Jessica and Evrim Oralkan of Collectors Ask Art Collectors to Share

Evrim and Jessica Oralkan. collectors

“We’re not very wealthy collectors, but we’ve put together a great collection at a really amazing budget,” says Evrim Oralkan, “and it’s really important to share.” This simple impulse gave birth to Collecteurs, a new platform he co-founded with his wife, Jessica Oralkan, which asks art collectors to upload the works they have acquired so that everyone can see them and take advantage. The aim is to force collectors to become “creative social agents”, rather than just wealthy people with warehouses full of paintings. Even the most amazing private collections, like that of the Rubell family, they note, are often only appreciated by a select few. “Such a large collection is incapable of reaching millions in Beijing, Tokyo, Los Angeles or London,” says Evrim. “We are interested in providing the tools and support needed to get this message across to the world.” Observer spoke with the couple about their vision for a new type of social network.

Observer: How did your own career bring you to Collecteurs?
Evrim Oralkan: We started [collecting] about ten years ago, getting to know the galleries, the institutions, understanding this landscape. We felt there was something missing in our relationship with the collection and its dissemination. We realized that all collectors wanted to share what they had, so this seemed like an interesting opportunity to explore. At the same time, we were just beginning to struggle with cataloging the collection, the excel sheets, trying to keep track of what we were getting. You buy quite a few things; that’s the obsessive part of it. We looked at a few other collection management software, but they all looked like a Windows 95-like interface, and they were closed – only visible to the collectors themselves. We had the idea: Why not create a professional management system, but integrated with a social network?

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Are your careers in the art world?
EO: I was a hotelier, I studied hospitality for many years, then I had the opportunity to do something on my own, in architectural stone. That’s really what brought us here. Basically we import travertine marble. This is a company that I started when I literally had nothing in my pocket. We don’t come from very wealthy backgrounds, there’s no daddy money here, neither for me nor for Jessica. Everything we did, we did it ourselves and we worked very hard for it.

How did you reach out to others who may be interested in the platform but may not consider themselves collectors?
EO: It’s not really about what you own or how much you own. It could be one, two, three or a hundred [works.] But we really want to push this idea of ​​collectors as creative social agents. What do you do with these works? Do you tell stories? Are you trying to nurture or foster their cultural value? With this in mind, we are beginning a series of interviews with artists. We want to see what they collect; almost all artists collect, and also exchange with each other. It’s not that one percent [activity]; we all collect certain things. The value for us is in the stories behind it and what we want to activate.

What do collectors who join Collecteurs get out of the platform, beyond being able to show off what they own?
Jessica Oralkan: One of the biggest points of convergence for much of our community is that this work will be visible. The first thing you think about when showing private collections is confidentiality: “What if people knew what I have?” We found that the response was the opposite. Many people are delighted that there is this kind of database, where their collections can be discovered by institutions, museums or independent curators.

Let’s say I’m a curator preparing an exhibition. I go to Collectors and find a work by Anselm Kiefer that David in Ohio owns. How to contact him?
JO: It’s very simple: a direct message arrives directly in their inbox.

If you can send messages to collectors, is that part of the idea that art advisors could use the platform? “I see that you have a lot of works by this person, are you interested in acquiring more? »
EO: It could happen, we thought about it. It is really important for us to create an environment where the capital value of art is not the most important thing. We want to focus on cultural value.

We’re talking about discovering art online, but of course that will never be the same as standing three inches from a painting or sculpture. How did you try to make this experience as close to communicating with work as possible, despite being on your laptop or phone?
EO: I don’t think we want to compete with the experience of a museum, replace the experience of a gallery or someone’s private collection. Over time, we will use technologies, whether it is virtual reality or augmented reality. But for now, what matters is: Can we get collectors to tell a little story? When you look at my collection, you will see a Robert Longo, and an Ai Weiwei next to it. How are they related? You enter that person’s mind. [And] we want to start helping collectors by bringing curators onto the platform, to create exhibits from what we have.

How? ‘Or’ What?
EO: We try to work with collectors to make collective exhibitions of all our members. But we want to create this economy that the Conservatives also benefit from. We want curators to have accounts, and we want collectors to be able to hire them, work with them, or collaborate with them to create exhibits themselves. It means a financial transaction, and maybe we would also get a percentage of that.

Impossible to talk about online art without mentioning the Artsy platform (company for which, I must admit, I worked until very recently). How did you think about what is already available on a site like this?
EO: Originality is really difficult in today’s society; a lot of things have been done before. We started doing something that didn’t exist, and I think it’s fair to say that it still doesn’t exist. There is no other platform focused on private collections. That’s partly because it’s hard — not impossible, but it’s hard to do. We respect what Artsy has done in such a short time, but I don’t think we do anything like them. I don’t think we’ll go to the same place either. We have our own vision. We want to activate the social economy in the art world, for the benefit of everyone, not just galleries or collectors, but bringing curators and art advisors into this mix, a new environment for everyone to establish new rules in the 21st century. The whole landscape has changed.

To what extent have you educated the collectors themselves?
EO: We really haven’t done it yet, we’ve been waiting for everyone to come to us until now. We’re ready for the outreach – and that’s part of the reason we’re doing the Kickstarter, to bring these collections. So far, however, people have reached out to us. It’s fair to say that 95% of users are collectors who came to open accounts on their own.

Besides your subscription model— from a free account to one that costs $125 per month — how will you monetize Collectors?
EO: Where we could really create more funds for ourselves [is through] commissioned artwork and capsule editions. We did editions of original works, smaller editions of eight or ten. [They are from] artists we admire and respect, or believe are important to the times.

The artist and musician Mosquito Nástio is an “ambassador” for collectors. How did it happen?
EO: I’ve been listening to Nástio’s music for about seven years, before it was embraced by the art world. His first albums were in Portuguese. I don’t speak Portuguese at all, but I have memorized [the lyrics]. Even though I don’t understand what they mediumi know what it is saying– it’s so crazy. I sent him a message [on Instagram, and eventually] we had a phone call. It was an immediate connection, on a spiritual level. We both knew immediately there was something deep in there. [I suggested] we do an interview, an edition. He was like, ‘Yeah, that would be great, but I really feel like we can do something bigger than that. Let’s do something bigger. He is very involved in our mission, and it is really difficult to put into words. I think we share the same soul purpose.

What is your goal for the next five years? The dream of what Collectors could look like?
JO: One of our most basic goals – it sounds noble – is for every private collection to have some sort of presence on Collecteuers, whether or not it’s uploading all of their inventory. Just how, back then, any business would have some sort of presence on Facebook. And as you said, not everyone considers themselves an established “collector”. We are all in the same boat. So many people, even fresh out of our incubator program at the New Museum, were like, “Wow, I never realized in my years of working in the art world that I was actually a collector. It opens people’s minds and eyes to the fact that we all do this together, we all have stories to tell.

EO: We also want to solve other problems in the future. We want to integrate blockchain into the platform. It is important to ensure that there is transparency, a way to follow this work. Ensure that artwork records on the platform are transferable.

One of my future goals, five years from now, is for Collecteurs to be a widely accepted, digital museum with content created by collective members, private collectors, curators and writers – a collective platform that truly grows through herself. We don’t want to be this massive company. We want a good job; we want to do something meaningful.

This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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Q&A: Founders of new social network ask private collectors to share their art online


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