When Curina founder, Mio Asatani, made the move to New York City in 2017 to attend Columbia Business School she says she was faced with a challenge when trying to make her new apartment her own. Though in her journey to purchase original fine art by New York artists, Asatani told WWD she was met with unwelcoming and uninterested gallerists.
Asatani soon found her experience was not uncommon and other potential art collectors in her business classes also found the process to be intimidating. The young professionals, Asatani found, were left wanting.
According to Asatani, these Millennials, who have a reputation as a generation that strives to be unique through purchases and social media, deserved better. Her solution, Curina, offers three subscription plans which provide members with curated art from New York artists.
Here, Asatani talks to WWD about empowering New York artists, sharing curated art with the Millennial consumer and the challenges she faced as a female-led start-up.
WWD: Who are the artists you work with? How do you find them?
Mio Asatani: In the flood of images and information that comes with looking at art digitally, I’m sticking to the idea of selective curation. “Quality over quantity” definitely applies here. We’re looking for New York artists who think a lot about what it’s like to live in our day and age, issues urgent and close to our lives like digitalization, urban architecture or cultural identity.
We also expect [the artists] to use the medium of painting with a critical eye because it has such a long history that can be turned around and used to question its own assumptions — incorporating sculptural or craft elements, for example. I think Curina’s unique perspective is what led to our partnership with Kathryn Markel Fine Arts — we share an eye for works that will be more than a new sensation.
WWD: What have the challenges been as a female-led start-up?
M.A.: I think my challenges are multilayered. I am female, young and, on top of that, Asian. I work with not just artists and galleries, but also with real estate management and brokerage firms, which are dominated by much older white men. The concept of rental subscription for fine art is unique and the founder doesn’t look like anyone they have done business with in the past.
Having to deal with too many unfamiliar elements can be scary for some people. I’ve had someone tell me “That’s a cute little school project. Good luck.” But at the end of the day, these comments don’t matter because if I can offer a value that no one else can, they can’t say “no.”
WWD: Why is the idea of renting art a need for consumers now?
M.A.: People want something unique. They no longer want mass-produced posters or to live in the same-looking houses as everyone else. They want a piece of culture in their home and to be inspired.
And people don’t stay in one place forever anymore. They are looking for a more flexible way to enjoy art and that’s why subscription models are so popular right now.
Curina wants to offer a new art ownership model. Art is not just for rich people. Buying art doesn’t have to be so extraordinarily serious and inflexible. I hope our rental model will lower the hurdle and let people enjoy art for what it is like it’s supposed to.
I hope Curina changes not only the ownership, but the perception people — especially young people — have about art. I believe art could and should be part of everyone’s lives, homes and conversations, and I hope Curina can help do that.
WWD: Who is your primary consumer?
M.A.: We have two types of customers. The first type is Millennial business professionals who want to graduate from buying generic posters from Ikea but don’t want to commit to expensive pieces. They are frequent customers of Rent the Runway and Feather. They rent for the duration of their apartment lease or until their tastes change.
The second type is customers who want to see the art in person and try before they buy. They don’t have the time to visit galleries, but they [also] aren’t comfortable spending a few thousand dollars for online art either. They like Curina because the rental fees go toward purchasing and they feel it’s risk-free.
WWD: How does your idea reflect Millennial behavior today?
M.A.: I see a lot of Millennials consider “buyership” less as owning a product than a gesture of supporting a community or idea. Especially in New York, there’s always been a strong cause for supporting your local creatives.
That’s why DIY collectives and venues with experimental spirit can survive where it can’t anywhere else. We’re trying to bridge this community spirit with an online presence that can sometimes seem impersonal, by creating content about the stories behind each work and by challenging the stuffy way art tends to be described.
WWD: How long do consumers generally rent a piece of art?
M.A.: Anywhere from six months to two years. Our customers like that the subscription model gives them the freedom to enjoy fine art for as long as or as short as they would like.
WWD: Is there something ideal about a subscription service for this audience?
M.A.: People appreciate change and experience more than ever. More and more Millennials are moving around for a new adventure. They don’t want to be tied down to one place, style or environment. That’s why a lot of our customers already use other rental subscription platforms like Live Feather and Rent the Runway. These rising start-ups accommodate people’s changing lifestyles.
For More WWD Business News:
What Should We Expect of Art? – The New York Times
Concordia's Art Volt Collection aims to help launch the careers of fine art grads — University Affairs – University Affairs
The initiative includes a ‘bootcamp’ in art marketing and sales skills.
A newly launched art collection aims to support graduating students and recent alumni of Concordia University’s faculty of fine arts as they launch their careers in the competitive commercial market, while simultaneously giving the general public an opportunity to buy or rent artworks.
The Art Volt Collection (AVC) is the latest initiative of Art Volt, a platform launched in March 2020 with a variety of programs helping to help Concordia’s fine arts alumni as they transition out of school.
The new collection features about 140 artworks from 25 artists working in a variety of media, including print, painting, photography, video, ceramics and textile installations. The collection officially launched with an event at Maison du Conseil des arts de Montréal on May 17.
“It’s very important for artists to have support in the years after they graduate,” said Camille Bédard, head of AVC. “The three to five years that follow graduation are the most critical ones, because this is when artists decide if they will continue or not in their artistic path. Art Volt is there, at this pivotal moment for them.”
