AucArt: Where Collectors Find Emerging Artists

A Women’s Thing has dedicated itself since 2014 to reshaping society’s ideas of what “women’s things” are by providing resources and giving space to female-identifying voices. We are launching an online viewing room in partnership with AucArt as a larger initiative to show support to emerging and established artists and to connect with organizations with the same mission. Through this rotating exhibition space, we will promote these communities through editorial features.

AucArt is a key player in the future of art sales. Founder Natasha Arselan believes the progression of the art market is not only digital, but also international, transparent, and collaborative. Here at A Women’s Thing, we agree with Arselan, discuss more, and introduce our online gallery by exhibiting AucArt artists.

Natasha Arslean
Photo courtesy of Andree Martis.

AucArt: Where Collectors Find Emerging Artists

By Morgan Everhart

I’ve heard from many people that artists are the luckiest of all in this pandemic because our practice thrives in solitude. I think that’s true for many creatives and most of the artists in the exhibition agree. Artists are going to be ok because this is the time to slow down, reflect, and research new ideas. Viktoryia Shydlouskaya calls this period of time her renaissance and I believe it. Natasha Wright is unphased by our current isolation because her work involves more than a lifetime of things to explore. There’s nothing else the artists in the exhibition would rather do with their lives than to be making the work they are making now. A Women’s Thing, AucArt, and I hope this can continue to happen for them and ourselves.

Nevertheless, there are the inevitable constructs of our capitalistic societies that we have to acknowledge, prepare for, and challenge. COVID-19 was mostly unanticipated and unaccounted for this year. The transition to online art spaces has been imminent before, but at this time, it is absolutely urgent. Keeping the pre-existing structures of the art world is simply not possible anymore now that we can’t visit spaces or see art in person. In order for the art world to survive, we need to establish unique, international online presences that get to the heart of what the arts are pursuing conceptually and emotionally.

Natasha Arselan at the BFAMI Charity Ball
Natasha Arselan at the BFAMI Charity Ball in January 2019, Photo by Hannah Harley.
Natasha Arselan speaking at the Art World Forum
Natasha Arselan speaking at the Art World Forum, Saatchi Gallery, October 2019.

“There’s no other way to make sales right now besides the internet,” Natasha Arselan, founder of AucArt, says during our conversation. “Like anything in life, it’s just how quickly you adapt to a situation…Many of which are out of our hands. If I’m able to understand what’s happening, and figure out how I can mould and if there’s opportunity, identify and strategize accordingly, I’ll survive. If I’m stubborn and non responsive to external landscapes, it’s going to be difficult, that’s what I’ve learnt anyway. It’s wonderful to see the breaking of traditions now more than ever in the art world. With technology & the internet, for me this has facilitated thinking outside the box by quite literally using out of the box solutions. At first, there was a lot of apprehension to go online. The Art World is years behind any other industry when it comes to attitude towards technology. Now we have no choice but to adapt. The pandemic has caused a global shift & crisis. That said in 2008, the art market was the fastest and market to bounce back from the recession.”

In Art Basel’s recent article, “Galleries’ digital transformation accelerates,” Agustina Ferreyra, who launched her namesake gallery in Puerto Rico and now runs an exhibition space in her Mexico City home, not only speaks to collaboration being essential in thriving and finding new clients, but she also takes this time to reflect on the very role of her practice. “It might be time to not only rethink our role as galleries but even to ask, what is a gallery?” says Ferreyra. “Is your space your gallery? Or is your program your gallery? A gallery is a vision, a story, a group of people who come together around common ideas. If we have that, we can find a way forward.” 

Arselan agrees with Ferreyra’s understanding of galleries and adds, “an open-minded way of seeing a program is the gallery, I think a good gallery is one that can build an independent ecosystem for their artists, offering the artist the recognition, validation, sales & in general the career they envision. It’s inspiring to finally see people thinking outside of brick and mortar.”

Viktoryia Shydlouskaya’s studio
Viktoryia Shydlouskaya’s studio.
University of the Arts London Chelsea Campus
Natasha Arselan visiting the University of the Arts London Chelsea Campus Degree Show in 2019.

Natasha Arselan founded AucArt in December 2017 after exploring musical theatre, interdisciplinary arts, and receiving her MA in Cultural Management. She was also working in various pockets of the art world including galleries, curatorial pursuits, and art journalism trying to find herself. Arselan doesn’t believe these are career moves, and rather sees her choices as a journey. 

