What cannot be expressed in words is expressed through art! Each painting that we come across has a deep hidden secret masked behind its strokes. Besides the hard work and sweat, lie emotions and unravelled stories. But quite often, these stories remain undiscovered owing to exposure that these paintings are not subjected to. Absence of a platform stands out as one of the reasons why most Artists are unable to showcase their masterpieces. Bhaskar Chattopadhyay came to the rescue of art lovers with ArtSquare. In an exclusive interview with Startoholics, Bhaskar tells us more about his unique initiative.
To anyone who’s never come across ArtSquare how would you describe it?
ArtSquare is India’s largest Online Art Platform. It is a place where artists and art lovers can meet, share, discuss, buy and sell artwork. If you are an artist, it may not be possible for you to showcase your art in an exhibition, because a physical gallery may not be available in your area, or if one did exist, it may be quite expensive, or overbooked. Also, a physical gallery has very limited reach. Come to ArtSquare, sign up for an Artist account, and exhibit your artwork. We review your artwork and once we accept them, they will be visible to everyone around the world, 24×7, for as long as you want. And it’s absolutely free! You can either sell your original artworks, or prints, or both – it’s completely up to you.
If you are looking to buy a nice painting for your home or for gifting purposes, browse through thousands of beautiful handpicked artworks by talented artists from all over the world. The prices are very affordable, and you can get a nice artwork for as low as Rs. 899/- What’s more, you have an option of getting your paintings framed on the website itself. No more running around to framing shops. Choose from a wide range of frames, and we will deliver your framed painting to you in 4-5 business days. Shipping is free. You even have an option to preview your framed painting on the wall of a room through ArtSquare’s unique Live Room Preview feature, just so that you can select the perfect artwork for your room.
ArtSquare also has another feature called MyART. If you want to get your favourite photograph printed and framed and delivered to your doorstep, simply upload your digital photo, customize it, choose a frame and order a print, all from the comfort of your home!
Tell us a bit about your background and how it all started- where did your vision for ArtSquare come from?
I have a degree in Statistics from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata and an MBA in Marketing from Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar. I have worked with companies like Eveready, GE, Cognizant and Capital One Bank for 10 years, before launching ArtSquare. Everyone in my family is into one art form or another. Someone sings, someone is in theatre, someone paints. The story of ArtSquare dates back to several years ago, when a college junior of mine failed to host an exhibition of his beautiful paintings in a gallery because their fees were too high for him. I wondered – if this could happen to someone in a metro, what immense problems must artists from smaller towns and villages be facing? I was keen to do something about it, but at that point of time, I didn’t know what to do or how to address the problem. Almost 15 years later, I launched ArtSquare.
How does it differentiate from the rest?
One of the biggest differentiators that I can see from other websites selling artwork is that we seriously promote our artists. We’re not in the business of selling what I call ‘manufactured art’. Our artists are our greatest assets, and we treasure them and make sure that they get all the recognition that they deserve, because along with the remuneration, artists also crave for something as important appreciation. They want their name to be known. And we take that very seriously.
From the art buyer perspective, we have tried to make the browsing and art-selection process as simple as possible. We have unique features such as Online Framing and Live Room Preview. This helps buyers select the right art for their rooms. Also, we consider ArtSquare as an open courtyard where art is discussed, admired and criticized. Which is why, we have ExpertSpeak – a monthly column where the various facets of art are discussed. There are exciting articles, interviews, useful tips shared by the masters for budding artists, art recommendations for casual art buyers, and important news from the world of art. ArtSquare is a one-stop-shop for artists and art buyers.
Who would you say is your biggest competitor?
Our biggest competitors are still the traditional physical galleries. They still own a very large share of the art market. But with the right kind of marketing, careful building of our art collection and harnessing the power of the internet, we’ll get there.
How long did it take to put together ArtSquare?
Once I decided to do it, not very long. The blueprint of the platform was very clear in my mind – I have been thinking about it for over 10 years after all! I contacted a few seed number of initial artists. They put their trust in me, and after we launched the platform, the news spread. Since it was bridging the gap between artists and art buyers, it was very well appreciated and became quite popular in a short span of time.
