Katie Tsouros is an art fanatic. She has the best training and previously set up and ran highly popular art pop-up KTcontemporary. She has now launched a new business, Artfetch, which allows you to buy art online at a reasonable price. While Katie obviously knows her stuff, she also knows that a lot of people who don't have expertise in the area may want to start buying but don't know where to start (and don't want to break the bank either). Artfetch does all the hard work and research of each artist so you can just pull out your laptop and pick pieces you like from the comfort of your couch. Artfetch is selling art from exciting, young, international artists and with prices starting from €100 there's no reason why you can't start your own collection now. I sat down with Katie to learn a bit more about her business and how art is something that has never been more accessible to the masses than right now.
Katie, you have such a cool company and job! What's your background?
My degree is in art history and philosophy, I then did an MA in contemporary art in Sotheby's in London which was amazing- I absolutely loved it. I also worked in the Rubicon Gallery, Sadie Coles, Artwise Curators and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. When I finished with IMMA I was 25 and was trying to decided what to do. The timing wasn't great as Lehmans had just crashed, so things went from this big glitzy, glamorous concept of an art world to just collapse. It radically and drastically changed the art scene in a year. I always thought I wanted an art gallery but thought it would be way down the line. My mum suggested that I just go for it and there was nowhere representing young talented artists at a price point that people could afford to spend. I set up a pop-up space KTcontemporary in Donnybrook, initially it was supposed to run for 6 months but actually ran for 2 years. I had 16 shows when I was there and did some freelance curating also. During that time I was thinking of a brand I could create as an emerging art specialist, that would be accessible to a worldwide audience rather than being tied to a physical building. The whole art world was shifting. My mother and I decided to work together on the idea for Artfetch and worked on the concept for a year.
Your first gallery was a totally new concept of selling exciting new art at an accessible price, how did people respond to it?
Really well, the timing was perfect. 5 years prior it wouldn't have worked as there was a different mindset where people only wanted to buy the big names. They found it a lot more accessible than established galleries when the prices are higher and it can be a little more intimidating. I was a fresh face and was quite open and friendly, so it was a different gallery experience.
For those of us who don't know much about the art world, what does a day in a life of a curator involve?
Generally a lot of interaction with artists. A lot of being out and about, going to studios and grad shows meeting artists, doing the visits and seeing the work. That's something we have maintained with Artfetch as we're building a business that we want people to trust, it's important that we have seen the work and can stand over the quality.
The fun part is putting together the shows, placing the works and getting up and ready for opening night. If you're doing those once a month the weeks clock by pretty quickly. Generally as well a lot of research around what's happening, reading about what critics and reviewers are writing about. Also identifying trends and writing yourself to come up with concepts around the shows, coming up with themes. There's also the sales side of things to.
I love your new Artfetch website, it makes it so fun and easy to browse and buy art. How do you pick the artists for Artfetch?
We do a mix of open submissions so artists can send us their work and CVs on an ongoing basis, and we also go out to the shows and studios, and we have curators who do that for us as well. What I always look for first of all is an intelligence to the practice, something that is quite cohesive, that is well researched and well thought out. The concepts need to be well defined and then really nicely executed. At an early stage of an artists career its difficult for them to commit to practicing as an artist as it's really hard to sustain yourself. There needs to be a real dedication to really commit to making art and being an artist.
Where are your artists from? Are they internationally based?
Yes, they're everywhere. The big hubs are London and Berlin but we do have artists everywhere. We're about to launch 10 new artists from China, Mexico and India. When we started we began with artists that were more London based so we could concentrate on getting our logistics and shipping right but I always wanted to have a global reach.
Does that mean you end up travelling a lot?
I do travel a bit! It's always fun but I also have people in different places who can go out and look at pieces for us as well. I don't travel now as much as I used to and I do miss it sometimes. There's nothing better than going to a show and spotting an artist, I get a warm fuzzy feeling in my tummy.
I can imagine it must be good craic! Is the art sold on Artfetch from all new artists like in your previous gallery KTcontemporary?
Yes. They're all quite young, emerging recent graduates. When I say young I mean young in their career, so probably out of college within the last 5 years. The price points match that so work ranges from under €100 to just under €5,000.
That's great, so buying art is really a lot more accessible to young people now. So for people trying to get into art who have never bought a piece before and don't know where to start, what should they look for? Any tips?
The exciting thing about buying art from artists at this stage is that they do really have the potential to rise in value. You're buying them at a low price point, the only way they can really go is up but it is a long game. The thing I always say are, first of all, always buy what you like because you have to live with it at the end of the day. Never buy purely for investment I think that never works. If you buy what you feel you have a connection with it will stay with you and grow. Things to look out for are things like where the artist has studied, what's on their CV, who are they exhibiting with, where are they exhibiting, who is writing about them, are they being published and what other artists are they showing with. If you follow their career you can watch how they grow. We write on our blog about how to buy art, we have a collectors guide with loads of tips and I'm always open to getting emails for advice. We do all that work already on Artfetch so you can just buy what you like knowing that we've already done the research.
Are there any artists that excite you now?
Yes there are a few. I love photography, there is an amazing Finish photographer called Aukusti Heinonen and he makes really beautiful surreal photos. There's also an incredible Finish painter called Iidu Tikkanen who makes huge paintings that are full of life, I haven't seen paintings like that ever before. There's a great artist based in Bristol called Will Kendrick who makes really cool circular paintings that are like ceramic sculptures.
They sound really cool, are there any Irish artists we should look out for?
We have an amazing artist Sophie Iremonger, she was an NCAD graduate and makes amazing large scale paintings with tiny details you can only see up close, every time you look at it you see something new. Andrew Brown makes beautiful graphite drawings on plasterboard. Claire Chaney and Brendan Fox are also incredible artists that I love.
You're obviously really passionate about what you do, is your own house like an art museum?
Yes! I started collecting when I was in college. When I worked at the Rubicon it was my 21st birthday and I got a lot of pieces from the artists as gifts which was amazing. When I was in London I collected a few bits and pieces as well. I don't get to collect as much now as I did then because now everything I collect goes into Artfetch. I got a great piece from one of the Artfetch artists, Lewk Wilmshurst, which is a ceramic mango which is really cool!