Making art and the art world more accessible
June 16, 2020
Kamiar Maleki, art collector and director of the VOLTA and Pulse Fairs, is in a unique perspective of having the opportunity to experience various sides of what makes up the art world: that of the collectors, galleries, artists, curators, dealers. This has been ever more so valuable during times of crisis and transformation, having had reacted in a flexible and supportive way.
Having a personal bond from his childhood onwards to art has given him an advantage - especially during these times of global change - in directing a fair, collecting more consciously, and supporting art and creativity in his personal life and outside.
Starting from a very early age, Maleki’s family has been instrumental in his upbringing with art as they have been collectors for over 30 years. However, his own passion for art evolved gradually and really took off when his parents gave him a little budget following college to buy art with.
“It was not mine to spend freely, and I had to go back to my father and constantly tell him why I wanted to buy something, and provide him with the research that it was a good idea to buy what I wanted. And equally, if I wanted to sell, it had to happen with his approval. Even though now I buy independently, I still ask for my parents' advice” - describes it Maleki.
Many people, mainly those who are not usually exposed to art and creativity in their everyday lives, when thinking about art collecting and collectors, imagine super-wealthy people buying art. According to Maleki being an art collector doesn’t put one directly in a certain asset category. Like in many industries where there are certain levels, it is the same in the art world. One doesn’t become an art collector by buying just top tier art or antiques. There are many ways to start with a collection, whether through editions, prints, photos, which in some cases don’t even have to cost more than a couple of hundred pounds.
VOLTA’s sister fair, the Affordable Art Fair is an example where one can start experiencing art collecting. All the art pieces there are priced below 6000 pounds. It is about discovering emerging and undiscovered mid-career artists, whose artworks can be bought with any kinds of budgets.
“I bought my first piece of art for 1000 pounds. It was a photography from a Japanese photographer. Therefore to you who believe that art is just for the super-wealthy, I challenge your opinion. Go out there, look, research, and buy what you love. It doesn’t matter what price it is, you can and will be an art collector” - says Maleki.
Maleki’s personal favourite places are art fairs. He loves the buzz they create. He used to go to 10 fairs a year, individually seeking out new art. Now that he is in the profession, he goes to about forty. For him, art fairs are still the greatest places to discover all kinds of art in one space. He has bought many of his works of art from one of them.
Seeing the many sides of the equation, and having a democratic view of the art world, Maleki believes that the best way of creating and spreading art is to continue what has already been started. What has changed is that now one can adapt to changing situations better and can be more flexible.
For example, explains Maleki, while before one could not access a lot of art studios, now via Instagram live artists can open up their studios without much hassle so that people can get to know them. They have conversations with their galleries, which are interesting and people get to see other collectors and their collections.
“My view has always been about making art and the art world more accessible and that is one way of democratizing it” - explains Maleki.
The Covid crisis has given new insights also to things that need to change, and are able to change in the short-run for art to be more accessible to the world. Maleki has an optimistic view about how the art world has reacted to the Covid crisis. The artworld is a community, and according to him for the first time “we are seeing artists, collectors, galleries, and institutions reach out to each other to find ways on how to survive these unprecedented times we are living in“.
In the short run, galleries, institutions, and fairs will have to become more conscious of how to welcome their clients. Whether it is via health and safety measures that need to be implemented or by other social distancing procedures. Fairs have become even widely available online, which has given the push to move also many other things online: whether they are fairs, virtual reality, or Instagram Live conversations. The change has come about rapidly. There are still technological limits, such as for example a full VR fair, but the process is more and more about making things accessible easily.
At VOLTA, Maleki and his team have been busy finding ways to adapt to the changes, and to provide at the same time a personal and direct contact, that an art fair represents. They are looking at all health and safety measures to producing an incredible fair in September and in December.
“We are putting everything in place so that our clients can benefit from the fair by being there and by not being there. We have created Virtual Volta a new platform for previous and current exhibitors to exhibit their art. While Art needs to be felt and seen, we hope we can continue to give confidence to our clients that visiting a fair will be very much viable soon, and that our part of the industry will continue to thrive” - explains Maleki.
Of course, the digital world is not the long-term solution for the art world. Nonetheless, it certainly is helping it a lot, and Maleki finds it very encouraging to have it embraced so quickly and to be connecting on a new hyper speed.
Creativity has been known to be at its highest during crisis periods. Motivated to find new and other ways, art galleries, art fairs and artists too are more and more open to changing old patterns. New conditions and realities are growing that will also support galleries as well as artists. Concerning artists, there are several measures to assist them “whether it is by creating an online platform for them to sell their art for free, or different types of payment structures, etc. I believe there will be new galleries created in this time as some will fold but that is the evolution of the art market” says Maleki.
Maleki’s advice for collectors is to continue buying what they love. His suggestion is not to think of a particular market, just to buy what they love.
“Artists are still creating wonderful work and more than ever now need your support. In regards to artists, it is a tough call. My advice would be to never give up. Work hard at your craft, read more, try to work with different techniques, continue talking to galleries, continue making work that you would like to show at shows, and use artsy, Instagram or another online platform to your advantage, and create a platform for you to sell individually. Reach out to your supporters and collectors, and find ways how they can help” - shares his advice Maleki.
The future generation is mirrored based on what steps and how we take them today. Nurturing their passion and affinity for art and creativity now will be valuable for them in their own present times.
Maleki is also a father and believes through his own experiences, that art is about making children enjoy it rather than forcing it upon them. Things have to come naturally with children and so it is about giving them the accessibility and enjoyment to it. While Maleki was not creative to create, he was exposed to art already from the age of 6.
“I am lucky that my son already has a great creative touch, that he has made his first painting together with his nanny and her boyfriend who happens to be an artist. It is proudly hanging in our home” - says Maleki.
Maleki has several experiences in the art world. However, his two most special ones that stay vivid and deep within him even today are first, when his father entrusted him with a budget to buy art with.
“This has really allowed me to research and fully emerge myself into this amazing world” - he describes.
His second experience was when he bought his first piece of art on Instagram, which allowed him to curate his first-ever show HashtagAbstract. it was then widely published in the FT and even Charles Saatchi bought two pieces from that show.
Maleki’s love for art and all that it brings with it stays in his heart and soul. This is what drives him to bring the best out of any aspect of it, whether it is the art fairs he directs, the collections he nurtures, or the passing on of this love for art to his son.
Sign up for our newsletter
Be up-to-date with the latest Secrets of Art Magazine articles and exclusive offers.