Interview with Art:I:Curate Founders Nur Elektra El Shami and Irina Turcan

Mass media and new technologies have been influencing art as early as the 19th century. More recently with the Internet, technology and the media have increased the accessibility of experiencing art. Art:I:Curate combines innovative technology with emerging contemporary art to offer a platform for its global users to curate artworks online and offline based on their interests. Aesthetica interviewed the founders of the platform, Nur Elektra El Shami and Irina Turcan, who are challenging traditional art world paradigms.

A: With artwork being digitised and accessible to everyone with Internet access, how does art:i:curate utilize this premise and how is it different than other online arts platforms such as Artsy and Paddle 8?

NES/IT: The core idea behind art:i:curate is to actively engage our members – art enthusiasts, industry specialists, and collectors, and create a dialogue between the artists and public. It is a tool to discover art and to decide which artists will be exhibited offline. It is also a new way of collecting art. For artists, it is a great way to increase visibility on an international level and engage with the audience first online and then offline.

A: How does Art:I:Curate transcend the boundaries of existing art world standards?

NES/IT: We translate what is happening online into offline exhibitions, events, and studio visits based on our members’ choice. We are re-defining the notion of curation by involving our audience in the art selection process and thus creating a dialogue between our audience and the artists.

A: How do you feel technology is shaping the art world?

NES/IT: There is no doubt that the Internet has completely changed the way we access information and experience things, from educating ourselves and sharing knowledge to doing our shopping online. Technology is definitely making art more accessible and it is a great avenue to engage broader audiences and cross geographical boundaries.

A: Tell us about how the sleek design and interactive features enhance the user experience.

NES/IT: Our clean and minimal design acts as a blank canvas and frames the artworks featured online. Our platform, which is currently in BETA, is enhanced through constant interaction with our members. We love receiving feedback and are further developing engaging features, so stay tuned.

A: Art:I:Curate just hosted its first exhibition in New York, following three successful events in London, can you describe these events and what the platform has planned next?

NES/IT: Our events and exhibitions have all been very diverse in terms of curation, scale, and location. We like to challenge different types of spaces, whether these are typical “white cube” galleries, retail spaces, industrial buildings or intimate apartment settings.

We have been very lucky to be supported by great partners such as Ligne Roset or Pernod Ricard.

For 2014, we are planning to further involve our members at in different cities around the world and explore the route of finding particular spaces.

Anyone is welcome to get in touch and suggest locations or collaborate with us on organising shows offline. That’s the core of our mission: engage and involve our audience. Besides, who knows better about abandoned buildings or hidden gems than locals? We are very excited about this upcoming year.

A: While Nur’s background is in fashion and Irina’s is in banking, how did you both come up with the idea for the platform and how do your perspectives contribute to its development?

NES/IT: We have known each other for nearly a decade and have always been passionate about art. One evening, we talked about art, the art world, Internet, social media, and the phenomenon of crowd sourcing platforms such as Wikipedia and Pinterest. It suddenly dawned on us how fantastic it would be if we were able to participate in the exhibition making processes. We started thinking about the exciting possibility of people interested in art becoming actively engaged and the interesting and completely different angle that it would offer to the traditional art world. This idea was born because we were outsiders to the industry and part of our own audience.

A: Art:I:Curate has partnered with several arts institutions and residencies. Can you tell me about these collaborations and what we can expect to see from these relationships?

NES/IT: We are very excited about the partnerships with leading international residencies and institutions we have developed so far. Apart from their valuable input, we are able to meet and get to know their residents and alumni, artists and curators, and start a conversation, conduct studio visits, and invite them to join the platform. On our side, we wish to give the members and artists we work with the chance to get better insight into the programmes and opportunities with our partners, facilitate communication, and create a dialogue. For 2014, we are planning to take these partnerships a step further.

Ashton Chandler

Visit art:i:curate to sign up and start using the free platform.

Rotation F to M by Benedetta Panisson.