Entrepreneurship and female intuition to disrupt and change
June 5, 2020
They call themselves: the reactive, raw, radically new. A non-profit organisation with an Art Fair that is all about empowering underrepresented and non-commercial artists. The REA Art Fair is an artist oriented show specifically focusing on promoting emerging talents.
While the pandemic is disrupting existing and accepted ways of making, showing and selling art, the REA Art Fair is challenging the art world to change perspectives and old patterns. But what makes it especially unique, is its entrepreneurship orientation and its founders: three exceptional, powerful and fully driven women. Combining their individual stories, talents, strength and feminine power, they got together to create an organisation right before the pandemic. What makes them so special is that despite the shutdowns, postponements, crisis situations, the three women are charging ahead, believing in their visions and creatively adjusting to the new situations.
We talked with the three main founders: Maryna Rybakova, Elisabetta Roncati and Maria Myasnikova. Each of them brings to the non-profit organization and the activities they aim at, a different perspective and flow of energy.
Maryna Rybakova is an entrepreneur at heart and with a strong background in art and technology. Her entrepreneurial spirit gives the drive and makes the organization moving and acting.
She has always been interested in researching multidisciplinary approaches in the arts, as a way of adding dimension and creating meaningful connections with the artworks. The technology in her view was also an easy way to connect with art, do research, find new artists on online platforms. She considers it empowering to have access to all of that body of knowledge with the help of technology.
“Our team came together in January this year, even though some of us had known each other from grad school and the local art scene. At one of the group meetings, we all agreed that there are not enough exhibition opportunities being created in Milan for emerging artists, and we decided to take the matter in our own hands. By February, we had all the paperwork done, and now we are fully functional”- says Rybakova.
When asked if it was by chance or on purpose that the team members of the non-profit organisation are all women, Rybakova explains how it was rather by chance than by design. It however turned out to be a great blessing for them, making it truly inspiring to work in a female team and to empower each other along the way.
“Being female-founded is something we are incredibly proud of”- exclaims Rybakova.
Having had an entrepreneurial spirit already at a young age, Rybakova has a deep insight into how art and business evolve and are necessary for each other. She considers the art business as a branch of entrepreneurship, whereby a lot of value is created mainly through communication.
“In my opinion, art and enterprise are about value creation and community. It is essential that the art becomes accessible in the public domain and impacts the living and evolving communities, that is why for instance we have decided to eliminate the entrance ticket for the fair and make the free admission”- explains Rybakova.
Being in the field of art and technology Rybakova embraces the significant changes - especially the digital platforms - that have taken place in the art world. She finds it fascinating how online viewing rooms in online art fairs like Art Basel or Frieze, have started adopting the transparent mode of displaying prices. In her view this has been the most significant breakthrough that has happened, because of a considerable need to attract a new wave of collectors who prefer a “buy it now” approach.
The entrepreneurial approach in the art world is a new and fresh breeze, taking a leap from the old, academic standpoint. Rybakova believes that emerging artists need to take up this approach as well before starting their careers.
“Just creating great art is not enough if there is no one around to see it. So, communication and public relations skills are indispensable for artists who would like to grow professionally. It is a skill set that requires narrative writing, photography - for capturing own creations in the best possible way and of course social media skills”- says Rybakova.
Being also a founder of the REA Art Fair, Elisabetta Roncati, with her managerial background, has a strong aim to bring people closer to the art market. She is driven by the cross border notion of art and culture in everything she does, whether it is art valuation, managing art collections, organizing art and cultural events, or writing around and about art.
Roncati’s passion for art and culture started after her master’s degree in Economics when she started to work for an art gallery. As she describes it, she felt “different” from her colleagues.
“I was the only one who never heard about Hans-Ulrich Obrist before. Art was an inner passion. The most strange contemporary artistic expressions attracted me” - describes it Roncati.
Since that time, many things happened on her path. First, she started a blog, she became an art consultant, and last but not least, she met Rybakova, thanks to Instagram connections. When Rybakova told her about REA Arte, she immediately decided to be part of the team. She found it exceptional since at the moment there isn’t a comparable Italian art fair. A real opportunity for emerging artists.
When asked about how she sees the artists of the future, Roncati expresses her view that artists need to be more proactive, meaning they have to manage their careers. According to her, they cannot only make beautiful artworks as in the past centuries, waiting for an illuminated art merchant to sell them.
“The art market is changing rapidly, like the new communication media. Artists need to know how to promote their creations, how to propose them, and how to deal with their website and their social media profiles. It’s essential being updated” - explains it Roncati.
Art has a unique role, and this has been even more so during the global lockdown, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost every art gallery and museum all over the world has been active on Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook, trying to provide online digital platforms for viewers to stay in touch with art.
