Meet This Female CEO Who's Creating Change in the Art World

Meet This Female CEO Who's Creating Change in the Art World

Natasha Arselan founded the UK-based online auction company called AucArt that supports emerging artists and seeks to launch their careers.

Natasha Arselan founded the UK-based online auction company called AucArt that supports emerging artists and seeks to launch their careers.

Text: Zoe Elefterin

It is known fact that in the art world, a lot of the raw passion of the artist gets lost in the hustle; the having-to-sell-yourself mentality, the ceaseless emailing of every contact you can get your hands on. Perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of the industry is the dishearteningly elitist reality that runs rampant in a myriad of ways. Galleries are not always going to exhibit the “best”, but more so, “what will sell” and collectors don't often go out of their way to discover an unknown artist.

Natasha Arselan, the founder and CEO of AucArt, seeks to level that playing field. AucArt is a UK-based online auction house that is providing talented, recently-graduated artists with a space to sell their art and connect with other artists, curators, editors, and collectors from all over the world. The incredible thing about this company is that it eliminates the need to find gallery space or representation right out of school which is often a challenging and costly path for young and enthusiastic artists. AucArt is about to turn 1-year-old, is growing surely and steadily, and Arselan can confirm that "it's been the best year of my life so far."

V got to speak with Arselan about the mission of her new company, and how valuable and rewarding it is to support young artists.

V: What was your mission in creating AucArt?

Arselan: I see AucArt as a lab where we launch artist’s careers. We create a network, we give them exposure, we get them paid, and we create a market for them as well. Initially, I just wanted to keep as many artists alive as possible within the next generation and I wanted more people to be able to collect and enjoy living with artwork.

I find that it’s a really fitting and interesting comparison in your company showcasing emerging artists and also being an emerging platform yourselves. Do you connect with the artists that you represent and do they seem to feel more comfortable working with someone who’s younger and more understanding of their situation?

That’s a really good question. Yes. I often receive messages from artists saying: “Thank you so much for setting this up and actually creating this for us.” I always say that we’re in this together, because, obviously their success is my success. We already have a decent percentage of our artists within the first year that have already moved on to the next stage in their careers and their prices have already shot up. So this year was kind of about proving the concept. I totally relate to them just from graduating from musical theatre school and being completely alone and vulnerable and thinking, “What now?” We look out for our artists, we manage their finances, their shipping, all the documentation, so all they have to do is create art and we sell it and do everything else. And, I like to think if they reach out, we’ll always do our best to answer their queries. Obviously, as the platform grows, there’s less effort that I can give to every single individual artist, but I’ll like to have a human relationship with as many as them on the site as possible.

It’s great that you can be a sort of mentor to them, and you can have that human connection.

That’s the only way it’s going to grow in the best way because you need to understand what artists actually need and, in creating a business, that you need to listen to your clients whether it’s the artists or the buyers. Without them, it doesn’t exist.

You came up with the idea of AucArt through working at art fairs and in the gallery world. Did you see these events and spaces as very elitist, and were there specific moments that you noticed that felt unjust in the way art and artists were being treated?

Yeah. A few years ago, I used to curate, and a young artist that I had worked with called me and said: “I don’t have any money for my MFA project. Could you come down to the studio and have a look at this new work and maybe buy something?” So, I went down there, and I didn’t have very much money–I was a student. I ended up buying something, and as I was walking around the studio, I was amazed, and I was thinking, “why can’t everyone have the money to spend on something amazing?” That same artist went on to do really well. I’ve been on the journey with him from the very beginning, and I’m always super proud. It’s about more than just owning an artwork. I’m on that journey and I made that difference, and I’m creating this channel where anyone can become a patron. And, to go slightly off on a tangent, historically, the best art collections, for example, Peggy Guggenheim, and the Vogels, collected from recent art school graduates or artists who were early in their career. They have some of the most eccentric art collections in the world that are still relevant today. So, I think that’s another side of the company. I worked in a gallery, and there were so many things that bothered me about the art world. Yes, I do think it has been elitist prior to the birth of the internet and technology, and there are still scenarios that haven’t changed from decades ago. I had a conversation with a bigger artist, and she said that the first gallery she worked with out of school consigned a whole bunch of her work and she never saw it again. She has no idea where it went and she never got paid. It was those scenarios that would still come up where artists wouldn’t get their work back or they didn’t know how much their work was being sold for, and it was all this issue of transparency. I just thought that I can’t work in an industry that’s like that and I’ll just have to invent something that I’m comfortable working within.

You’re creating something that is aiming to hopefully provide more opportunities to young artists, and this might sound cheesy, but where in the art world do you find hope for them to not ditch their degrees?

Number one, I don’t think that’s cheesy at all. The company’s tagline is actually “Made For The Believers” because you have to believe in yourself to be an artist and number two, I feel that living and being in the presence of art gives you a sense of belief in something that you can’t really see. It’s more than meets the eye, and you have to feel it. So, I think if I can make one person believe in themselves, then I think my job is done. Offering any kind of hope to young artists in such a shark tank is such a nice way of looking at it. I think as long as artists know that you’re on their side and that you care, whether it’s a simple like on Instagram or a post, that’s hope for an artist. That’s one of the reasons that AucArt is an auction house because I didn’t just want a one-on-one transaction. I wanted them to see that people were bidding on their work and interacting. But, I think artists are one of the most important people in the world because they are hope. It’s important to support them.

Credits: Photographer: Andree Martis Stylist: Jennifer Guo of Studio Bay Management Ltd. Makeup Artist: SunXueya Assistant: Edwina Huiru Zhao

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