There are plenty of online art galleries out there. What drove you to launch Wondereur?
Angelica: One of the first things you learn in art history class is that there’s a difference between the work itself and the reproduction. Of course what’s changed and what’s been changing for a hundred years is that it’s reproduction everywhere.
We looked at how art is being sold and presented and saw that there was this gap between the way the world is now, the way we understand it to be, and the way art was being sold.
We found that art was either being sold in the old-fashioned way in a white cube gallery, or it was being sold online like shoes. “Well,” we thought, “there are people out there with money, who are interested in buying art and where do they go?”
The web has made it easy for everyone to curate their own collections of pretty much anything. Of course, the word “curation” was lifted from the art world! Does that make it a challenge to convince people they need tastemakers?
Olivier: Our tastemakers are helping you to find artists that you didn’t know existed and are worth the investment. It goes way beyond the tastemaker, it goes to having someone who has the knowledge of what’s going on in the mainstream market share a tip with you.
Angelica: The sharing part is really important. It’s what we feel we are doing more than anything else. We’re sharing in the same way that everyone else is sharing these days. Everyone else is sharing what they think is interesting, worthwhile, notable and we’re doing exactly the same thing.
We’re not setting ourselves up as the last word in contemporary art, we’re setting ourselves up as people who have the ability to share discoveries.
Why did you choose to optimize Wondereur for the tablet?
Olivier: We wanted to start with the tablet because there’s something magical about it. The first thing is the screen. The quality of the pictures is stunning. The other thing is that it’s a touch device.
Usually when you enter an art gallery or an exhibit, nobody talks to you. It’s a very cold place. At a museum you always see people who want to touch the artwork but they aren’t allowed to do it. We wanted to do the exact opposite – create intimacy – and there’s nothing more intimate than touching.
Wondereur might pass as an online magazine with an e-retail store, or it could be seen as a content marketing platform for artists. How do you classify yourselves?
Olivier: Content marketing is not real content to me. It’s real content that’s connected to something else or it’s just marketing, but it’s hard to marry the two.
Angelica: It’s something we have talked about a lot internally. We’re really aware that many people want to pigeonhole us. People want to know, “Are you producing content like a magazine? Or are you marketing a product like a retailer?”
We want to break down the Chinese wall completely. We want to say it’s a false distinction. We want to say that it’s possible to do both in a way that is honest, that is authentic, that is true to the production of content and that is not driven by the need to put spin on something.
We want to tell the truth as we see it, in a way that journalists do. We want to make it as beautiful as we can and as engaging as we can, in a way that designers do, and we want to be able to sell art.
In the end that’s exactly what we’re doing and we’re making no bones about it. This is all about finding a market for a group of people who don’t find support easily and who don’t get the market they deserve.
Olivier: It’s kind of breaking the business model of the magazine because we’re not subscription based and our business model is centred on commission earned through the sales of the artwork.
So it’s like you’re an online art magazine crossed with an online art gallery?
Olivier: Yes, but it’s a struggle to exist in two worlds.
Angelica: It’s been a struggle. I think when what you’re doing is creating a new model, taking something from here and something from there and saying, “If we put these things together then we can make something new, then we can make something of value,” there are going to be questions.
We’re aware of that. It’s an inherent difficulty. It feels like schizophrenia sometimes. But we embrace it.
Do you have plans to expand the platform beyond the art world?
Olivier: Every time an object has a story, has depth – it could be fashion, it could be jewellery, or whatever – when a product has a craftsman or craftswoman behind it, I think the Wondereur concept would apply.
Angelica: It’s exciting for us to think about those potentials. Obviously the idea of brand journalism is very current and this is something that is analogous in some ways to some of those efforts, except that we are not starting from the brand message. We’re turning it on its head. The stories create the brand.