AucArt is an online auction house that exclusively consigns artwork from new graduates, building a global network for the next generation of artists and collectors. Natasha Arselan came up with the idea half way through her MA in Art and Cultural Management at King’s College, London. Having worked in galleries previously, gaining knowledge into how the art world and the art market work, she realized that there was a hole in the market and she was determined to fill it. Disclaimer: Natasha wishes to make it clear: ‘I am not a gallery girl’
‘Some young artists don’t know what to expect/ what’s out there’, she tells me, explaining that graduates leaving art school are often rarely prepared about how to promote themselves, make themselves accessible or price their work. AucArt offers both exposure and advice to early-career artists. Now that AucArt is gaining momentum, Natasha is now being invited to universities across the country to give talks, allowing her to communicate to big audiences, moving beyond helping the individual to the many.
AucArt will debut its first online auctions in mid-autumn this year, which will last 1 week with 1 artwork for sale per day. Natasha explains that there is a stress on selection and high quality work. It is not just Natasha who selects what works to consign, she enlists the help of a panel of curators to help, because, as she wishes to stress, art is subjective. Natasha discusses a list of things she looks at: how developed the artist’s practice is, the level of contextualisation the artist’s work consists of, whether the work has commercial value and how the artist’s articulate themselves. She emphasizes the importance of this selection process. Natasha and her team look at attention to detail, from the quality of structural production, the refinement of aesthetic, quality of materials to the longevity of the piece is all taken into consideration.
Natasha has been visiting artists, studios, schools and degree shows all around the UK, not just London. In fact, she has been most impressed by the energy and students at Manchester School of Art, and was also taken with the shows at Glasgow School of Art. If she likes an artist, she will make a real effort to go and see someone in person and visit his or her studio, explaining that it is important to build trust one on one, adding that she is conscious that she is ‘not just an AucArt paddle on Instagram’
AucArt is a platform that does not only sell artwork, it’s a support system for the artist to be able to sustain their practice and build their own network, AucArt raises the profiles of early career consigned artists, through the exposure to a wide audience via the internet, press and the influential individuals on the AucArt advisory board that endorse the disruption. It also allows art lovers/collectors to own an original work of art, from very promising artists. Natasha stresses that she ‘never uses the word affordable, you don’t work for three years or five years to be affordable.’ This is partly why she is focussed on consigning the strongest & most suitable artworks within the artists series. She consigns work exclusively from final year BA and MA artists, up until 3 yeas after graduation, as she explains the importance of early career artists taking the time to develop their practice. I asked if there is a marked difference between BA and MA work, and while Natasha says that MA students have had more time to develop their practice, she states that it is not always necessarily ‘better’ than work produced by undergraduates. Moreover, she recommends, that if an artist is going to do an MA, that they take a break first to take time to reflect and importantly understand what direction they shall go to progress their investigation and research into their practice.
I put to Natasha that it is probably quite difficult to get collectors on board to buying artworks from unknowns. She disagrees however; stressing it is ‘about using the right rhetoric.’ Natasha markets AucArt to her buyers as an exciting new channel of talent never seen before. It provides the opportunity to support an artist from the beginning of their career as well as giving them something no one else has yet. Natasha explains many collectors think AucArt is brilliant, and in real terms, the art market always needs supply and demand, which AucArt caters for.
When our conversation moves to talking about some of Natasha’s favourite AucArt artists and artworks, she says that a big trend running through this year’s shows is references to digital media. It is funny that she mentioned this, as shortly before our interview, Natasha sent me I’ve seen that face before, acrylic on canvas, a work by Dominic Dispirito, who has just finished his MA at Slade School of Art. It immediately reminded me of an image that could have been made using Microsoft paint. His painting appears airbrushed; it is slightly humorous, with a cartoon-like appearance, complete with blue-skinned characters that appear in an airbrushed landscape. There is though – something on which Natasha and I both agree – something sinister about the work, particularly when you look close at the uneasy expression on the face of the woman walking her dog, and then at the man in the distance, peaking over his newspaper, watching over her.
Will Thorburn, who has just finished his MA at Central Saint Martins, fills his work with colour and energy, full of references to pop art as well as hinting at hidden erotic themes. Meanwhile, Oriele Steiner’s oil painting Breakdown banana breakdown is the inverse of Thorburn’s yellow Hairstyle. Steiner, from the University of Brighton, held a residency in Spain, with Spanish influences appearing throughout her work. The figure in this particular painting is upside down, clutching a banana amongst a red landscape under the stars. One rogue yellow fruit floats amongst the hot crimson fields as though it is the moon that has landed on a foreign earth. Natasha explains that all of Steiner’s characters are people she knows and that it is interesting to see the development of her artwork before and after her time in Spain. Steiner’s work is heavily inspired by Katherine Bradford, who, Natasha tells me excitedly, is now following AucArt on Instagram.
We also spoke about the immersive exhibition and instillation of Morgan Ward’s BA degree show, which has just taken place at the University of Chichester. His oil paintings were hung in a pastel pink room and every painting was conceived in relation to this specific colour. Natasha tells me that despite the work looking like an amalgamation of mark making and expansive space; every aspect had been meticulously thought through, with Morgan using tape to manipulate the quality of line which is so crucial in his practice. Natasha also explains that Ward made sure that each of his work were in relation to, not only themselves as objects, but also their neighbouring and co-inhabiting works. Colour informing colour and forms informing forms, communication, listening and response.
As AucArt is warming itself up for its debut auction in the next few months, Natasha has a busy summer ahead. Asked what else might be on the cards, Natasha mentions pop-up exhibitions and collaborations with collectives. But for now, the main focus is that everything runs seamlessly for the first ever AucArt auction later this autumn.