ArtSquare, an endeavour to make art and artists more mainstream and less elusive
Human beings are dreamers by nature, throughout our lives we are dreaming of something. Adolescence is probably that stage in life, when dreaming is as integral to life as anything else. Friends, peer group, new experiences, learnings make this stage one of the most exciting in our lives. While some dreams are realized, some don’t see the light of the day. Causes for retreat can be varied – our apprehension, risk averse nature or no will to fight against the odds, however sometimes it is circumstantial. One such impressionable incident in Bhaskar Chattopadhyay’s life during his college days led him to found ArtSquare – an online gallery that showcases the arts of talented and young artists. He speaks about the motivation behind his venture.
"During my college days, I befriended a junior mate who was a very talented artist. His paintings were widely appreciated in and around college. He thought of trying his hand professionally by exhibiting his work at a gallery. However, the art world is an expensive place for a neophyte. The exhibitionists quoted a fixed price plus a commission on his expo. Coming from humble background, he never had that kind of money and he met the same fate everywhere. His dream for exhibiting his paintings never happened and this left a mark of anguish on my mind,” shares Bhaskar. Coming from a Bengali family engaged in arts – across music, literature or theatre, Bhaskar has always had appreciation for artists and their art.
This appreciation and empathy made Bhaskar start ArtSquare in November 2012. Unlike other galleries notoriously known for its rejection or being pricey, Bhaskar describes the working pattern of ArtSquare to be very simple, “Any artist simply signs up for a free account and gets a gallery. The artist can then upload images of his artworks to this gallery. The works are curated and the ones approved are exhibited on the site.”
Coming from a middle class family, Bhaskar knows how discreet salaried families are when it comes to spending on art. “Although we sell the original paintings, we know that salaried families are not going to buy them. They cannot really afford paintings for thousands of rupees,” says Bhaskar. Nevertheless, there are many people who are besotted by fine arts but do not have enough money to buy them. For this segment of customers, ArtSquare sells art reproductions, popularly known as art prints, to make it affordable. So when you buy an artwork from ArtSquare, you also have the option of getting your artworks framed online. Bhaskar says their USP lies in providing an option called ‘Room Preview’ where users can see how the artwork they purchased looks on the wall of a room.
“I had started ArtSquare keeping in mind the tale of a talent going waste. I had then promised myself to keep the gallery free of cost for all artists and I intend to continue doing so. While initially, I had to make cold calls to artists for exhibiting their art work, we got more than 500 artists on board within a span of six months,” shares Bhaskar. Apart from exhibitions, Bhaskar had forayed into B2B business and now serves restaurants and hotels with their art. Bhaskar claims to have completed one project and has few others in the pipeline.
ArtSquare keeps the exhibition for free and charges only 20% commission for the art sold, this Bhaskar says has worked to its advantage in terms of earning revenues. Within a span of 4-5 months, they have managed revenues of Rs 4-5 lakh and have broken even as well.ArtSquare has a very lean team of two more people besides Bhaskar. “My vision is to change the typical perception attached to art. People think art is only for a chosen few. Most people hear of 'art' and think - 'oh, that must be expensive', or, 'a-ha, you mean abstract art, right?' Well, it doesn't have to be that way. We try to break this myth every day, and we have lots of fun doing that! When you put your heart into the work, statistics and satisfaction are bound to elevate,” appends Bhaskar. Bhaskar is a Statistics graduate from St. Xavier's College, Kolkata and has studied management from Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar. Before turning entrepreneur, he had worked for 10 years with companies like Capital One Bank, Cognizant and GE mostly in the area of analytics. He has also written a book called 'No Child's Play', whichis a translation of a Bengali novel by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay and has been published by Harper Collins.