Starting a business – in the art world or not – during a global pandemic sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Well, despite all the odds looking bleak out there, Samantha Picard and Ines Hutchinson Uzielli decided to go for it. After meeting via a Zoom call (how very 2020), the pair launched The Artsphere, an initiative that believes that the art we collect should not just reflect society, but should help society too. The Artsphere is working to reflect the needs of the young collector who buys the emerging art they love, but with percentages of every sale benefitting the social causes they care about too.We spoke to The Artsphere’s Samantha Picard about how the platform began, their current projects and the future of art in 2021.
How did The Artsphere come about?
Ines and I launched The Artsphere in April 2020, in the midst of the UK lockdown. It came about quite randomly and organically actually. We were introduced digitally on Zoom, without meeting in real life, and we just instantly clicked (no zoom metaphor intended). As young women at the start of our careers, we spent hours discussing the future of the art world and decided that we both wanted to create something impactful to help emerging artists during these unprecedented times.
You work with art for the social good, why is this important to you?
During our first initiative in April, it was a no brainer to support both emerging artists as well as Gingerbread Charity, the UK’s leading national charity working with single parent families. As the daughter of a single mother, the idea to support Gingerbread Charity stemmed from reading countless articles about the devastating impact lockdown has had on single mothers financially and mentally, and seeing it as an opportunity to help the larger community around them. After the success of this initiative, we decided to incorporate social causes into our future initiatives as well.
Can you tell us about your initiative Art For Atzin?
On 1 October 2020, we launched our second initiative, Art for Atzin, showcasing emerging Mexican emerging artists to raise money and awareness for Atzin, a Mexican non-profit that assists rural indigenous women in the village of Tlamacazapa, Guerrero, Mexico. Works by incredible rising Mexican artists such as collagist Prince Láuder, painter Carri Fernanda, and cartoonist Amada Echeverria among others are available for purchase on The Artsphere’s Instagram, with sales being made through our website and Instagram shop.
You’ve recently co-curated the art at 12 Hay Hill, why do you think public art is important in the post-Covid art world?
This has been such an exciting experience for us! We’ve been co-curating the ground floor space with Mark Keshishian and Jessica Nicholls of Karnik Gallery and it’s been such a dream. I remember reading Ben Davis’s piece in ArtNet last July, which basically said that above all, audiences want “more fun” when they return to public life post-lockdown. Putting art in social spaces like 12 Hay Hill, especially as it’s a luxury business club, I feel like on the most basic of levels brighten someone’s day, and more importantly can put incredible emerging artists on people’s radars, especially someone who wouldn’t typically spend their Saturday gallery hopping around London. On the other hand, a lot of artists have amazing works sitting in their studio, in storage, or at best at an art gallery with little footfall during these times. We are so keen to be participating in these curations for public spaces and collaborating with other emerging galleries in the process. This really reflects our vision of the beautiful, synergetic post-Covid art world where everyone is trying to work together and help each other out.
You’ve also worked with AI-focused artists, how do you think technology might continue to affect the art world in the future?
We dedicated a week in July on our Instagram platform to exploring AI’s evolving relationship within the art world, and I learned so much along with our followers in the process. We spoke to leading artists (Rob & Nick Carter), AI Collectives (Obvious), and even an AI robot artist (Ai-Da), to hear more about ‘art’s newest medium.’ From what I learned from these incredible people (and robots!), I think that AI and technology as a whole can be used as such a power of good for the art world on both an aesthetic and meaningful front. For instance, we spoke Visualogical, an artxscience based collective that are using AI to compute viewer’s definition of ‘happy places’ to create visual mind maps and art to express that, and then sharing their data with mental health charities in the process.
Which emerging artists should we have on our radar?
Obviously we are obsessed with the two incredible female artists Jess Cochrane and Kate Dunn which we are displaying currently at 12 Hay Hill! I’m also currently girl-crushing on Joy Abinjo, Hannah Knox, Galina Munroe, Eliza Hopewell and Claudia Trongmo (to name a few of many!).
You started the Artsphere in lockdown, what advice would you give to young women looking to start a business, especially when the world is upside down?
My biggest advice, not to steal Nike’s motto or anything, is to JUST DO IT. I’m so happy that we just went for it. People spend way too much planning, and questioning themselves. (Obviously keeping in mind that we were lucky that starting an Instagram platform is free). If you have an idea that you’re passionate about, whether within our outside the art world, I say that now more than ever you should start taking action and go for it. I think the biggest silver-lining of Covid-19 is that people are starting to truly ask themselves what they want out of life, whether from a career or personal standpoint, and I think there’s no better time to do some self-reflection, back yourself, and take the plunge. The worst thing that can happen is that it’ll fail, and when you think about it, once you factor out the same ego that was beautiful and powerful enough to let you try in the first place, there’s nothing wrong with failure.
What are your plans for 2021?
Our ‘Art for Atzin’ initiative will be live until March 1, and our curation with Karnik Gallery at 12 Hay Hill will be on until end of February, so our first couple months are really exciting continuations of 2020 projects. We are also working towards further curatorial partnerships with other exciting social spaces and galleries in London, as we truly believe displaying emerging art in public venues is the way forward and beneficial for everyone involved. We are such a new company, and we are so excited to be in such a fluid position that let’s us evolve with the times. From a personal standpoint, I’m really excited to be in a room again where everyone is bumping into me, the music is too loud, and my feet are sticking to the floor! Who would’ve thought?