What do you wish you’d known when you became the founder of ArtSquare?
I wish I’d have known how much this platform was necessary and of what a great help it would be to artists and art buyers. I wish I could’ve launched earlier, so that I could have helped more and more people.
What is the hardest part about your job?
The hardest part of my job is to dispel the myth that art is expensive. Traditionally, art has always been a closely guarded secret. That has led the young generation to believe that ‘it’s not for us’. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Everyone has the ability to appreciate something beautiful – a beautiful scene, a nice movie, a melodious tune. And by that definition, we are all art lovers. Art is not confined or restricted to a chosen few. It’s not a luxury item either. It is not at all expensive. I am glad to see several youngsters now getting interested in art. You don’t really need to know how to draw or paint to appreciate a beautiful painting, just like you do not need to know how to operate a camera or write a script in order to appreciate a good movie. We dispel this myth every day. It is tough, but we really enjoy doing it.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
From my father – do what you love, and do it sincerely, everything else will follow.
Has ArtSquare got the growth and feedback you expected since launch?
It has gotten much more than what I had expected! We started with around 50 artists and a couple of hundred artworks. Today, we have more than 1000 artists and more than 2000 artworks. We receive more than 500 artworks every day, and we review each of them carefully. We have been clocking very healthy revenues, and artists have made serious and unexpected sums of money on the ArtSquare platform.
But the ArtSquare story cannot just be measured in numbers. I’ll give you an example. There’s an extremely talented artist from Orissa – he’s deaf and dumb. He lives near an art college and the teachers teach him pro bono. The students of the college help him, because he sometimes can’t afford a square meal for several days. When ArtSquare sold one of his paintings to a customer for Rs. 75,000, I got a call from one of his friends who told me – ‘You have no idea what you’ve done.’ That’s what ArtSquare is all about. There’s another artist in Bhopal, who has a tiny painting shop outside a mosque. He doesn’t get time to paint what he wants to. He has to earn his livelihood painting posters and banners for other shops. ArtSquare sold as many as four of his paintings at prices he didn’t even expect. He told me that what he really appreciated was that people now know his name, as an artist. In another incident, a man called me from Bangalore and thanked me profusely for giving his wife – who is a housewife – an opportunity to earn an income from selling her beautiful paintings. He told me that after an unfortunate personal loss, her success on the ArtSquare platform has brought back smiles on her face after a very long time. To my mind, these are what define ArtSquare’s success.
What do you think is the most effective way of getting clients?
Content. If our content is right, if we can offer our customers beautiful paintings that will ‘wow’ them, we will surely make our mark as ‘that-website-which-has-lovely-paintings’ and gradually establish ourselves as the ArtSquare brand.
Along with content, we also emphasize on impeccable service mentality. We try to make things as easy and delightful for our customers as possible. We honour our commitments and respect other people’s time. We try to understand what they need and give them a wonderful browsing experience. We listen to and learn from their feedback. And we always, always help people.
What is next on the radar for ArtSquare? What more do you wish to include to take it to the next level?
One of the things that I’d like to do is to take ArtSquare international. In my travels, I have found that Indian Art commands a huge amount of respect in international circuits. It’ll be a good idea to tap into markets abroad. ArtSquare also plans to host very few but very important exhibitions of eminent artists soon.
What one piece of advice would you like to give to soon to be startup founders?
I don’t know if I’ve earned the right to give advice to my fellow founders. I think they are extremely smart individuals with a clear focus on their goals. I’ve myself learnt a lot from them during some of the interactions I have had with them during various meets and conferences. I’d rather say a few words to those who are standing on the edge, undecided as to whether they would want to take the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship or not. To them I say – your idea may or may not be the next big thing. That doesn’t make it any less important. You have the right to explore the potential of your idea with all the knowledge and skills you have acquired over the years. Do take the plunge and work sincerely towards establishing your idea. And as I said, don’t just do it to make it the next big success story. Try to solve a problem. The rest will follow. And by all means, do have fun. There’s nothing wrong in walking towards the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but do enjoy the rainbow on your way.
A great initiative for budding artists to showcase their masterpieces and for art lovers to admire and buy beauty! To admire some wonderful pieces of work do visit ArtSquare.