Elisa: It’s lovely to see you here in London, Anabel! What brings you here from Munich?
Anabel: This Friday (27th June 2014) is the TED Conference on the theme of Democracy, so I have come out of personal interest as there are always interesting contacts to meet there. I am very interested in social change and innovative strategies that can lead to this, for example, through technology, as new approaches to continuing problems are always interesting.
Elisa: Is this philosophy what informs and drives you in your start-up work at 52masterworks?
Anabel: Absolutely! 52masterworks is a new crowd-funding platform with the aim of building a collection of contemporary art with the community. There are several motivations that inform our model:
- the establishment of a well renowned, high quality collection;
- the aspect of art investment: the collection is dynamic, so within a time-frame of up to 5 years art pieces can be sold. If there is a price increase, the shareholders of the specific piece receive the benefit;
- to democratise access to an art collection for a wider audience;
- the organisation of art related events for our community members.
Elisa: That’s an incredible mission statement! In practise, is it empowering communities in art appreciation and ownership? Is that essentially the gap you are filling?
Anabel: Yes; the idea behind the project is that contemporary art –prestigious pieces in particular –are usually limited to certain collectors who can afford them. Our platform is a tool to change this, as everyone can become a collector starting with 250€ for a share in a piece via the 52masterworks platform. The percentage of ownership of the specific piece varies, depending on the amount you invest, which can be up to a maximum of 49% of the value. In this way, nobody can own a piece alone, but rather in a community with other members of the platform. This new approach can change the parameters of the art market to a more democratic standard. Basically, everyone can own a great piece of art, independent from their financial background.
But this isn’t the only problem 52masterworks is working to solve: our simultaneous aim is to help establish emerging artists that might not get a platform within the art market due to their origins, the themes of their work or problematics related to its display. In order to guarantee a high profile and quality, we are creating a curatorial board and network from a broad cultural range.
Elisa: So who does the platform principally help and is it making a real difference?
Anabel: The platform serves whoever is interested in art and new strategies within this field. We are tapping into this broad community to build up a democratic art collection, with a model that is, to the best of our knowledge, unique in the world and that differentiates us to similar approaches which aim to create a “stock market in art”. We would like to encourage our participants to engage with art, independent of the value and reputation of the artworks and artists. Thus, 52masterworks serves as an easy entry for anybody who is interested in art but has been confronted with the typical entry barriers of the art world so far. Our concept may further promote the democratization of art, itself a relatively new but inexorable trend.
Elisa: In the UK there is a company called Own Art that essentially enables art enthusiasts who otherwise don’t have the funds, to buy art by giving a ten- month interest free loan, but this is still far from the public, community concept of 52masterworks. Therefore I can really appreciate your model- but how do you make money?
Anabel: That is a great initiative, yet still keeps art in private homes, as you have understood. Our business is based on commission, in that we receive a margin at the sale and resale of the artwork. The final commission is 20 percent of a potential increase in value. Thus, there is a clear incentive to act in the interest of the collectors.
Elisa: Does it require a lot of advertising to get the message out there to these potential co-collectors?
Anabel: At the very beginning we concentrated on event marketing and personal introductions. We are now shifting our focus towards cooperations and collaborations with multipliers. Finally, we are also expanding our online activities. Our model is not comparable to the usual e-commerce businesses. We focus on relevant content and trust in order to build up a strong community: the typical performance marketing approach will not work for us.
Elisa: So what are the top trends you see happening in e-commerce and the art-world right now, and how do you fit in with them?
Anabel: As I mentioned before, the democratization of the art world is an omnipresent development which will definitely continue expanding. But our concept also addresses other major social trends: it fits perfectly into a post-materialistic society which is more and more driven by individual experiences and social collaboration than of ownership and status. The sharing economy has already reached many areas of life, such as transport: Art is overdue.
Elisa: Finally, what advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs
Anabel: Believe in what you are doing and don’t let yourself be discouraged by setbacks. If something doesn’t work, try something else and take it as a learning curve. There will be enough time to moan when you’re older.
Elisa: Strong words. I’ll be visiting you in Munich!
Anabel: Definitely, we must do things here and now!
Inspired? We look forward to seeing you at the Startup Weekend Art London in October!