In an article he penned for The Week, Bose Krishnamachari, contemporary artist and co-founder of the art festival The Kochi-Muziris Biennale, said this in context of India, “We are still drowned by our outdated mythical illusions of what contemporary art is and, therefore, far removed from the contemporary art world.”
While this holds absolutely true, things are slowly beginning to change. Kochi Biennale itself is a tremendously great step in that direction – being completely at par with the leading art biennales around the world. Technology has helped a lot in this direction as well. There are now quite a few online platforms that make contemporary art accessible for both appreciation and procurement. These platforms are also debunking many myths that surround contemporary art in India. Launched in early 2016, Art&Found is one such platform that’s propelling democratisation of contemporary art in the country.
Aditya Mehta, founder, Art&Found
Art&Found curates artworks from contemporary Indian visual artists – including many young and upcoming – based in India and abroad, and sells them to individuals, corporates and trade community that includes interior designers, architects, decorators, etc. The artworks are categorised by artists (around 250), prices which start under Rs 2,500 and go over INR 12,000, style of artworks, and sizes. The customers have the option of buying an artwork with or without a frame or as a canvas.
Art&Found is the brainchild of Aditya Mehta, a former advertising professional who quit his job at Ogilvy India a few months ago to work on his venture full-time. We had a conversation with Mehta to understand the logistical aspect of the business – including packaging, shipping and framing. Edited excerpts:
What were some of your early inspirations when you launched Art&Found?
This quote by Scott Belsky was a starting point – "Art, without distribution and discovery, moves nobody." I wanted people to see this incredible work coming from homegrown talent. I wanted to build a platform where their art could be available to a new generation of art lovers. Not the collectors and connoisseurs, but people who simply wanted to do up their homes and offices with beautiful art without burning a hole in their purses or wallets. The idea was simple – to uncomplicate art.
When I started, I wanted to change the scene in a big way. Firstly, most people didn't understand art. And we figured that you didn't really need to understand art to love art. Secondly, art was expensive. This was an easy one. We just made amazing art super affordable. Thirdly, you always kind of needed someone else to do up your space and we made that possible too.
Could you tell us about some of the key logistics involved with Art&Found - from the process of selecting and obtaining artworks from the artists to shipping them across to the customers?
We are an invite-only community and we screen each artist's work carefully before sending them an invite. I always wanted to strive for quality over quantity. It was never about how many artists we could get, but rather how can we build a community of artists to acquire the best art in one place. Keeping it small and simple also helps me to personally know and keep in touch with every artist on Art&Found. I speak and write to each artist personally before inviting them on the platform. I really enjoy this process. This was in place from day one and has become our standard procedure today. The artists are our most important asset, and transparency is one of the values Art&Found is built on.
As far as the selection is concerned, there is no particular checklist. It is subjective and intuitive. However, there is a benchmark of quality that the work needs to fit in. It's one of those things that gets defined over time and I feel we're getting there. The idea of curating it right really helps our customers’ decision-making process.
The intention is clear – Art&Found is where one should find quality art by Indian artists from around the world. Because we're artists ourselves, we understand what artists want. That's why we take of care of printing, framing, packaging and shipping so artists can focus on creating art. We ship anywhere in India for free and it takes five to seven working days for an order to reach the customer. We also ship internationally.
Packaging is a crucial part of your work for obvious reasons. Could you tell us about this aspect in detail in terms of aesthetics and in terms of what kind of packaging is required to ensure the safety of the artworks?
This is a very timely question. We are just relooking at this entire aspect of the business. Consistency is really important for branding. From how you write business emails and talk to people about your company at various conferences to the user experience on your website and maybe a little 'thank you' card the customer receives with their order.
The idea is to make every detail perfect, making it a fun and memorable experience for your customer. With packaging, it can look good but might not be safe enough, or it can be extremely safe but look kind of shabby. The key is to find that balance between what looks good and works well too. We're redesigning the elements and experience for our packaging. Next month onwards, this department will see a major upgrade, especially in terms of aesthetics and branding.
How is the packaging different in case of unframed, framed and canvas artworks?
We use sturdy cardboard tubes for unframed and thick cardboard boxes for framed and canvas artworks. There is a lot of bubble wrap required in the packaging of each of the artwork.
What are some of the key challenges in packaging and how do you deal with them?
We use museum-grade quality paper and archival inks for our artworks. That is why the packaging needs to be very protective. The framed artworks need to be extremely safeguarded to avoid cracked glass and damaged edges. If a customer receives a damaged piece, we simply replace it with a new one.
Handling the artwork during the delivery isn't something in our control, so we need to take extra care and conduct stringent quality-check beforehand. I have a piece of advice in this context - double wrap the bubble wrap. These are some of the challenges that come with fragile products. We're constantly learning and improving this experience.
Could you tell us a bit about the framing aspect as well?
We let the customers choose their frames from four colours – black, brown, white and natural wood. Framed artworks come with a sturdy frame and textured mounting covered with a premium shatter-proof 3mm acrylic cover. All frames come ready-to-hang with wall hooks. For large orders, we do custom framing as per the requirement.