When Jason Gracilieri found himself in a new home without any artwork to display on the bare, white walls, he was made immediately aware of his options.  The first was to visit a box store and purchase a ubiquitous piece that didn’t speak to his personality, or get swept into the whirlwind of the gallery circuit.  Instead Gracilieri forged his own path and founded TurningArt, a solution that connects artists to collectors through a curated social network.  Lead by a team of personal curators, customers are guided through a diverse roster ten thousands artists.  In joining TurningArt, customers have the opportunity to experiment with artistic styles and mediums without risk as TurningArt invites the opportunity rotate the artwork in the home as many times as they like until they arrive at the perfect piece.  Installation spoke with VP of Marketing for TurningArt Jason Pavel to learn more about a very new way to collect and support artists.

Installation Magazine: TurningArt offers customers the opportunity to have a rotating art collection, allowing them to get a piece of art and exchange it for another as often as they like.  Why did you develop this model?

Jason Pavel: We feel that you really do need to live with a piece of art in order to figure out if you really like it.  The way it looks in your space is completely different from the way it looks in a gallery space or online.  People grow accustomed to having very static walls.  But we feel that if it doesn’t change, you fail to notice the art after some time.  By allowing people to explore different work, they can discover their taste, and can create whatever experience they want in their home.  That makes the art more impactful.

The first step in discovering new artwork is taking a quiz and then connecting to a personal curator.  What type of technology is implemented in matching customers to artists?

We took the algorithmic approach at first, but felt that it wasn’t up to par.  When we looked at people’s art collections, they were extremely diverse and very varied.  Just because someone liked one particular piece, wasn’t necessarily a good indication of what other pieces they might like- at least from data sampling.  But, we did feel that a personal curator, was actually pretty good at making recommendations anecdotally.  There are three personal curators who helped develop our quiz.  Our customers love using the personal curators because it’s impossible to see all the art.  There are over ten thousand pieces now.  They dig through it as much as they can on their own, but the curators help to narrow it down.

With a growing artist roster, what artistic qualities are considered when selecting artists to join TurningArt?

It depends on what medium they’re working in.  The curatorial team looks at the work in order to determine if the artist in question achieves what they have set out to communicate.  In some cases, we look for third party validation.  We consider who they studied under, their gallery representation and recent shows.  Our goal is to offer a wide variety of quality artwork, so we must evaluate each artist accordingly.

Do most of your artists have gallery representation?

Most of our artists are independent.

Does TurningArt have a particular aesthetic?

We don’t.  And that’s very deliberate.  It’s important that we don’t subscribe to one aesthetic because we’re trying to help our customers find their own aesthetic.

Galleries can be an intimidating space to go into and purchase art.  

Buying a piece of art is a big purchase.  It’s a big decision.  I think it’s very difficult to make that kind of commitment in a gallery environment.  TurningArt was originally conceived as a vehicle through which people could get art into their home without making a significant financial commitment.

Customers don’t have to rotate art.  They can keep a piece for as long as they want and even purchase an original piece.

That’s correct.  Every dollar you spend in monthly membership is a dollar that can be applied toward a print or an original ink purchase. Prints can be purchased outright with the credits; with original works, customers can earn up to 50% of the value of the piece in credits.

How are the pieces reproduced?

We use a high end ink overlay process.  Our substrate feels like soft paper, but is extremely durable.  We evaluated hundreds of different substrates and chose the right balance of durability and color saturation.  They have a nice matte finish without a lot of glare.  Because we print on demand, our business model provides our artists with more opportunities: they can sell the original work, they can sell prints of that work and they can get royalties off of the display of that work through rotations.  There are three different ways that they can make money from one piece.

Who is your demographic?

We typically reach people in their early thirties to late forties, but there’s a pretty big swath.  The product was built for the people who are younger, who are would-be collectors and really don’t know what their style is quite yet.

Artists have the ability to receive analytics so that they can get a sense of how many people their work is reaching.  How does this work?

We have what we call the “artist’s dashboard,” that lets artists see how many people have viewed their art and which pieces are most popular.  My favorite feature is the map: it’s a Google map with pins for every piece.  Artists can see which parts of the country there art is currently in.

Installation is based in LA and TurningArt is based in Boston.  Both cities have a vibrant art scene, but that is certainly not true for much of the US.  Are artists receiving exposure in unexpected places?  

We have artists all of the lower 48 states and we have customers everywhere too. It’s very cool to see artwork spread across the country.  We have some artists who are locally known in their communities but who have never reached a larger audience. When they start working with us, they log onto their dashboard and see their art in someplace like Iowa where their art may not have reached through more traditional channels.  That’s the nice thing about Turning Art it gives artists a national exposure that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Where is TurningArt headed?

We hope to expand.  There’s still a huge market for art in the US.  Huge numbers of people buy their art from Walmart and Ikea and other big box retailers. We sort of democratized art and connect consumers who would prefer to have something much more interesting in their home.