Interview with Rebecca Wilson, Chief Curator and VP, Art Advisory at Saatchi Art

Feb 17, 2016

We continue our series of interviews with leading art service providers. Whether you are learning about these companies for the first time or are already familiar with their services, we hope this series helps shed insight into each’s distinct niche and make the art services market in general more transparent.

This month we discussed how e-commerce is shaking up the art market with Rebecca Wilson, Chief Curator and VP of the leading online platform Saatchi Art. Curious about buying art online? Learn how it works on their platform, about their unique point of difference, and about the tens of thousands of artists choosing to sell via Saatchi Art.

The Clarion List: What is Saatchi Art?  How and when did it launch?

Rebecca Wilson: Saatchi Art is the world’s leading online gallery, connecting people with art and artists they love. We offer an unparalleled selection of paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photographs in a range of prices, and provide artists from around the world with an expertly curated environment in which to exhibit and sell their work. Saatchi Art was founded in Los Angeles in 2010 with an exciting mission to bring great art to a wide audience, and we are doing so through the Internet which allows us to open up what is still an exclusive art world.

TCL: Why is Saatchi Art unique among other fine art e-commerce platforms?

RW: With more than 60,000 artists from 100 countries selling their work on Saatchi Art, we offer more than 500,000 original artworks for sale priced between $300 and $30,000. As Chief Curator and VP of our Art Advisory, I carefully consider every single work of art that is uploaded each day—more than 1,000 daily—for inclusion in our weekly exhibitions and in collections that we put together for our Art Advisory clients. Our art advisory program is a free service we provide for anyone, whether an individual or a member of the design trade, who is seeking personalized guidance from an expert curator. No other gallery in the world has such a depth and breadth of artwork to offer, and we are proud to provide this hands-on service to help introduce people to art they love by some of today’s most exciting contemporary artists.

TCL: What do you look for when accepting art to sell on Saatchi Art?

RW: I’m excited by a wide range of work and the way in which with the global reach of the Internet we are able to show the works of artists from all over the world making every kind of art you can think. I spend a considerable amount of my time looking at artists’ portfolios and ear-marking the most exciting works within a huge variety of styles to recommend to people visiting our website and to clients using our art advisory services.

TCL: Who are your typical buyers and sellers?

RW: As we welcome all artists to upload their portfolios to, we feature works by emerging artists fresh out of MFA programs to mid-career artists who have been exhibiting their work in shows around the world. Our collectors run a similar gamut: first time buyers looking for a new work for above their sofas, interior designers seeking a collection of works for large-scale project, and seasoned collectors looking to make an investment in art. In the past six months, we’ve sold works to buyers in 80 countries, so it truly is a global community at Saatchi Art.

TCL: How does it work for prospective buyers? For artists?

RW: Prospective buyers can browse our site and filter artwork according to style, medium, size, price, and color. We also offer weekly curated collections in which they can browse a smaller selection of works themed around a particular idea, which we feature in our newsletter and on our homepage. For those interested in one-on-one guidance, we offer a free art advisory service in which my team and I work directly with clients to learn more about their needs and suggest works specially selected for them according to their style, space and budget. This also includes advising buyers on works made for investment. The main thing we always stress is that people should buy what they love. When a prospective buyer is ready to make a purchase, all they need do is proceed to checkout online. Our customer services team can also take payments over the phone. As an alternative option, buyers can elect to use our “Make An Offer” feature in which they propose a price to an artist, which they may then accept or not. This gives the artist control over when and how they want to sell their work.

Artists are welcome to create a free account where they can upload and mark their works for sale. Artists have total control over their portfolios, and our artist support team works with them extensively to effect best practices when it comes to filling out their profiles and packaging their work for shipment. For every work sold, the artist receives 70% and we take a 30% commission. In return, we provide expert curation, global sales management, white glove support, and multi-channel marketing and PR. After the completion of a sale, the artist requests a payout, and gets back to doing what they love most: making art.

TCL: What are you most excited about at the moment in the online art market?

RW: I love the challenges of the online market, finding new ways through technology to help people to discover works they would not otherwise find. How incredible it is that you can look at works from, say, South Korea, Germany and the US in one morning, and discover emerging artists graduating from the best art schools all over the world, and see what new trends there are. It’s a real liberation for a curator. I am also really excited that we are able to make all kinds of people feel welcome at Saatchi Art as they browse our online gallery in a way that is so often not the case when you walk into a brick and mortar gallery.

TCL: What do you like about The Clarion List, another company bringing the art market online?

RW: The art world’s lack of transparency is well documented, so The Clarion List is a welcome partner to those of us working to open it up to a broad audience.

TCL: What is in store for the future for Saatchi Art?

RW: We want to introduce even more people all over the world to contemporary art and show them how exciting and accessible it can be to find a work you love. Whether you want to browse on your own or seek the free guidance and expertise of our curators, buying art is an incredibly enjoyable experience - it doesn’t have to be intimidating.  It is also so rewarding to live with art and to know that you have supported an emerging artist. More specifically, we are looking forward to our program of ‘real life’ events, exhibitions and art fairs which supplement everything we do online.

Learn more about Saatchi Art via their listing on The Clarion List  here or visit their website here.