INTERVIEW: The online venue Saatchi Art appointed Rebecca Wilson as Chief Curator

Rebecca Wilson - Courtesy Saatchi Art

Rebecca Wilson – Courtesy Saatchi Art

Saatchi Art this wek announced the appointment of Rebecca Wilson as the company’s chief curator and director of artist development based in Los Angeles. Ms. Wilson will set the curatorial direction and oversee the art advisory program for the company as Saatchi Art seeks to accelerate its growth as a marketplace connecting art buyers and artists from around the world. Most recently, she has served as a director at the Saatchi Gallery in London, where, during her seven-year tenure, she established New Sensations, an annual prize for UK art students that Wallpaper has called “a career-propelling accolade,” and was instrumental in the launch of the gallery’s online presence.

Art Market Talks interviewed Rebecca Wilson about that:

 You have served as director at the Saatchi Gallery in London for seven years. What will be the elements of continuity and the changes between offline and online gallery?

I am still going to be working with emerging artists but the major change will be working with artists all over the world — in 100 countries in fact — and thinking of the exciting ways to curate works in an online environment.
We can learn a great deal more about our collectors and visitors to the site and curate works in response to what people are interested in. We are also able to curate many exhibitions a month (most galleries do around 10 shows per year), giving all kinds of artists the opportunity to have their work highlighted and reviewed by collectors and people who love art.
For Saatchi Art, virtual contents could ever meet the public through “real” exhibitions? 
Increasingly, people all over the world are consuming news, design, music, and film online and this is now happening with the visual arts, as well. People are increasingly happy to acquire art online and it is a great way to enter the art world particularly if you are new to buying art. At Saatchi Art, we welcome all kinds of art buyers and have tried to create an accessible and friendly environment for people to discover new artists from all over the world. In the last 6 months we have sold works by artists in 100 countries to collectors in 80 countries.
How do the activities of Saatchi Art intersect with those of the Saatchi Gallery? 
Saatchi Art is a separate company based in Los Angeles, but we share some of the same missions as the Saatchi Gallery — supporting emerging artists, making contemporary art accessible to as many people as possible. But at Saatchi Art what we also want to do is to help artists make a living from the work they love making — we are connecting artists with art buyers all over the world.
Also, we partner with the Saatchi Gallery from time to time on special exhibitions. We will debut our first Saatchi Art exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery this April.
Why is Saatchi Art based in Los Angeles and not London? Recently the Paris based art fair FIAC decided to open on the West Coast. How is the Los Angeles art scene changing?
We feel this is the right place for us to be in order to build an online gallery which brings together both forward-thinkers in technology and wonderful artists. Obviously we have artists from all over the world on Saatchi Art, but the local scene in Los Angeles is thriving and very international. There is a generosity towards new things here — and there is also lots of space for artists to experiment! There are also a lot of different worlds that intersect in exciting ways in L.A. — technology, art, the movies, design, for example.
In your opinion, how does social media influence the art market? And what are the most important changes in the adoption of online art buying?
Social media channels are proving to be a very important source for us to raise awareness of the artists on Saatchi Art. We encourage our artists to share their work through their own social channels as well as this can be a big driver for sales — Pinterest and Facebook in particular. It also helps to build a sense of community which is important to us, and to ignite dialogue between artists, collectors, art lovers and anyone else visiting Saatchi Art.
About art investments, you wrote “How to Collect Emerging Art in 7 Easy Steps”. What is the main piece of advice you would suggest to a new collector?
Fall in love with the art you buy — as with investing in frontier countries, the work may one day go up in value but it is also a good idea to invest in your own daily happiness!
Go to lots of degree shows so that you can see the work of young, emerging artists. Go to survey exhibitions of emerging artists — a good one in the UK is New Sensations which is an annual show during Frieze Week of the top 20 emerging artists in the UK. Take advice and guidance from art magazines and sites such as Saatchi Art where curators spend all their time looking at new work, visiting art schools and compiling features such as Invest in Art which provide a wonderful short-cut for people interested in buying emerging artists and investing in art.
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