Interview: Ben Crawford and Moti Shniberg of MutualArt.com

Though still currently in its beta phase, MutualArt.com is poised to become the Internet’s largest art mecca and the next big thing in the art world, period. Among its myriad features and programs are an archive of over 150,000 art-related articles from top-quality publications, a Partner Program that allows galleries and other art organizations to reach their audiences over a centralized platform, and a cornucopia of news and investment advice pertaining to the global art market. The site is “members only” and fully customizes its features to each member’s preferences. Recently The Abbeville Manual of Style was pleased to conduct its first interview, via email, with the CMO and CEO (respectively) of MutualArt.com, Ben Crawford and Moti Shniberg:

AMoS: How did MutualArt.com get started? What were your goals in creating the site?

MS: I had the original inspiration for MutualArt.com when I was three years into building the Artist Pension Trust. I had become well enough acquainted with collectors, curators and artists to realize how fragmented the sources are for information on the art world. I felt that it would be possible to dramatically improve the situation using new technologies that allow aggregation of huge amounts of information and customization, reflecting the fact that for every person interested in art, there is a different definition of what art is interesting….

AMoS: Your site advertises its ability to customize the art information it supplies to the user’s personal preferences. Can you give some examples of this customization?

MS: Every MutualArt.com member can set up their own preferences, so that new content is presorted and items that match their interests are flagged as “recommended.” Preferences that can be selected include categories of art that interest them, museums and galleries they support, even individual artists they follow. This is a unique feature of MutualArt.com, which means that followers of art glass, ethnographic art, digital art or Old masters are all equally catered to.

AMoS: How might MutualArt.com benefit each of the following: an artist, a gallery owner, a collector, an arts publisher (like Abbeville)?

MS: To support artists, we have made MutualArt.com access free to them, in cooperation with the Artist Pension Trust. For gallerists and publishers, we offer partner programs allowing you to publish exhibition and event information, artist information, articles, catalogs, etc. on our platform at no charge, as well as giving you other benefits. For collectors, we offer a single destination where they can research art that interests them, and educate and thus empower themselves, as well as receiving information tailor-made for them about exhibition openings, art fairs, benefits and so on around the world, and a very useful guide to which galleries represent or sell which artists.

AMoS: You recently reported “strong, continued demand” for Impressionist and Modern art. As a market analyst (or as an art lover), what do you think accounts for this demand?

BC: Considering the prices obtained recently by some living artists, works that have stood the test of time (if only seventy years) seem relatively affordable and less risky. There are obviously fewer top quality works coming onto the market than in decades past, so that makes competition fierce and drives up prices. It also means that talented artists with lesser reputations are receiving increasing market recognition.

AMoS: Any predictions on which artists today will become the Van Goghs and Picassos of tomorrow?

BC: If one looks at the number of exhibitions, or even attendance figures at museums, there are younger artists who have already attained the ranks of Van Gogh and Picasso. Even  the prices being obtained are re-casting the canon: last year, Van Gogh’s last completed work failed to attract a bid at $25 million; this year a Jeff Koons piece completed less than ten years ago sold for more than that.

AMoS: MutualArt.com notifies its members of upcoming art events, such as galas and gallery openings. Has the company thrown any big bashes of its own?

MS: Our mission is to be the one-stop central source for all art event information, no matter where you are or where you’re travelling to. We cover literally thousands of art events at any one time. It’s a fabulous source for art lovers, but especially for people who like to socialize in the art world, or who want to see gallery shows when they first open, in case they want to buy pieces before they’re sold out.

AMoS: Are you planning any new services for your users in the future?

MS: Absolutely. The site we have up now is only a beta site. We have many, many more features in production, which will be launched over the next years.

AMoS: Finally, just for fun: favorite artist and favorite work of art?

BC: As the neutral platform supporting every aspect of art, it would be inappropriate for us to play favorites—sorry.

No problem, Mr. Crawford—playing favorites and passing judgments is probably best left to us, anyway. Our thanks go out to both you and Mr. Shniberg for lending us your time, and our enthusiastic recommendation goes to MutualArt.com, which seems to have thought of everything as far as art information and resources are concerned. We look forward to following the site and taking advantage of its ever-growing list of services. And hey, it sounds like Van Goghs are a bargain these days—maybe we’ll snap a few up?

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