Student Start-Ups: An Interview with Ravi Shah & Art Attaché
For this interview, we sat down with Ravi Shah, a recent History of Art graduate and founder of the new arts platform Art Attaché.
Having spent the past few years immersed in an academic environment, Ravi came out of his degree wanting to democratise art and how we learn about it. With this in mind, he created Art Attaché, a platform with the dual function of a social networking service and an online academy. Building upon the wish to start a conversation and connect individuals, Art Attaché seeks to bring down the elitist stereotypes surrounding the art world whilst making art something accessible to all.
With this interview, we hope that our readers will gain some insight into the art industry, as well as the steps being taken by our generation to improve and evolve it. If you want to get involved with Art Attaché, make sure to check out Ravi’s website here.
Could you tell us a little about yourself – who are you?
I’m Ravi, founder of Art Attaché. I recently graduated from the University of Warwick studying History of Art and I’m about to begin a CIM Diploma in Professional Digital Marketing with Business Consort. I have always had a profound interest in art for as long as I can remember, and over the last few years that interest has developed into a purpose as to how I can make a significant contribution to an area I love so much. My interest in Inuit Art and passion within post-colonial art historical theory and social change led me to create Art Attaché.
What made you decide to start Art Attaché?
I decided to start Art Attaché because I felt that the Art industry is in a dire need of change and innovation. During my three years studying History of Art, I fixated on a goal to have a presence in the art industry. However, I began to realise the elitist, closed shop nature of the industry with its associated perceived or actual barriers to even have a foot through the door. For an industry that relies heavily on making connections, there is a remarkable deficiency for interacting with the entire global arts community in a modern and innovative manner. My experience at university inspired within me a concept for innovation, but the events of 2020 showed me the potential and true purpose of Art Attaché. Against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the BLM movement, I saw a need to create a universal platform for a global interaction in art but more importantly, a platform that promotes diversity, inclusivity and wide access to the art market.
What do you hope to achieve through Art Attaché?
I want to see Art Attaché advance the cause of art as a universal visual language, a digital database of perspectives, ideas and narratives, where participants from all parts of the world can come together to have open discussions about art. My greatest desire is to offer people that traditionally would not have had an opportunity to learn about various art topics and most importantly provide them with an enriching space to interact with the global art community.
There are two main components to Art Attaché: to create a social network for artists, and to establish an academy for individuals to learn about art and artistic practices. How do you plan to make Art Attaché a success?
Art Attaché is a service that thrives through user contribution; therefore, the success of Art Attaché is dependent on whether people see the value of a dedicated online arts community. Although there are two main components to Art Attaché website, we are however, strongly committed in social learning, where both aspects of the site work harmoniously. Our main goal is to make significant social change within the arts industry, and we believe that starts with the education of art and how collaborative we are about it. Art should not have borders and I would consider Art Attaché a success, if people of all backgrounds and talents come together unimpeded in the spirit of art and articulate its impact on their lives.
In what ways do you believe social media has failed to accommodate artists and art enthusiasts? What will Art Attaché do differently in response to these oversights?
There are so many social media platforms and they are all too generic. Whilst they may do well to help artists market their work and allow for enthusiasts to explore, they do not give the flexibility a dedicated site would to cater for all their needs and critically, do very little to allow for discussion and debate. Furthermore, social media strategies are difficult to master and can be overwhelming for new artists hoping to sell their works. Art Attaché is dedicated to the Visual Arts, and every feature is deliberately placed to allow the user to promote and sell their work as an artist, start discussions and debate and connect with other artists and the wider art market network with ease. For enthusiasts, they have a dedicated place to explore and learn, uninterrupted by other generic content.
Art is often perceived to be reserved for the ‘educated’ and ‘well-to-do’, do you think the internet has democratised art? How will Art Attaché fit into this trend of making art accessible to everyone?
I strongly believe that this is a significant problem with Art culture today, the fact that it is ‘perceived’ as reserved for the educated and a narrow network of well-connected art entrepreneurs. Granted, the internet and social media has to an extent democratised art by making visual culture available at the touch of a button. However, this level of access doesn’t mean that Art is necessary ‘accessible’. Take Instagram for example, it is a tool built around visual culture, a social space where you can like and comment on posting photos. In my opinion this does not answer the question of accessibility, I see it more of an ego boost and a marketing tool for one’s art or yourself.
I believe Art Attaché provides an elegant solution to the question of accessibility. One, it is a universal online platform which means it is a network that is designed for interacting with art and visual culture; two, we promote critical discussion through our forum-based system; and three, it is an educational tool. Accessibility starts with how we learn about art, and integrated with the social features, it is a natural solution to the question of accessibility.
Do you think that the economic and cultural landscape post-lockdown will change the way we view art?
We are already seeing change in the way we practically view art. Social distancing in galleries will continue for quite some time, and I believe that this will have a profound impact in the way we physically embrace art. Yes, there is going to be a bigger focus on experiencing art via the digital medium and this will have a significant impact and change on seeing art in person as this can in itself be an experience in its own right. With new ideas such as booking systems, time limits and one-way routes round the gallery space, it is going to profoundly impact how much of art viewers will take in. Sometimes one needs time and space to fully articulate a piece of work, and with these changes, it is going to impact the type of work that is on display, how exhibitions are curated and people will begin to raise the question of how important is it really to see an artwork in the flesh?
It appears that more young people than ever are starting their own businesses. Why do you think this is and what is the appeal of running your own venture?
I think there is an institutionalised understanding amongst young people (myself included) to enter a job market with an expectation of long-term financial security and benefits but at the expense of a curtailed level of expression, creativity and free thinking. This is all the more profound in the Covid-19 era where I for one, cannot see a meaningful level of flexibility and security. There is an attractive appeal to starting your own venture. Whether you are selling a product or providing a service, you have an acknowledgement that you are making someone’s life that much better but building a level of self-sufficiency and fulfilment for yourself. I think a lot of people are tired of waiting for change to occur and are tired of waiting for an opportunity to occur. Instead of waiting for opportunity, with your own venture, you are in control and you create opportunity.
What items are on your agenda for the future? Where do you see Art Attaché in the next 6-12 months?
The next 6-12 months are looking exciting for Art Attaché. With a wonderful team in place now, we are going to be able to achieve our goals at a global level having a presence in the UK, Canada and Europe. Our goal for this year is to build our community by integrating with various university and high school Arts departments. We will continue to provide critical and engaging content, courses and articles and we look forward to seeing all the user creations.
Could you give any advice to those who are reading who want to start their own business?
Starting an Online business can be daunting but is fulfilling. We are still just over a month old, and it has been both exciting and hard work, and we are learning every day. If you think you have a good idea, and you believe that it’s going to make a difference, don’t hesitate to develop your concept into a business. It is important to have a plan so you can move forward, and always be ready to adapt to change and don’t be afraid to take on challenges head on. I would say to anyone, “Be Bold and take the first step”.
You can find Art Attaché with the details below: