Thursday, April 15, 2010

Brian Walker Talks About DiscoveredArtists.com

Being an artist has many challenges. The first set has to do with the whole process of creation. The why, the how, and the often challenging, "At what point has this piece I have been obsessing over, at what point do I call it finished?" And so a new work has been conceived and birthed. Now what?

DiscoveredArtists.com, the brain-child of co-founder Chicago's Brian Walker, is one answer to this question. DiscoveredArtists.com is an exclusively online art gallery. I recently contacted Mr. Walker and asked for his time in order to share his vision with readers here at Ennyman's Territory. What follows is the first portion of our exchange Tuesday evening.

Ennyman: Discoveredartists.com is a business that aims to bring artists and collectors together. How did that project come about, and when?

BW: Well, this thing has evolved quite a bit. We launched DiscoveredArtists in July of 2008, so we're a little less than 2 years old. But I spent 6 months before that researching pretty much the entire art market online. I almost bought a brick and mortar gallery here in Chicago, and I'm happy that I didn't, and decided to go virtual. I figured we'd have greater reach and there was maybe a need, I don't know that that need has been there the last 18 months -- it’s been kind of a tough market -- but I'm certainly happy I didn't buy the brick and mortar.

E: Yeah, there's a lot involved with that I'm sure.

BW: It would have been double trouble, but you know, I was actually in Italy when I sat down with my business partner and we decided to conceive this. It was about 6 months before we launched and we went to Rome and then we went to Florence, and went to a huge art show. There were about 800 international artists at this enormous show and (we) met a lot of them, and that was kind of what confirmed for me that I wanted to get into this. Initially it was this concept that we'd bring artists and art buyers and interior designers together, which was a great concept but it’s evolved from there… As we establish our brand people begin to trust us, people begin to be trusted. The art that we're showing is high caliber, and it’s really evolved into where I want to become more curated, more about providing just the highest quality art and artists that I can find. And then provide promotional services to artists. Marketing, promoting, that’s my background.

E: What was your background, or I guess I'll let you finish this part and then I'll ask you that.

BW: No, well that’s kind of it. We started off allowing just about anybody to come into the gallery and that was a huge mistake. We're kind of backtracking now and trying to undo some of those mistakes… not to offend artists or hurt artists feelings, but there's just no way to compete out there because artists are so critical of themselves. And art buyers, the ones who really matter, are going to be very critical. So we've got to keep the quality up, and that’s something that the past 5 months I've been addressing. It's still a work in progress.

E: I got attracted to what you were doing because of high caliber of the art there.

BW: That’s really critical. I don't want to get insane about it, but frankly whoever you and I might decide are the best artists on the planet right now, they likely have such an arrogance about them that they'd never fathom the idea or even think about being a part of what we're doing. I want to change that. That’s what leads into the marketing part of this. I think that what's most critical, and it's really where our skill set lies, we've created a gallery and we've created an ecommerce site where people can come and buy, and we're always going to market. But artists, for the most part, are not very good marketers.

E: I agree.

BW: So what I've really found, for 99 bucks a year, I'm going to go out and some of it is self serving, because you know, you're always going to get more promotion than your 99 dollars, and that's the self serving part, because we want to go out and continually push you, push your art because it makes the gallery look good and it makes everybody else look good. So it's really about honing in on this marketing and trying to attract people into the gallery, let them know that Discoveredartists.com is the place online, because there's a lot of stuff out there, but really if you want to come and find what we consider to be some of the best artists... Some of our guys are starting and untrained but they're excellent, and compiling the best artists that we can find, and making their work available to designers and collectors and so on (is what we are doing.)

E: Regarding your background, you started to say you had a marketing background, or were you in art first and then marketing? Because you're not a kid…

BW: I've been around. I'm in my 40's, 42 now, 43 very soon. When I started out, as a kid, my stepfather was in the rock and roll business, had a record label. As a kid I went to every rock concert there ever was, all the great ones. In the 70's I saw all the greatest artists, and I hung around them. I mean, I was a part of that life, and really enjoyed that, but my career took me different directions. My two primary jobs that have been my biggest jobs, because I've done a lot of things throughout my life, included trying to start other companies. But I worked for 2 PBS stations, public television stations, first in LA for about 4 years, and then I moved back to Chicago and took a job at the PBS station here called WTCW, and worked for them for seven years. I became their director of marketing and basically handled all their fundraising and direct marketing efforts. I had a pretty big staff and customer service, so that was part one of my real career. Part 2, I ended up going to work for the Chicago Tribune.

E: How has the internet changed the art world. It seems to change everything it touches, and in the art world in particular, what have you seen? I mean there's an incredible amount of stuff being sold on Ebay even.

BW: I have to answer this question from my perspective only. This may not be a fair assessment, so I guess I'll caveat my response. I don't think that the Internet has yet to realize its complete potential in terms of art. I think there is still a lot of skepticism. Here is what I think, I think there are too many art websites. I'm one of them, I think there are way too many of them, most of them are crap, most of them are full of just… because every artist tries something now so they're bouncing all over the place. In my dream, there would be 5 big ones and that'd be it. Because it’s diluting--

E: --the quality?

BW: It dilutes quality and also confidence.

TO BE CONTINUED
Disclaimer: Some of my work is currently being represented by DiscoveredArtists.com.

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