduating and working on freelance art projects, I still felt that something was missing and it was the involvement of modern technology. I started a digital course at Google which gave me the confidence to finally start an online business that involves cutting-edge contemporary art and the support of good causes as well.
MICHAEL: And so, how's the business side of ArtSmart Contemporary doing? This is a tough time for nearly anyone trying to make money in the art world, especially artists.
LUCA: Yes, you're absolutely right, it isn't easy at all. Since we just started out, I can't really predict how much profit we’re going to be able to make. My strategy is based on four things:
1. The artists are free to sell through other online galleries or galleries
2. ArtSmart donates from its own income and the artists are not required to donate their artworks or part of their share
3. The charities help us promoting our artists and events
4. We do interviews and photo shoots with all of our artists in order to be able to promote them in a unique way.
We will keep on adding and trying new selling strategies and hope for the best.
MICHAEL: Luca, We both clearly love, understand and feel art, but how do you go about extending this to people who don't know much about art or are intimidated by it?
LUCA: Today we were actually talking about this question with one of our artists, Roberto Grosso. He creates digital images based on commissioned photographs, inspired by different songs by different bands. We both agreed that next time when we exhibit his work, we will have to show his digital painting process to our visitors and maybe even try to get them involved somehow! Roberto uses a mobile app as well, so the viewers can open a digital reality around his works, showing many details about the piece. I think it is not only fascinating, but very clever as well, because it educates and entertains the viewer and makes him/her understand the idea behind the piece. I'm always on the lookout for more artists like him, who understand that not everyone is an art professional and who can create that friendly and welcoming environment for our visitors.
Apart from that, every time we post something on our social media pages, we try to make sure we tell a short and interesting story either about the artist or the artwork itself. But your question is very eye-opening and I think we will have to do much more than that!
MICHAEL: Aren't you based in London? London is a huge art city. How does what you do fit in with London as an art town? Or does it? Do working class people in England buy art?
LUCA: The question of social mobility and diversity in the arts is a very hot topic in the UK right now. A survey recently found that middle class, white people dominate the arts, and it's true - just go to a private members' club for artists or to a commercial art gallery in London and you will see it yourself. We didn't need that survey to know that. But this is just one part of a much wider and incredibly complex discussion about immigration, gender equality and cultural differences.
MICHAEL: It most certainly is.
LUCA: What people think about it is very much based on their own background. If you ask me, I find the UK a very challenging place and London teaches you a lot about surviving. I experienced many difficulties because I am a foreigner myself and a woman too - but if I had to compare the UK with most of the other European countries or especially my own country (Hungary), I would say that the UK is one of the most tolerant and supporting places in Europe. Berlin is probably even better, many creative people have relocated there in the last 10-15 years instead of trying to deal with the housing crisis and crazy expenses of London-life. What I'm trying to say is it's far from perfect here, but much better than in most of the other countries.
Many UK art institutions try to promote equal rights and represent artists who reflect on current social issues e.g. Islamophobia. I think there are many mixed-raced artists and second-generation immigrants choosing the arts to talk about these problems and if you want to, you can find them. There is a new wave of art fairs as well encouraging affordable art, so I think the art world started to be more approachable than it probably used to be. The government also helps buyers pay for artworks in installments and there are other great opportunities out there as well.
I tried to make sure that ArtSmart has women artists and artists from different cultural backgrounds, but I also wanted it to happen organically. Our priority was the art itself and the artist's personality. I think our target audience consists of two groups of people: the first one is the typical art lover who is looking for something beautiful and affordable and we offer art for them from £30. The second group is more of an art collector-type looking for a serious piece or something as an investment and we have some fantastic artworks for them as well - the most valuable piece we have right now is £8,500.
MICHAEL: Fantastic Luca. Do you come from an artistic family? Why art? Are you a frustrated artist?
LUCA: No, I'm not a frustrated artist. Many of my family members are involved in the arts. That's true. They include film and theatre directors, musicians, graphic designers etc. My mother is an interior designer and my father is an expert witness/forensic investigator. I guess I am the mixture of them.
MICHAEL: Finally Luca, What's the point of contemporary art? Most people on earth today will probably never visit an art gallery and most working artists today are struggling to make full-time living from their work. So what's the point? What is art doing?
LUCA: I think art is supposed to open up our eyes! Doesn't matter how.
I like when something is political or provocative, but I also like when something is simply emotionally moving because of an unknown, intuitive reason. For example, an abstract painting. Artists have the skill to see and show us the bigger picture or the hidden details in our personal lives and society. They can sum up a thousand words in one image that everyone can understand without any words and that's an incredibly powerful skill! At least that's what I think art should do.
MICHAEL: Thanks for this lovely chat Luca. Best wishes with ArtSmart Contemporary. It looks great.
LUCA: Thanks so much Michael!
Check out Luca and her website at http://www.artsmartcontemporary.com/.