Buy Now: An interview with AucArt founder Natasha Arselan
Art — 01.12.17
Interview by Lara Monro
Natasha Arselan is hard to miss these days with her Le Corbusier style thick-framed glasses and platinum coloured hair. It is practically impossible to avoid seeing her manoeuvre around town from openings, to art studios, to graduate shows in London and the rest of the country as she continues to firmly support the UK’s emerging contemporary artists and art scene.
For the last two years, Natasha has been working on creating the online auction house AucArt, where she came up with the idea during her MA at King’s College London. In this last year, she has devoted (nearly) every hour of every working day to AucArt. Finally, the time has come for her to reveal; what she hopes will be the beginning of a new era for both artists and collectors in the contemporary art world.
Running from meeting to meeting, she ruthlessly continues to promote her soon-to-be-live online platform. Natasha met with Teeth Magazine at The National Gallery, where she explained why she had lost count of the endless sleepless nights spent working on her project, what she aims to do with AucArt, and why she so strongly believes that the art world is not as far out of reach as most people think.
Can you explain to me what exactly AucArt is?
AucArt is the first interactive auction house to source undiscovered artists at the earliest point in their careers fresh out of art school (final year BA/MA until three years post graduation). AucArt offers one lot (artwork) a day, each auction runs for seven days. Once you have created a collector profile, you will have the option to either purchase via our interactive bidding system, or simply ‘buy now’, in which the artwork will be instantly yours. We want you to enjoy discovering and growing your art collection from anywhere in the world. AucArt cuts out the middleman – all of the art comes from the artist studio directly, which makes AucArt a primary market platform. By eliminating costly overheads, this system is economically a win-win for both sides (artist & collector). Artworks range from a few hundred pounds to the 6k mark.
What made you want to pursue this idea?
I think that there are so many amazing undiscovered artists coming out of our art schools that, if given the opportunity (and funds), could progress and go on to have quite colourful careers. I believe that the foundations in which AucArt is built upon (transparent, curated, network) are precisely what these artists need in order to get their work out there, but in a refined and curated way. I also think it will allow many more people opportunities to collect art with potential. We want to create a community of both insiders and outsiders who simply share an interest in discovering the next generation.
We seek to reinvent the traditional ‘auction house’ as we know it. We connect early career artist’s directly with collectors, who in turn benefit from equal opportunity to purchase all artworks. Clients can purchase work before it begins to appreciate; by investing in artists early on in their career with unprecedented access, to the most current and fast-growing artist network. We nurture the joy of discovery by converting art lovers into art collectors. Our evolved auction model thrives on transparency; collectors are given a choice to bid or ‘Buy Now’. Prices are immediately visible, lifting the veil on an otherwise opaque system. AucArt is the only auction house that protects artists’ markets by placing the ‘Buy Now’ capped feature, we prevent artists burning out their market at this vulnerable stage in their career. Unlike the traditional 50/50 commission structure galleries offer, the artists in our network benefit by receiving 70% of the final price. We launch our first online auction on December 1st – this is only the beginning!
Do you see AucArt expanding internationally?
There is most definitely the opportunity for AucArt to be a global phenomenon. Until now it’s a pretty untouched area of the market, it’s just about timing and resources. So far, I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response. I want to make sure I’m true to my vision and suit the needs of both artist and collectors here in the UK before I expand and work with even more artist communities. Having said this, there are certainly plans and exciting prospects in the pipeline – so stay tuned.
Will you host special events with AucArt?
AucArt will host a monthly studio visit for clients to meet artists we are working with, where they can purchase works straight from the studio – All sales are processed through AucArt. It’s an amazing experience and my favourite part of the job. We will have a Monthly E-Catalogue, which will provide an ‘all-access’ look at what is in-store for the month’s scheduled sales. Together with my UX // UI team, we’ve tried to break the conventional online buying experience by designing an immersive online interface for purchasing works that are driven by brand new content every day. It’s more enjoyable and efficient in my opinion to see artworks within a context even if it’s online. All artworks will be reviewed by AucArt’s in-house curatorial team as well as a guest artist of the month, an established artist (this month is LA-based artist Petra Cortright) who will review and pick their favourite artworks. We’re doing everything we can to bring awareness to graduates coming out of schools without being too institutionalised, so we came up with the concept of artists supporting artists because, let’s face it, they all started somewhere, and remember how difficult it was in the beginning. Offline I will also be continuing to be involved in talks and panel discussions when opportunities arise.
You have a seriously strong board of trustees, can you tell me a bit about how you managed to get these individuals involved in your venture?
Every advisor on my board is passionate about supporting the next generation of artists, that’s what brought us together, whether it’s building bridges between art schools and institutions, visiting degree shows at the end of every year or collecting, we all invested in discovering and creating change. I strongly believed the board would be beneficial in advising and strengthening AucArt and its journey, given their collective experience. I am genuinely grateful to each of my board members for the advice and time they have given me in making AucArt possible. THANK YOU to Svetlana Marich, Brett Gelman, Maryam Eisler, Fiona McGovern, Melanie Gerlis, Roya Sachs, and Dylan Jones OBE.
I have heard you mention in previous interviews that you believe less is more and that this is the main ethos behind AucArt. Can you explain why exactly you feel this way?
I am a big believer in this idea that less is more, especially as it becomes more and more apparent in our intensely over-saturated world/society that, supposedly, the excessive choice is the key to happiness. We assume that more choice means better options and higher satisfaction. It’s the opposite. I researched this theory from Barry Schwartz, an American psychologist and sociologist who is one of my favourites. He wrote the book ‘The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less’.
AucArt offers a highly curated selection of artworks daily, just because the work is modestly priced, it still deserves respect in the way we present it to our users. I hope that everyone will join me in this revolution to unleashing the upcoming fresh talent flooding out of our art schools… and collecting a piece of the future!
The AucArt website will go live on December 1st; here is a teaser video of what to expect: