Artists Online: Talking with Christian Benedetto of myartspace.comPosted by Kelly Heyboer/ The Star-LedgerCategories: Art, Blogger Interview, Business of Blogging August 04, 2008 5:31AM Kelly Heyboer is a staff writer for The Star-Ledger. Jersey Blogs is all about conversation -- who's talking about what in New Jersey, and what they're saying.
In the old days, struggling artists would toil away in their studios waiting for their big break.
These days, wannabe Picassos are using the internet to try to make their own luck.
Myartspace.com is an online social networking site designed to link collectors, gallery owners and young artists looking to sell their work. Over the last two years, more than 40,000 users have signed up and uploaded more than 500,000 images of contemporary art, according to the site's founders.
"Times are still very exciting for art and the internet. A whole new generation of young artists are likely to help reshape the way the art world will evolve to over the next 20 years," said Christian Benedetto, a Morris County real estate executive and one of the art enthusiasts behind the site.
We asked Benedetto, 41, about myartspace.com and the future of the art business.
Q: What is myartspace? How does it work?
A: Myartspace is an online community for artists, collectors, gallerists, teachers, art appreciators and others. It allows people to come together to explore contemporary art.
Membership is free, and artists can upload an unlimited quantity of their art. This includes images, music and video. The membership is global, with more than 80 countries represented with work, with most of the membership as expected from the U.S.Q: Where did the idea for the site come from?
So, an artist or collector can sign up for myartspace and begin using it in minutes at no cost. Myartspace has, as an example, one of the largest collections of interviews with emerging artists online-- more than 400.
Myartspace uses a blend of advertising revenues, commissions on sales of art, premier (paid) subscription services and community events to generate revenue.
A: Myartspace was founded by Catherine McCormack-Skiba. Catherine is an artist herself, and had a mother who was also a highly prolific artist her whole life. She watched first hand as she saw fellow artists struggle to gain recognition and representation, including her mother.Q: Artists have a reputation for being loners. But more and more artists and collectors are starting blogs and websites. Is technology changing the art world?
Catherine, being a natural entrepreneur, saw an opportunity in the internet and began work on the site in 2005. The site was launched in May 2006, and is now about to undergo a major upgrade to include e-commerce capabilities so artists can sell their own work directly to buyers.
A: Catherine McCormack-Skiba, founder of myartspace, notes:Q: How many users do you have? Have you had much feedback?"Technology is definitely changing the art world in many ways. First, the artists are being inter-connected in ways that were not possible years ago. Peers from all over world can review their work. They can collaborate on ideas. They can exchange information quickly and easily. But there's more than a social aspect to this. The commercial side of the internet will change the art world dramatically.
For the past century, artists represented in established galleries saw their work sold for increasingly high prices, but very few artists were actually reaping the benefits of the collector's appetite. Things are changing quickly for BOTH the sellers and the buyers. More artists are able to self-represent themselves as venues like myartspace allow them to reach millions of interested buyers.
A new generation of art appreciators are much more internet-savvy, and are showing an increased appetite to explore emerging artists and find their own rising stars rather than relying solely on the recommendation of a few art dealers. So it's more global, and people are able to more easily connect electronically."
A: Myartspace is doubling in size each year. We now have about 40,000 members and expect that to top 60,000 members by the end of this year. More importantly, we have a collection of more than 500,000 pieces of contemporary art for our community to view for free. Feedback has been very positive, as is shown by our growing membership.Q: One of your new features in "The Daily Art Feed." What is that and how does it work?
A: Many people like to view art that is "pre-selected" through a curation process. With user-generated content, the volume is high and the quality inconsistent. Consequently we don't have enough time in the day to look at 500 YouTube videos and find the best three we like.
Art is similar. We have thousands of people each day viewing selected works that are fed to them directly through e-mail or through Facebook. To sign up, just go to www.myartspace.com/daily and subscribe to the service. It's easy and free. For the artist, their work is viewed by thousands of people in any one given day, and a few of those people are likely to be interested in buying the original work or a digital rendition.
Q: What's your background?
A: I co-own commercial real estate brokerage company, National Redevelopment. And I grew up in the real estate brokerage business, which gave me the gift of deal making.
Over the years I expanded and bought pieces of title Insurance, telecommunication, media and marketing companies, which lead me to form Hopkins Sampson & Brown Equities a few years ago, which funds and purchases other business . . .
Catherine McCormack-Skiba, was a tenant of mine in some warehouse space, where she stored her some of her vast art work and collection. We became friends and when the opportunity came to invest in her company, I jumped at.
Hopkins Sampson & Brown Equities, LLC, also owns a pretty large art collection and my wife Suzy support the arts.
I did not own a TV until recently, I prefer to read and or write. I have had four books of poetry published since 2005, which got picked up by amazon.com and target.com - which I am especially proud of. I have be called a serial entrepreneur.
My the only job I had with a paycheck since I got out of graduate school was in the United States Marine Corp, where I earned $308.50 take home pay every two weeks. Since then I have been self employed.
Although, being a dad and husband is the most rewarding and best job I have ever had.
Q: Do you have any blogs or websites you read regularly?
A: Well I spend a fair amount of time on www.myartspace.com and I a huge www.facebook.com fan. Myartspace.com has a widget that lets you connect your myartspace page and facebook.com page and share friends and your favorite artist.
Suzy and I have a 3-month-old son, so I also spend a great deal of time-- mostly in the middle of the night-- reading off the White House's website and a few other government and historical information sites.
Last week, I read my son the Declaration of Independence. Last month, we covered all the presidents and vice presidents and all the cabinet members and posts.
I also spend some time on Phillips Andover website with my son, as that is where I would like him to go to high school. (You can never start too early.)
Q: What's next for myartspace?
A: Myartspace is like a piece of art in process. It is constantly evolving. It is more than just some technology and software, it is a growing community.Q: Anything you'd like to add?
Consequently, it has many community-centric activities coming up. The site is launching a series of $5000 art scholarships for undergraduate and graduate art students . . .
The community also sponsors many competitions where artists can have dramatic leaps in their careers. We will be launching a competition where winning artists can have their work shown at Miami Basel, a large international art show, in December of this year in Florida. And coming shortly is a new capability where artists can avail their work through online stores and buyers can purchase work directly from them.
A: Times are still very exciting for art and the internet. A whole new generation of young artists are likely to help reshape the way the art world will evolve to over the next 20 years. Myartspace hopes to solidify its position as the "premier online social network for the art world".
A friend of a friend told me about 7 or 8 years ago, "Buy art. It's one of the only unregulated commodities in the world." He was right. It is.http://blog.nj.com/jerseyblogs/2008/08/artists_online_talking_with_ch.html#more