The thought of buying art immediately invokes the image of someone in Tussar silks or Fab India khadis waltzing around a space with minimalist décor, nodding nonchalantly and making quintessential small-talk in breathy tones, of Picasso’s cubist rebellion. Here’s a revelation - it is as difficult for some genuinely talented upcoming and senior artists to create this simulation of high-society living for you as it is for you to keep up the façade every time you want to find an adornment for your walls. Your love affair with art can simply thrive as a silent conversation you have with the frame that you know belongs on the empty square above your bed, even though it is through a computer screen.
Where art thou?
Eikowa – the Greek word for ‘image’ - was born in December 2015 out of the need to break this barrier. Vaishnavi Murali, Founder and CEO at the brand, wanted to become a curator of meaningful art minus the nonsense of pretense. A two-time patron of the luxury brand industry, through retail brands like Madura Garment and Ethos, but an artist at heart, she started the portal after noticing a gap in the ecosystem. “The problem lies on both the demand as well as the supply side. While I was painting one day, I realised that there were hardly any avenues for upcoming artists to showcase their work. With limited wall space, new talent either gets sidelined or lost in the crowd. Reputed galleries seldom support upcoming artists. Local galleries lack the network or resources to promote artists, and good exhibitions are few and expensive. Serious artists, on the other hand, don’t get the right representation, as their works are mixed with hobby artists,”she explains.
On the buying side, art is accessible only to a few. “Many don’t know what to buy and where to buy from. Galleries are intimidating, and the other online galleries lack curation. Prices are rarely mentioned, and there is little information provided to the buyer. Ultimately, this scares the common buyer away, and limits the reach of the artist and the size of the ecosystem. At Eikowa, we create a lot of content around art through our blog, The Canvas, to help people understand the painting and the thought process behind the creation,” Vaishnavi adds.
And how art they different?
While sites like Fizdi choose to exhibit work by hobby artists also, e-commerce sites like Amazon and Pepperfry predominantly sell prints. Eikowa strictly sells original paintings by professional artists – senior ones, who have been around for over a decade, but in some cases, even upcoming ones whose work shows promise.
All in all, Vaishnavi, who curates each and every painting on her site with the help of some mentors, likes to see evolution, steady themes and ideas, professional strokes, and a portfolio that has morphed into a distinct personality of its own.
“We differentiate ourselves on our curation. From the cubist rebellion of Picasso, to the surrealistic renderings of Dali, every school of art will find a fan among this group of art connoisseurs,”she says.
Eikowa primarily focusses on three cites at the moment- Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad. Anyone with a higher disposable income, collectors or first-time art buyers are their target customers.
Through Eikowa, a lot of artists get to share space with some established artist in the industry, not something seen commonly. “The ability to help deserving artists represent themselves well, reach the right people, and command the right price, gives me a high. It may be a mercurial and rocky journey, but I am finding it the most fulfilling,”Vaishnavi says.
There is no listing fee for the artist, and her revenue model is a clear-cut commission on sale. So far, she has curated the works of over 85 artists, many of whom are masters. They are the only startup in this space to have tied-up with so many master artists, within a month of launch. Some of the artists they work with are Madhuri Bhaduri, Biplab Biswas, Beena Pradhan, Dinkar Jadhav, and Niladri Paul.
The number of customers is limited but the value of transactions is high. They get close to 100-150 visits a day, and in a short span of two months, they have closed transactions worth Rsseven lakh and have recovered their set-up and operational costs already. They are on the way to sealing 80percent growth in March.