“People need art and culture to avoid thinking of everyday problems. Art has the power to release our minds. We need culture and culture needs to be shared. I believe in the concept of ‘more Art to the People’” - shares her deepest thoughts Roncati.
The art world is changing and transforming, some positive developments are appearing, some remain still to be tackled. Roncati believes that transparency is one among those that will not happen. As she describes it:
“Some inner “workings” are complicated to be changed.”
Nonetheless, there are many other elements that will grow, and create more interaction and visibility. Roncati believes that social media and online platforms will help art market players to create more interaction.
“Think about online viewing rooms or other systems that well-known professionals have adopted during these months. Online interactions can strengthen physical visits and transactions. I think that another way for artists and art galleries’ growth can be art fairs. They are an incredible way to develop your network and to expand your customer base”- says Roncati.
When asked about her advice for artists, feeling struggle in these times and for collectors, who just started to collect and feel uncertain, Roncati’s first thought is to never give up!
Instead of feeling lost and desperate, artists have to manage their social media accounts or websites and use them to achieve new contacts she says. There are lots of opportunities on the web: online art fairs, exhibitions. Once the lockdown is finished, this network will become the base for boosting their artistic careers. Roncati’s advice for collectors is to buy.
“This is a reasonable period: oil, companies’ shares, everything is going down. Artworks are like gold: if you have a good taste, you can make a good bargain and earn lots of money” - concludes Roncati.
The third founder of the ARTE Art Fair is Maria Myasnikova. Being an artist, she brings her sensitivity, artistic energy into the organisation, giving voice to all the other artists. Being also able to relate to the artist’s path, she has a deep insight into what their deep desires and needs are.
Myasnikova describes how she started as an artist her own path and what was her motivation to join an organisation that supports artists. After she graduated from an art school, she felt herself alone in the art world, not knowing her way in the beginning.
During this time she questioned her practice, her path and her purpose as an artist. Shortly after her graduation, she was contacted by a young curator, Lucy Swift, who saw her works and invited her to take part in a group show called Cluster Crafts in London.
“This show was organised by Ema Marinova, and focused on emerging artists - it gave me a stimulus to keep going, and made me feel “validated” as I matter. And that is what every artist needs - for someone to believe in them, and encourage them, especially at the beginning of their careers - and I wanted to be that person for them”- says Myasnikova.
Myasnikova’s artworks are reflections, whether it be a self-reflection of sentiments or contemplation of certain autobiographical events or transcriptions of others’ works, and therefore her input in REA doesn’t fuel her practice.
“However, being an artist myself I always find myself “on the maker’s side”, I consistently revise the decisions that we make through the artist’s perspective”- describes it Myasnikova.
According to her, the period of quarantine has made art even more accessible than it was before. People who were interested in art before the lockdown continue to engage with it, and galleries and museums are offering a significant amount of interviews, particularly live ones with artists, as well as virtual tours, and talks.
The global transformation is affecting everyone and everything. Despite all the turmoil, Myasnikova believes that art and artists are the one thing that can never be replaced or disappear.
“Through art, we learn about the world, ourselves, and how to live in our ever-changing reality; it teaches us to empathize, listen, and process our emotions, and these are eternal effects that art has on us, something that won’t ever change”- says thoughtfully Myasnikova.
For Myasnikova art is ultimately about relationships, whether they are personal relationships or those with the world. The goal for an artist is to translate these relationships into an artwork, that will then be observed by the audience, who then form their own relationship with it.
When it comes to career, Myasnikova finds it essential for artists to have an art education “as you find yourself surrounded with like-minded people which in turn stimulates your works - only through conversation, through discussing your practice, and asking questions can you move forward, and art school is what provides this fertile environment”- she concludes.
Being an artist herself and having to cope in the last months with not being able to show her art, she had periods when she questioned her purpose as an artist. She related to the period of confinement since she finds the making of an artwork a very lonely process.
“You are confronted by “the self” that is staring at you from the surface. Plato talks about how knowledge concerning other things is similarly gained by progressing from a base reality of the thing sought to the final form of the thing sought, or the thing sought itself. You have to excavate whatever it is you’re trying to express, confront it, and eventually make peace with it as your thoughts, emotions and reflections take its form in an artwork”- describes it more in detail Myasnikova.
Nonetheless, she eventually came to a point when she realized she “can not not make”. She regained the ability to start the conversation, relationship with her new work once again until a new idea came to her, and the entire process began all over again.
These three founders, even if different in their ways, they share the same passion to change and transform, and this makes the non-profit based REA Art Fair an organisation with drive and true intentions. Passion, courage and initiation such as these are more than necessary now and in the future to come, for art to be part of the whole global transformation.
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