This is a sponsored post, though all opinions are my own.
Those of you who are new around here may not know that I got my start in the art world. Shortly after graduating from a small liberal arts school in Maine in 2007 (with an Art History degree), I embarked on a journey to Washington D.C., where I would spend the next few years attaining a Master’s Degree in Modern European Art. I was incredibly fortunate to snag Curatorial Internships at renowned museums, such as the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and the Phillips Collection. In 2010, I landed my dream internships in Manhattan and finally made my way back home to New York. I had the incredible honor of working alongside Vivien Greene at the Guggenheim (Senior Curator of 19th + early 20th-Century Art). Over at the Whitney Museum, I had the great opportunity to peek into the brain of David Kiehl, whom I worked for as a Curatorial Intern in the Prints Department.
It turns out that it’s incredibly difficult to find a livable wage working in the field of Art History, perhaps especially in New York where a living wage is the equivalent of a luxurious salary nearly anywhere else. I spent nearly a decade working and/or gorging myself on the brains of the art world’s academic elite, all to find myself with a career on social media. I never made a single paycheck (save a summer stint at the Manhattan auction house, Doyle New York, at the age of 19). But, what I did walk away with was a wealth of insight into the how, what, where and whys of the art world.
Today, I’m going to share with you a peek by introducing you to my new favorite online gallery, Return on Art.
One of the greatest insights I gained from my time in the art world was the time I spent sitting in on the Prints Committee meetings at the Whitney Museum. In that room sat David Kiehl, little old me, and twenty of the most renowned art collectors in Manhattan, such as the Hess family. I listened and scribbled notes as they deliberated which artists and works to acquire for the Whitney’s Print Collection. Though there were many tidbits to be taken from these meetings, the one big takeaway was this: despite undoubtedly being the lowest earner in the room, David Kiehl held all the power. The acquisitions went something like this: 1. David becomes infatuated with an artist (for good, solid artistic reasons). 2. He presents said artist/work to Prints Committee 3. Prints Committee approves acquisition/also begins to add works by said artist to their own Private Collections. A move that, in turn, would make this particular artist highly collectible in the art world at large.
So, after witnessing this somewhat random, and entirely elitist process transpire firsthand, I came to the inevitable conclusion that, unless you can be privy to the levers of the art world’s elite, you may be stuck in the dark as far as collecting affordable art. The irony of all of this would be that many works David would acquire on behalf of the Whitney would be highly affordable at the time he acquired them. After his acquisition? Not so much.
This brings me to what I LOVE about Return on Art. This online gallery based in Vienna, Austria, offers original works by up-and-coming avant-garde artists for prices that would make David Zwirner’s head spin. Unlike many other affordable art sites that support burgeoning artists, such as 20×200 or Minted, Return on Art offers original works in a many different mediums. Personally, most of my “collectible” art consists of Prints because, in general, they tend to be more affordable than original paintings, mixed media or sculpture. But, Return on Art makes it possible to add the unmatched appeal of original works, all created by artists who have been carefully vetted by the seasoned curatorial team at Return on Art.
I am absolutely ecstatic to now be the owner of this incredible sculpture by Daniele Fortuna, an accomplished Italian sculptor represented by Return on Art. The work, LOVE, was created by cutting individual pieces of wood and joining them together in this three-dimensional work. The classical torso looks back to antiquity just as much as it reaches forward to the future in it’s neon palette and topological surface. When turned around, LOVE, has “WHERE IS THE LOVE?” sculpted on the backside, a semiotic nod to postmodernism in a piece that is so starkly classical in its form. The irony of this anachronistic work is maybe my favorite part about it (only second to the fact that it’s seriously just really f**king pretty). Daniele Fortuna’s work is now a very cherished addition to my art collection, and only the second piece of sculpture I have ever had the honor of owning, thanks to Return on Art’s affordable price scale.
I also had the great pleasure of interviewing Amir, the CEO and founder of Return on Art. Here’s what he had to say:
1/ What drove you to start ROA?
I was personally frustrated because I thought it was terribly hard to buy art. On the one hand, Galleries have a very limited offering, intransparent prices and make it very hard for a young person to get into collecting. On the other hand, there are various online galleries and platforms that offer millions of works, with zero quality guarantee, no connection to the artist, and most importantly, a very bad collecting experience. I was personally craving a place where I know every artist is hand-picked by experts and that offers me a great collecting experience. Eventually, my frustration led in a throughout the market analysis and ended with me founding Return on Art from my university dorm.
2/ Do you have a background in the arts? If so, has that informed the way you have structured ROA?
Strictly seen no. I have a business background but I have always had passion for everything visual and aesthetic. During my undergraduate degree in London, I developed very strong passion for art hence my knowledge on art history and the market are purely self-taught.
3/ Are you hands-on with selecting the artists who are represented by ROA? If so, what draws you to their work? If not, how do you choose the employee(s) who select the artists to be represented by ROA?
In the early days, it was a one-man show, hence I also had to pick the artists we represent. My first signed artists are still with us today and we are very proud to be working with them for over two years now. In early 2019 I got the chance to work with Fabio al Fauci, Tishk Barzanji and Frans Smit. Nowadays we are fortunate to be two figure strong team that is growing very fast. We are proud to have full-time curators and our Artist Director, Marzena, who handles all of the curational work.
4/ As a gallery that prides itself on affordable and attainable art, how do you ensure that both the artist and the customer have first-rate experiences with ROA?
From the artist side, we always strive to provide unparalleled support, a unique way of promoting and nurturing our artists and of course, fair pay. From the collector standpoint, we are the one platform that allows everyone direct access to work class art. We leverage the latest technologies to make the experience as smooth as possible while still emphasizing on the personal aspects.
5/ ROA has such an incredible selection of avant-garde work. Will ROA maintain a focus on contemporary and boundary-pushing art? What is it about each work offered by ROA that makes it stand out from other works offered at similar price points by other galleries?
As we grow, we are able to represent a more versatile repertoire, yet we will always have a curator vetting every single artist before publishing their work. This way we can maintain our artistic integrity while supporting as many artists as possible. Of course, it will always be our aim to work with groundbreaking artists so do things differently like Golsa Golchini, Fabio la Fauci and Daniele Fortuna – to name a few of my personal favorites. However it would be a shame to boil out entire portfolio down to just three artists, we proudly stand behind every artist featured on Return on Art.
Be sure to head on over to Return on Art and peruse their incredible offerings. Each work comes with a COA (Certificate of Authenticity), an absolutely indispensable part of the art collecting puzzle in an age where more than 50% of art on the market is thought to be fake. Be sure to use code KATE10 for 10% off of any work at Return on Art.
Now, get collecting!