Art—thanks to the internet—is becoming more democratic and accessible than ever before. There are already numerous online platforms, like Artsy, which use the web to full advantage and encourage users to discover and experience art. Things are getting more creative, though, as the internet's social aspect is being tapped by new platforms like Gertrude, which organizes intimate private salons hosted by an art specialist and ART:I:CURATE, who stopped by CH HQ last week to discuss their mission, which is to turn passive viewers with an interest in art into an actively engaged collective.
London and New York-based ART:I:CURATE (which rhymes with "articulate") was started by Irina Turcan and Nur Elektra El Shami in March 2013, but they've known each other for more than seven years. "I'm Italian and Irina is from Moldova, but we met in Milan and [back] then we pursued completely different industries," says El Shami. Turcan was working in investment banking while El Shami was in luxury goods, but the two remained in touch over the years and have become partners behind a manifesto they share.
"In a way, we are part of our audience," says El Shami. "The idea came because we're very interested in art. We have artist friends, we go to exhibitions, we go to openings—but we feel that sometimes, there's a certain wall, a lack of dialogue and it's very difficult for emerging artists to be seen or get exposure. So we were thinking of ways how it could become something more engaging than just going to galleries."
"That's how the idea for ART:I:CURATE was born. We thought, 'What if we could decide what is exhibited and be part of the curatorial process?'" says El Shami. "And [decide] the definition of what 'contemporary art' is," adds Turcan. The website showcases artists—their current roster has a little more than 100, representing around 40 countries—and encourages people from outside the industry to enter the platform and either discover art through browsing (with help from a "suggested artists" section) or by following other people. Artists must apply in order to be featured on ART:I:CURATE, and because all content on the site is curated, they do not create their own profiles or bios.
Users can "like" artwork and add them to their virtual collection, as well as follow artists who they admire to receive news updates about forthcoming exhibitions or works. El Shami says, "We take this feedback and information; we see a lot of people really love this artist or that artist. So we invite the artist, and say 'Hey, you guys have had a great response,' and organize an exhibition offline. And so the people were directly part of defining the exhibition."
ART:I:CURATE has already hosted large-scale shows of the most popular artwork during London Design Week and the Frieze Art Fair, and plans to make them bimonthly. "We try to challenge the spaces as well as offer an experience, rather than a white-cube gallery. The one here in New York was in a collector's apartment on Wall Street," says El Shami. "Because the people come from such various industries—design, fashion, finance, writing—you meet people that you wouldn't meet usually, plus you get to speak to all the artists at openings which are usually a little protected, maybe, by gallerists. We really want people to interact," says El Shami.
Another feature that allows users to discover new art and create a dialogue is their "Curated By" section. Every two days, a user is given complete freedom to select a minimum of six artworks to share with the community, under a specific curatorial theme. Some have chosen to spotlight contemporary artists from their hometown, whether it's Charleston, South Carolina or Singapore; others have gone more abstract with themes like "Olfactory Art of the New Millennium" or photography and film as sculptural mediums. The clean design makes it feel like a collaborative Tumblr page, but it's the nature of the content—the introduction of unfamiliar artists whose work is being highlighted by someone else, for a special reason—that will have you infinitely scrolling. Upon perusing the curators who have posted, it becomes obvious that ART:I:CURATE is a bona fide global community—users from Hong Kong, London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, San Francisco and more have most recently added to the conversation.
Cool Hunting's very own social media manager Katharina Galla curated the website for two days, from 18-19 November, and was "compelled" to focus on digital art: "I thought that would encourage some thinking about the difference in perception of artworks on the platform versus a [physical] exhibition space." Of the experience, she notes, "I can see the potential for new projects emerging from the connections made on ART:I:CURATE, because curators can now see the taste of other curators and other people all over the world."
By widening access to the traditionally limited and exclusive art world, ART:I:CURATE looks to be a place of continual experimentation and discovery, pushing art lovers to develop their voice and opinion. We recommend checking out the past online "exhibitions" curated by A Magazine's Editor in Chief Dan Thawley and Copenhagen-based art historian Aukje Lepoutre Ravn to start. You can create an account on the ART:I:CURATE website; no secret invitation necessary.
"Must-Have" event images courtesy of Kasia Bobula, "a:jam:session" image courtesy of Pierluigi Erroi (performance by Teresa Cos and THATCHER), website screenshots courtesy of ART:I:CURATE, fish sculpture "Medusa" courtesy of artist Tim A Shaw