Tell me about Works By Friends. How did you first get the idea for starting an art print site? How has it evolved into what it is today? It seems you have grown a community in a very short period of time in New York City.
Being young in NYC, and having a limited budget I had collected small works from artists, and put effort into finding prints and museum posters that I liked, however I realized how challenging it is to acquire good, curated art, especially for people who are not immersed in the art world. At the same time, I witnessed many of my New York City-based artist friends struggle to maintain their painting practices.. It became clear that there was a need for some sort of platform providing a connection between young collectors and emerging artists. That’s how Works by Friends was born! We set out to bridge that gap by offering a curated selection of limited edition prints, at an accessible price, and in doing so helping art lovers to support emerging artists.
WBF has blossomed into an artist collective and community quite fast and organically. I believe this is because they’re all in the same boat, facing similar challenges of making a living from art in metropolitan cities. Being an artist can be a solitary job and partaking in a community and feeling a sense of belonging becomes especially important, so I am proud to be able to offer this platform for them.
Prints are usually very Pop Art-based, or trying to be mass market. The group of artists you’ve chosen are young, unique fine artists with distinct styles and voices. Tell me about this curatorial process and your vision for the artists you present at WBF.
This is partially also why I saw the need for a gallery like Works by Friends – why should we have to settle for mass produced art that doesn’t speak to us, when there are so many talented emerging artists producing wonderful work? I also struggled with the anonymity and lack of connection to the artist behind the prints available online. You rarely know who made it or if they get paid for what you purchase.
My curatorial process is very intuitive, The artists I work with make art that I connect with and relate to, which many times are subject matters that reflect our (millennial) generation. I did not follow any rules or structures of how one should start or run a gallery, and I think many of the artists I work with share this mentality. Some are represented by galleries, some are not, but they all have this fearless, independent mindset where they have taken their own individual paths as artists, which I find very inspiring.
Your model is environmentally friendly with your print-on-demand printers. How do you see this evolving over time? How might Works by Friends grow in the future?
I think in today’s climate, especially after COVID-19, you realize the importance of a sustainable business model. In my case, I decided to run my business online, and not location specific. We work with one fine art printer in New York City, and will now launch in Europe, with a printer in Sweden. Instead of being limited to one permanent gallery space, I hope to do more pop-up shows around the world and grow our community internationally. This way we can be more flexible in the constantly changing art world.
Furthermore – being concerned about our carbon footprint – we print on fine art hemp paper, which is an environmentally friendly alternative to your average cotton rag.
Recently, Works By Friends held a pop-up event at Ludlow House in New York, and showed original works. Tell me about that. Do you plan to show more original works in the future besides print? How do original works relate to the prints for sale and the WBF community?
It was a really fun show I was asked to curate by Soho House for Women’s Day. I curated a salon style wall with all female artists of mine. Including works by European artists I had not shown before, and it was the first time I showed original works apart from prints. Most of the original pieces we showed are available in print on our website. Showing original works is something I’m planning on doing more. It’s fun for both me and the artist, and we also then cater to different collector groups. It’s great to witness people falling in love with an original, because even if they can’t afford it they have the option to get it as a print, and still support the artist. Right now we only sell edition prints online but maybe we’ll be selling originals as well down the line.
In addition to showing and selling artwork, you also have a series of videos from studio tours you have conducted. Tell me about this process and the importance of storytelling and media such as video to the site / marketing process.
Works by Friends is not just a name, I have formed relationships with all my artists. I wanted to offer context around our collection by highlighting the artists, both as people and as painters, and give them the opportunity to share their vision in their own voice. Story-telling is one of the components that sets WBF apart from other online galleries, letting people at home get to know artists and their works in a more intimate setting.
You mention a sense of belonging and how you are presenting an alternative to the traditional gallery scene. How do you feel WBF supports your artists and offers an alternative for collectors and supporters of the arts?
We aim to avoid the elitist tendencies and hierarchical structures that you sometimes encounter in the art world. We’re a collective of friends, and we welcome any art appreciators to partake in our community. Open events and online artist content makes it accessible to anyone. Not following the traditional gallery model I believe makes the artists feel like they can relax in a different way. I’m a young curator, I’m one of them. Throwing events and having a collaborative social media platform (e.g. hosting artist Instagram take-overs), we encourage the artists to connect and support each other instead of being competitive. Works by friends, for friends.
Works by Friends is giving 70% of our profits to the artists in the light of COVID-19.