S'pore firm links artists and buyers
GROCERIES, books, clothing - we buy everything, it seems, from our laptops and phones these days, so why not original art too?
That's the question posed by the founders of Art Loft, a Singapore-based e-commerce art platform with a focus on connecting emerging contemporary artists, largely from South-east Asia, with collectors around the world.
The company's co-founders are three lifelong friends, each of whom brings a different area of expertise: Michelle Chan, the site's chief curator and artist manager; Tian Qiuyan, the company's business development and finance expert; and Alexandra Eu, who handles the creative branding and marketing.
Unlike other online art platforms, Art Loft works directly with artists (currently about 40), not galleries. It finds them through a network of curators, colleges and critics in places like Myanmar and Laos, gained in part through Ms Chan's experience as a curator at her family's Singapore gallery, M.
"One of the big things that we wanted was to give access to a lot of artists who don't necessarily have reach beyond their own local community," says Ms Chan. "Having it online really gives them an almost equal playing field."
In addition to e-commerce, the site features an educational component that takes the fear factor out of buying for entry-level collectors - prices start at US$180 (S$220) for limited-edition prints - by introducing each of the artists in a way that goes beyond JPEGs of their work, with profiles, studio visit-style editorials and a feature that lets buyers upload images to see a work of art in their own space.
In Singapore, potential buyers can even rent pieces for a low monthly fee before buying - a feature Art Loft may expand to other markets in the future, once the logistics are worked out - while Bangkok's new Amara hotel will feature works from local artists chosen through a contest with Art Loft.
In the United States, the team plans to increase exposure with a pop-up during next spring's Asia Week New York.
"We're not trying to detract so much from the physical aspect of the importance of art, but really complement that thing - how else can we contextualise this, and can we showcase this in a fun manner that people don't think is intimidating and that art is just for the affluent, which typically is the sense that a lot of people get, especially young collectors who are just starting to have disposable income," says Ms Eu of Art Loft's accessible approach to collecting.
"It's really about just understanding art and encouraging them to buy art that they love."