AucArt is the only online auction house specializing in emerging artists. They catch artists in the very early stages of their careers, either having just finished their postgraduate or undergraduate degrees. This unique emphasis allows clients to collect works by emerging artists, forming a personal relationship with them whilst following their journey. “You’re only on the planet for a short time and I’d like to think AucArt has created accessibility, transparency and hope, within a once rigid system, helping the next generation of artists to sustain their careers, and the 21st century collector collect! The world needs art,” says Arselan.

The concept moves beyond the exclusivity of the art world. Even though the art world has no choice but to do online viewing rooms now, they alone are not enough as people need the social experiences that give the art meaning. Arselan’s driving force in her business is to give others an all-round perspective on the artworks. Arslean and her team, “love sharing the opportunity to discover with our viewers, spending a lot of time curating the works and gathering information, providing handwritten bios and CVs. There’s our virtual gallery which is a way to see the artwork in a different context and each artwork has a view to scale. We have a magazine that gives weekly editorials and weekly studio video series. We offer an all round experience, so the client can read & become familiar with the artists they’re interested in supporting and have the confidence to buy the works. Through every point of interest, our team is available to assist.”

The Financial Times recently published an article called, “Can technology make the art world accessible?,” written by Josie Thaddeus-Johns on JiaJia Fei, the first purely digital consultant for the art world. Fei believes in streamlining digital experiences, in order to make them as welcoming as in-person experiences. Fei also notes the need for transparency and community with new audiences in the online marketplace. There’s proof that adding as much context as possible for the broadest possible audience makes a difference on multiple levels, including sales. In the same article, Josie Thaddeus-Johns uses David Zwirner’s online sales as an example, where “47 percent of inquiries online are from new collectors, and the 15 most valuable works sold have been from locations where the gallery doesn’t have a physical gallery space, indicating a broad spread beyond the usual cycle of collectors.”

A unique feature that AucArt has always done, which is becoming more popular due to the pandemic, is listing prices of artworks. Arselan says that, “Many people nowadays do not want or have time for another email thread going back and forth with inquiries they want to see the price upfront and decide instantly”. During the coronavirus, we’ve pivoted so you can buy at the set price or make an offer. The collector profile is evolving. It’s detrimental operating on the idea of ‘it’s right because that’s the way it’s always been’ Instead I always ask myself ‘Why’. It doesn’t make sense to hold onto an old value system in a new world. I will add that establishing a network of people supporting you, a community is key to value & wellbeing as an artist. I say this to anyone who has refused to sell to another because they cannot google them… .”

AucArt’s London Residency
AucArt’s London Residency, AucArt Lab. 2019 Open Studios.

Running parallel to the urgency for context and transparency in the art world, is the increase of sales for artworks made in the last 20 years, and representing diversity in exhibitions and collections. Last year, The Art Basel and UBS Global Market Report stated “Post-War and Contemporary art was the largest sector of the fine art auction market in 2019, with a share of 53 percent by value. Sales reached $6.1 billion, a decline of 10 percent year-on-year. Works created in the last 20 years accounted for 23 percent of the value of Post-War and Contemporary sales in 2019.” In terms of gender representation, galleries working solely in the primary market had 44 percent women on their roster and provided 40 percent of sales. On a global scale, there has also been an increase in the share of female artists in museum exhibition programming. Unfortunately, the report referenced here does not share any findings on diversity in race or ethnicity. 

Arselan understands, “We have to be in the know when it comes to emerging markets & cultural landscapes. The art world is tiny we need more of the world to start collecting art, it’s so accessible these days for example on the platform prices range from £300 – £18,000. It’s interesting to observe the difference that demographics, wealth, education and tradition have affected how people value art and it’s importance in their lives. In no world should there be a ring or fence around who accesses art, it truly adds so much to ones life, I think awareness mainly comes from education and with the internet it’s pretty much free. Right now, the three largest auction hubs in the world are the U.S., China, and the U.K. Excluding France, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, the rest of the world represents five percent of sales. Organizations like AucArt know that their international mindset, transparency in pricing, and the community they have built extends beyond their immediate reach. Arselan says, “AucArt has definitely experienced an increase in new clients and returning clients that have been loyal since the beginning. We’re invested in our old and new equally. These clients are trickling in from everywhere. Seasoned collectors, Beginners, Celebrities, from main cities and remote parts of the world. I’m always amazed at the reach of our platform. The best part about being online is that it’s global not only regarding shipping but our roster of artists is global so you can decide whether to collect from your local artists or International. You can literally connect from anywhere in the world with an instant click and a week later your new artwork arrives directly from the artists’ studio from the other side of the world.

Natasha Arslean and Morgan Everhart in London
Natasha Arslean and Morgan Everhart in London, November 2019. Morgan Everhart has been represented with AucArt since the beginning of 2019.