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Exclusive Interview with Zohar Elhanani - CEO of MutualArt

INTERVIEW WITH ZOHAR ELHANANI, CEO OF MUTUALART

Zohar Elhanani is the CEO of international art information platform MutualArt which offers a personalised source of information to art professionals and enthusiasts. Here, we will discuss the impact of online art platforms on the international art market as well as the intricacies of being an art collector.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

With such an abundance of online art platforms inundating the internet, what makes MutualArt stand out? What is MutualArt’s most popular service?

MutualArt is the leading provider of art market analysis and decision-support tools, offering a unique and comprehensive view of the art market activity for over 300,000 artists. This includes not only auction price information, but also museum and gallery exhibitions, analytics and press coverage.

Our users’ favorite service is our real-time art market alerts, which allow users to stay ahead of the art market. Alerts are sent when artworks are coming to auction, new exhibitions are opening and when preferred artists are mentioned in the press – all in one place.

Zohar Elhanani
Zohar Elhanani, CEO of MUTUALART

How is the personalised service that MutualArt offers beneficial to its users?

The extensive range of artists included in MutualArt’s database means that there are plenty of artists to suit everyone’s tastes. By selecting and following preferred artists, users see content that is specific to their interests, while also being exposed, via our original content, to artists and artworks that are new and relevant to their tastes.

Do you believe that collecting art has become more accessible since the conception of these online art platforms? How have they changed the way people collect art?

Yes, at MutualArt we certainly do. We believe that transparency and greater access to information, particularly around pricing, makes the art market widely accessible, thereby also increasing liquidity. Online sales allow for global participation, breaking down perceived barriers to entry. At MutualArt, we constantly strive to provide users with as much information as possible, so that they feel at ease about making informed decisions.

The most common vehicle for sales remain ‘brick and mortar’, in-person sales. However, prints, editions and photographs are examples of the types of work that are available online at affordable prices, allowing more buyers to enter the art market.

How do the collecting habits of millennials differ from the older generation?

A defining characteristic of the millennial generation is a thirst for information and ease of transactions, which is markedly different from the art market’s more traditional ways of conducting business. As a result of increased access to information, younger buyers are not only collecting what they love, but are also aware of the potential of art as an alternative asset that could produce financial returns in the future. Millennial buyers also engage with art and discover new artists using different methods and channels, such as social media and apps, which has led to a shift in how the industry engages and communicates with this type of buyer.

If these platforms have made collecting art more democratic, would you say that they have also made it more mundane?

While online platforms have made collecting a more democratic practice, the art world remains a fascinating and rapidly changing environment, where there will always be outstanding prices achieved at auctions, rediscoveries of long-forgotten works and exciting new media being produced from artists around the world. With the excitement of the art market, also comes uncertainty and innovation. For example, many post-war and contemporary works that incorporate non-traditional materials, such as elephant dung, are beginning to show the signs of time and are presenting conservation and restoration challenges. Also, new media, such as digital art, presents unique challenges of its own, such as authentication and method of sale.

Online platforms have enabled users to connect with people from all over the world, how do you think this has affected the international art market?

Artists have historically been inspired by art and artifacts of other cultures, giving rise to entirely new styles. At MutualArt, we encourage users to do the same, discovering art from around the world and developing a truly global taste.

The increasing globalisation of the art market can be seen in the geographic diversity of art galleries attending key art fairs and the global expansion of auction houses into new territories. Additionally, the presence of artists and galleries on social media exposes collectors and enthusiasts alike to art they would otherwise not be aware of, on a constant basis.

What traits do you think you need to possess to become a successful art collector?

Key traits for a successful art collector are enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, good relationship building skills and patience. Taste for art is developed over time, and is fostered by gathering information, spending the proper time to view copious amounts of art and building key relationships with artists, curator, dealers and advisors. A collector’s gut instinct is a good place to start, but a successful collector will supplement their initial reaction to a work with informed opinions, both their own and that of those they trust to advise them.

Do you feel that collecting art is a very personal experience or do many collectors follow the same trends in the art market?

The golden rule of collecting art is to buy what you love, as the art market can change rapidly and be affected by macroeconomic conditions. This has been seen in the past when entire art markets have collapsed virtually overnight, notably happening to Indian contemporary art in 2008. Art collectors should make a purchase only once they’ve done their research, but there is no such thing in the art market as a guaranteed long-term rise in price, so it is important to be happy with what is hanging on the walls.

How has the arrival of virtual reality and new technologies affected the art market? Would you say the changes have been positive or negative?

The art market has historically been slow to adopt new technologies, but there are recent indications that this attitude is changing. Specific technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain technology and virtual reality are all very new and, as such, their full impact on the art market is yet to be seen. However, many companies are investigating the ways that new technologies can assist businesses and buyers alike. Some applications of new technologies include using VR to mitigate the cost of sending exhibitions abroad, establishing art ownership using blockchain and using AI to identify works of art that would previously have required the physical inspection of a human expert. These are only a few of the ways in which new technology could disrupt the art market. It is certainly our aim to use technology to bring more to art to more people.

How do you see MutualArt evolving and staying ahead of its competitors?

MutualArt’s unique business model relies of staying on top of advancements in technology, without losing the human touch necessary for connecting collectors and enthusiasts with the art they love. We are constantly adding more information to our database and developing dynamic tools that track an artist’s market, in real-time, in order to enable art lovers and collectors to feel fully empowered when navigating the art market.

 

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