ARTPIQ - INTERVIEW WITH KATHARINA WENZEL-VOLLENBROICH
Bislacchi, December 2018
ARTPIQ is a new start-up founded and directed by German born art collector Katharina Wenzel-Vollenbroich (1992). She came up with the idea while she was a student in Arts Management at King’s College in London in 2015. Through adventurous trips in Japan, China, the US and Europe, she made friends with artists and curators all over the world. In addition, the experience she gained working as partnership coordinator for Artnet fostered her interest in the art world with a special focus on young artists. Both academic and practical knowledge has helped Katharina to think about ARTPIQ as an online art platform to support the market of young emerging artists, connecting them with a new generation of art buyers.
Bislacchi: ARTPIQ! ARTPIQ! ARTPIQ! ARTPIQ! ARTPIQ! ARTPIQ! ARTPIQ! ARTPIQ! ARTPIQ! Actually…what is ARTPIQ?
Katharina Wenzel-Vollenbroich: ARTPIQ is an online platform for emerging artists that seeks to open up the art market to new collectors and investors by offering affordable art by young artists from top universities and providing the option to finance artworks. Our aim is to make art buying more transparent through reasonable, consistent pricing and facilitating value appreciation through our careful selection of artists. For us, collecting art is not merely about buying decorative objects, but collecting exceptional stories and connecting with creative people in a unique way.
Founder & CEO Katharina Wenzel-Vollenbroich. Courtesy of Artpiq.
B: Can you describe your life before you founded ARTPIQ?
KWV: Boring, stressful, and not self-determined.
B: How about now?
KWV: Refreshing, challenging, and self-realising.
B: You lived in London and in New York for quite a while. Currently the world’s leading art capitals, could you tell us more about your experience with the art scenes in both cities?
KWV: I loved - and still do - both London and New York. Surely those two cities are leading art capitals, however, I felt it was all about the secondary market. Private art collections and museums showing works by Alex Israel, Matisse, Damien Hirst, Picasso, Giacometti, Yves Klein are “wow”, but what about those talented young artists under the radar? How can they become a variable in the equation of the art market? It's a tough path to the top. I am fascinated with cities that bear so much undiscovered talent - London, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Dresden - to name only a few. I grew up in Dusseldorf so it seems like a nice spot to work and travel from (it only takes 10 minutes for me to get to the airport!).
B: That’s interesting, because I also had the same feeling the first time I moved to London four years ago, but now, although I think there’s much more interest in young artists, the art world still offers few opportunities for them. Don’t you think? I wonder how Dusseldorf compares in this context?
"what about those talented young artists under the radar? How can they become a variable in the equation of the art market?"
KWV: I believe Dusseldorf is one of the German cities next to Cologne and Berlin that offers a great variety of galleries and museums. Furthermore, Dusseldorf has a fantastic collector base - Julia Stoschek, Gil Bronner are two prominent figures. Then there are amazing artists like Thomas Ruff, Joseph Beuys, Günther Uecker, Thomas Schütte and Andreas Gursky. Additionally, Dusseldorf has one of the most significant art schools world-wide: Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, with renowned teachers like Katharina Grosse and Tomma Abts. As we do represent some artists from the Kunstakademie, I must say I admire their work and the thorough thought they put into their art. Plus studio costs there are more affordable than in booming urban centres like London and Berlin. Hence, I believe Dusseldorf offers great opportunities for the artistic unfolding of young artists.
B: Why did you decide to operate online instead of having a physical gallery space that showcases and promotes emerging and mid-career artists?
KWV: I am not the only one saying that I believe online is the next big thing. We can see how Artnet - an online database founded in the 80’s - was a pioneer at that time, building trust and transparency for galleries and art buyers. So online isn’t much of a new thing. Nevertheless, buying art online hasn’t yet fully reached the acceptance of many people in the art market - but what better way to show art by emerging artists internationally than online? Barely any artist gets on-boarded by a gallery straight away or gets international shows right after finishing their degree. And I think that's more than ok but it doesn’t have to mean their art shouldn’t receive any visibility until then, right?
B:Absolutely! Therefore, do you feel your mission is fulfilled when the artist will be getting on-boarded by a gallery with that kind of international exposure?
KWV: I think so, yes. Since, we do not see ourselves as a substitute for galleries we want to offer our artists the greatest support in between university and gallery representation. We are the happiest when we see our artists get the best possible exposure and develop their network.
B: Over the course of the years, precisely since purchasing art online has become an increasingly important trend, how do you think this has affected the art market?
KWV: In general, I believe that online retail has naturally increased transactions and purchases worldwide - for some shops online the most valuable thing that has happened is the international outreach they've gained. People don’t have to visit your shop to buy your products. However, it can also mean that those shops do not see the importance of keeping a physical space.
In regards to the art market, I think we are already, and will be even more so, facing the challenge of mega galleries ruling the market in future, particularly due to increasing rents that are often difficult to carry for less established galleries. And this is exactly where I see the online world as a great way to defy this trend. Ultimately, I think we need a good mixture of online and offline spaces.
Antonia Freisburger,o.T., 2017. Courtesy of Artpiq.
B: That’s a great point! I also was going to talk with you about the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report from 2018, according to which online buyers are buying more frequently and at higher prices than ever. However, as you already said, selling art online hasn’t reached full acceptance yet. For instance, one of the main concerns when buying art online is the inability to inspect the art in person. What would your response be to this issue?
KWV: I believe that it will be a matter of time until buying art online has reached full acceptance - not sure whether it will ever reach the older generation of traditional art buyers, however I am certain millennials will become more familiar with this - in fact almost 78% of millennials who bought art in 2018 so far have done so online. Due to today's return policy that allows online purchases to be returned within 14 days by law (at least in Germany), I think the fear threshold of not being able to inspect the product beforehand comes down to zero. Nevertheless, with the help of good images we can present our works in the truest colours and, by using the “zoom” functionality, we help the collector to best inspect their favourite work. And we plan to further use the most enhanced technology to even improve the possibilities of inspection online in the future.
B: Amazing! But what’s the artist’s response to ARTPIQ? How can they get involved?
KWV: We are happy to say that we get very good feedback from artists, especially regarding our careful curation and selection of artists on our website. Many emerging artists straight out of art school are searching for qualitative channels to make their art more visible as well as new sources of income. We offer them both and try to constantly improve the ways in which we can promote the artists we work with. Usually, we scout artists from top international art schools and artists also apply to work with ARTPIQ via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"we are already, and will be even more so, facing the challenge of mega galleries ruling the market in the future"
Founder & CEO Katharina Wenzel-Vollenbroich in front of Goia Mujalli’s artwork. Courtesy of Artpiq
Austin Moule, Life Preserver, 2018. Courtesy of Artpiq.
"to become the leading online platform for original artworks by the best emerging artists of today"
B: Very recently, you have been at the NOAH conference in London introducing ARTPIQ to an international audience. Can you explain what you talked about and how you intend to pursue this new path?
KWV: That's right. NOAH London is one of the biggest European conferences for start-ups and investors. We pitched our concept behind ARTPIQ which is, on the one hand, to support emerging artists to enter the market and, on the other hand, to make the purchase of original works of art more accessible to a wider public.
B: So what are the projects you have been developing with ARTPIQ so far? The “ARTPIQ Summerhouse” for instance, has had a successful impact. Can you tell me more about this project and its developments for the future?
KWV: We had our first artist residency this August! The ARTPIQ Summerhouse which was held at a farmhouse on the outskirts of Düsseldorf. Here we invited 6 emerging artists to live and work together for three weeks whilst working with sponsors to supply materials etc. At the end of the residency we held a one-day vernissage, where we sold many of the stunning artworks created. We have also collaborated with investor advisor U-Start for a pop-up exhibition this October at Chateaux L'Albereta near Milan, presenting the artworks created during the Summerhouse in a new context. We are planning on repeating the Summerhouse annually from now on. Hopefully we can reveal more information on the next residency soon.
B: Fantastic! We are already excited about that! Well, you just mentioned your collaboration with U-Start in Milan, but ARTPIQ quite often gets involved in further projects. For instance, you also partnered with DATEAGLE ART in London and with the German art prize the BLOOOM Award. What are these collaborations about?
KWV: We are constantly developing our partnerships as we think this is key to widening ARTPIQ's reach and the visibility of our artists. For instance, DATEAGLE ART is a great online platform for emerging artists focusing on studio visits and artist interviews. We are working on a collaborative series of interviews as well as other exciting projects to be announced soon. The BLOOOM Award is one of Germany's largest prizes for emerging artists - an amazing opportunity for young artists to kick-start their career!
B: Well Katharina, ARTPIQ’s future seems full of exciting surprises. One last thought about it?
KWV: To become the leading online platform for original artworks by the best emerging artists of today.
Founder & CEO Katharina Wenzel-Vollenbroich next to Ellie Walker’s painting at Chateaux L’Albereta, Milan. Courtesy of Artpiq