The not-for-profit service is supported by the Peter N. Thomson Family Innovation Fund. In 2019, the Peter N. Thomson Family Trust gave a $5.6 million gift to Concordia’s faculty of fine arts. That donation supports three areas, including the innovation fund. Each year, the AVC will make a call for submissions to acquire new art, from artists who have graduated in the past five years. Graduating students and alumni submit their work to be reviewed by a professional jury, made up of faculty, artists and curators.
Twenty-five artists were selected for the first collection, a number that could grow in the future, Ms. Bédard said. The artists’ work is showcased online, providing exposure and connections to patrons interested in renting or buying pieces, and there’s are also plans for future in-person exhibitions.
Another major component of AVC is professional development. Prior to the collection’s launch, the first group of artists attended a day and a half of “bootcamp” training, covering topics including how to properly package artwork, price pieces, and how to write a bio and artistic statement. “All the workshops that we give at the bootcamp are skills that they don’t necessarily learn at school, but they need,” Ms. Bédard said.
That focus on professional development, alongside the jury process for selection, sets the collection apart from other university initiatives that rent or sell student art. “It’s really about supporting their careers as they enter their professional life. We’re covering a wide range of skills that are part of the artistic life, but that you don’t learn while you’re at school,” Ms. Bédard said. “Art Volt is somewhat of a transition between university and real life.”
One of the artists in the first collection is Alexey Lazarev, a Montreal-based multidisciplinary visual artist who graduated from Concordia in 2019. He first participated in the Art Volt platform’s workshops and presentations before successfully submitting his work to the collection. A few of his pieces sold at the launch event, and a few more have sold through the collection’s website.
“Participating in a program like this has helped me understand the realities of the business, what it takes to be an artist, and to have some sales and make some money. It’s also good for visibility and to make new connections,” Mr. Lazarev said. “I think more universities should do a program like this; it really adds value.”
While the program’s model is unique to Concordia, Ms. Bédard sees opportunity for other universities to adapt it to meet their own needs. “I would suggest thinking, what do your artists and students need, in terms of making it into the art world? What can you offer them to help them? Maybe it’s providing them with skills and certain tools, or maybe it’s exposure,” she said.
Already, the collection has helped showcase student artists to the broader university community by providing opportunities to buy or rent original art. “There are lots of offices in universities but there was previously no way to have artworks by students in those offices,” Ms. Bédard said. “With the collection, we’ll bring artworks of Concordia students into Concordia offices, instead of having just random artworks.”
Anyone can purchase or rent artwork from the collection, but first they have to become a member of the AVC. Annual memberships start at $25, and philanthropic donations of $250 or more include automatic membership in the collection, alongside other perks. Artists set their own prices for their pieces, and the AVC takes a 30 per cent commission on sales, which Ms. Bédard said is lower than the industry standard of 50 per cent.
Already, plans are underway to expand what is available through the AVC so that graduating students and alumni from all nine departments in Concordia’s faculty of fine arts are eligible for transitional support. Acquiring a theatre play is not the same as acquiring a painting, Ms. Bédard said, so the focus will be less on buying and selling and more on providing artists with increased visibility and connections in their fields.
One way to do that is through partnerships. For example, performances will take place this August and September featuring the work of Concordia students in dance, visual arts and theatre at Art POP, the visual arts segment of the POP Montreal International Music Festival.
“The collection has just started, and already there are so many more ideas that we have in mind to develop,” Ms. Bédard said. “Having access to that visibility and exposure is really key.”
Urban art and music festival in Sudbury this weekend – CTV News Northern Ontario
Preparations are underway in downtown Sudbury for the Up Here Festival this weekend.
It’s an urban art and musical event to brighten the downtown with colourful murals and showcase emerging music.
Twin brothers, originally from Halifax, are painting the first mural at the Up Here Festival 2022.
Using a scissor lift, paint cans and brushes, the artists said this creation is called Moose and Bear.
“We wanted to do something big and bold and colourful and friendly that is approachable since it’s such a public area. So yah like everyone loves animals, everyone loves colourful paintings,” said artist Greg Mitchell.
The twin brothers now live in Toronto and operate a creative agency called Born in the North. They were invited artists to take part in the festival.
“I love being a part of it. It’s like a huge compliment too to to be trusted with this massive wall for the festival. I think it’s the first one that is being done for the festival so it’s a big honour and yes it’s just really fun to be outside all day paining this,” said Chris Mitchell.
The Up Here Festival kicks off this Friday featuring urban art activities for all ages and eclectic music.
“Paint a bunch of new murals within the downtown core and we present emerging acts so some of the best emerging talent from across the country,” said Christian Pelletier, a co-founder of the Up Here Festival.
“So not necessarily big names that everyone knows but a lot of acts that are going to be headliners of tomorrow.”
The festival has been running for eight years now and organizers said it’s growing each year.
“For us the project really started as an idea you know of beautifying the downtown core and it has quickly transformed into a way to engage with the community. To put up art that challenges people’s perspectives that also adds a little bit of quirk and wonder to their daily routine,” said Pelletier.
Up Here Square is a unique area on Durham Street.
Organizers said there will be a number of concerts throughout the weekend that are pay as you can to make them accessible to everyone.
For more information on the festival, visit their website.
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