BBC News

Joining the dots in the arts world

By Thomas Martienssen
BBC News

media captionThe main goal we have is discovering the art that's hidden around the world," says Vastari's Bernadine Broeker

Every corner of the planet has art. Every corner of the planet has collectors and artists desperate to display their art in the thousands of exhibitions across the globe.

But it's not always that easy, curators often use well-known auction houses and contacts they've established over years in the business to make a successful show.

"When you're putting together an exhibition, a lot of curators know the collectors in Europe and the US," says Bernadine Broeker, chief executive officer and co-founder of Vastari.

"But they might not know someone, for example, in Chile who might have the works of art that are relevant for their show,"

For Vastari it is about giving the art that's hidden - that hasn't been through the auction houses or sold into museum stockrooms - a place to be displayed; as well as giving curators an intuitive way to search for the best pieces for their exhibition.

image captionExhibition curators often know about Europe and US art collectors but may be less aware of art elsewhere, say Vastari's Francesca Polo and Bernadine Broeker

"The main goal we have is discovering all of the art that's hidden around the world that perhaps museums don't know about.

"We discovered there was a shift from a euro- and US-centric art world to a more globalised world," says Bernadine.

Connecting artists

Co-founder Francesca Polo says that Vastari provides a network of collectors who also have a predisposition to lend.

"Which doesn't mean they will say yes, we're happy to work with anyone - but at least they have an interest already in that type of collaboration.

image captionVastari aims to give art that hasn't been through the auction houses or sold into museum stockrooms a place to be displayed

However, whilst Francesca might be right about those already using the site, Melanie Gerlis who is the art market editor of The Art Newspaper, believes it might not be that easy to convince some others.

"I think security is going to be one of the first things that people worry about. The art market is a very closed, private, personal, handshake industry," she says.

"And technology seems to represent everything that is the opposite of that, the internet is a very public forum."

Global database

So how does a company ensure that the collector allows their pride and joy to travel across the world safe in the knowledge they'll see the work again?

image captionVastari has a database of more than 700,000 works of art

Bernadine believes they've solved it by basing the business in London, but then employing a number of representatives around the world who help find people who are interested in working with Vastari.

"We need people who are experts who we can trust who really know the calibre of the works or art we are looking for - and the types of conditions the works need to be in to travel around the world," she says.

Vastari's workers in South Africa, China, Australia and Chile have now helped pull together a database of more than 700,000 works of art.

image caption"We do full documentation" for all the artwork and paintings, says arts conservator Josefina Lopez

Full documentation

Arts conservator Josefina Lopez who runs her studio near the squat glass buildings of Santiago's financial district. South America's tallest building stands as a sign that Chile has more to offer that many realise.

To Josefina, it is the same with Chilean art.

She explains the process of sending a piece from collector to collection. "The paintings are brought here [the studio] or we can check them at the owner's house or wherever the art work is.

"For each artwork or painting that comes into the studio we do full documentation and that includes photography.

"We do reports and condition checking for each [piece of] work. And that will go with the painting wherever it goes."

image captionMost artists want to have their work displayed by as many people" as possible, says AMA Fundacion's Bernardita Mandiola

Josefina, who runs Conservarts, is currently documenting one of Chile's largest collections - the AMA Fundacion - owned by Juan Yarur who bought his first Warhol aged just 19 and who has been collecting serious art from foreign and Chilean artists ever since.

'No ties'

Bernardita Mandiola, director of the AMA Fundacion explains why she is happy to use Vastari.

"It's a platform where we can share what we have. It allows us to be closer to the world, and for our artists and our collection to also be closer to the world.

"The artists' intention was not to have the artwork in storage. So I think most artists want to have their work displayed by as many people from as many different places as possible."

image captionVastari says it doesn't get involved in the politics of the art world

And the business seems to be working. Vastari reckons it will turn over more than $1m this year - and is currently being used by 10 of the 25 most visited museums across the world, says Art Magazine,

For Bernadine Broeker, it is Vastari's philosophy that is leading to their success:

"One thing that sets us apart and why we're so different from the rest of the art world - and people keep thinking why has no one done this before - is because we're young.

"We don't have any ties to any specific parties of the art world means we can actually facilitate things for the right reasons.

"We don't get involved in the politics of who is who - we are rather talking about what is what".

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