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Own Art News

In conversation with Kitty Dinshaw, Subject Matter Art

18 December 2017

Kitty Dinshaw (left), Liezel Strauss (right)
Kitty Dinshaw (left), Liezel Strauss (right) -

Kitty is Subject Matter’s Artist Director and Co-Curator along with her business partner and gallery founder, Liezel Strauss.

Kitty represents over 15 artists, and her careful guidance has led to success for many of them. Kitty co-created a programme with the Royal College of Art to educate students on the business side of the art-world, and to raise funds for the College’s Fine Art Bursary Fund through exhibition. Kitty has also spoken to art business students at Sotheby’s Institute and Christie's Education on the roles and responsibilities of managing artists.

We sat down with Kitty to gain her insights into art buying and issues of representation in arts media.


OA: How​ ​does​ ​Subject​ ​Matter​ ​Art​ ​make​ ​buying​ ​art​ ​easy​ ​for​ ​people​ ​who​ ​might​ ​be​ ​new​ ​to ​collecting?   

KD: So​ ​many​ ​ways!​  Everything​ ​we​ ​do,​ ​big​ ​or​ ​small​, is​ ​so​ ​that​ ​people​ ​can​ ​find​ ​buying​ ​art​ ​from​ ​us​ ​enjoyable​ ​and unintimidating. Our​ ​mission​ ​is​ ​to​ ​help​ ​artists​ ​make​ ​a​ ​living​ ​by​ ​encouraging​ ​new​ ​art-buyers.​

We​ ​only sell photographic art, ​which​ ​is​ ​easy​ ​to​ ​view​ ​online.​ ​We​ ​try​ ​to​ ​make​ ​our​ ​website​ ​as​ ​simple​ ​to​ ​use​ ​as​ ​possible,​ ​so​ ​you​ ​can​ ​see​ ​the​ ​art​ ​well -​ although​ ​we​ ​are​ ​constantly tweaking​ ​it​ ​to​ ​make​ ​it​ ​easier​ ​to​ ​navigate. We​ ​offer​ ​free​ ​shipping, and ​free​ ​returns​ ​– although ​we’re​ ​proud​ ​to​ ​say​ ​no-one​ ​has​ ​ever​ ​wanted​ ​to return​ ​a​ ​piece.​ We’re​ ​always​ ​here​ ​on​ ​email​ ​to​ ​answer​ ​any​ ​questions​ ​people​ ​might​ ​have.

​We are​ ​very​ ​happy​ ​to​ ​arrange​ ​a​ ​video​ ​call​ ​with​ ​an​ ​artist​ ​if​ ​you’d​ ​like​ ​to​ ​speak​ ​to​ ​them​ ​in person.​ ​And​ ​we’ll​ ​even​ ​arrange​ ​a​ ​handyman​ ​for​ ​you​ ​if​ ​you​ ​don’t​ ​have​ ​time​ ​to​ ​install​ ​the​ ​piece  yourself.


OA: Is​ ​there​ ​such​ ​a​ ​thing​ ​as​ ​art​ ​intimidation? 

KD: Yes,​ ​for​ ​sure.​ ​So​ ​many​ ​of​ ​our​ ​clients​ ​and​ ​friends​ ​have​ ​no​ ​problem​ ​spending​ ​a​ ​good​ ​amount​ ​of money​ ​on​ ​furniture​ ​or​ ​a​ ​rug,​ ​but​ ​when​ ​they​ ​are​ ​in​ ​a​ ​position​ ​to​ ​buy​ ​art,​ ​that’s​ ​a​ ​different​ ​story.​ ​

I think​ ​art​ ​intimidation​ ​exists​ ​on​ ​many​ ​levels​ ​-​ ​cost​ ​is​ ​a​ ​major​ ​factor,​ ​as​ ​is​ ​being​ ​brave​ ​enough​ ​to put​ ​your​ ​taste​ ​out​ ​there​ ​on​ ​your​ ​wall!​ ​Many​ ​people​ ​think​ ​they​ ​need​ ​to​ ​know​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​about​ ​art​ ​in order​ ​to​ ​buy​ ​art,​ ​but​ ​you​ ​really​ ​don’t.​ ​All​ ​you​ ​need​ ​is​ ​to​ ​trust​ ​yourself​ ​and​ ​buy​ ​what​ ​you​ ​love and​ ​what​ ​moves​ ​you. 


OA: How has joining Own Art helped your mission?

KD: Own​ ​Art​ ​has​ ​been​ ​really​ ​important​ ​for​ ​us​ ​as​ ​it​ ​is​ ​the​ ​final​ ​piece​ ​in​ ​the​ ​puzzle.​ ​We​ ​were doing​ ​all​ ​these​ ​super-helpful​ ​things,​ ​yet​ ​when​ ​it​ ​came​ ​to​ ​paying,​ ​clients​ ​still​ ​had​ ​to​ ​find​ ​the money​ ​to​ ​make​ ​a​ ​payment​ ​in​ ​one​ ​large​ ​sum.​

​Spreading​ ​your​ ​purchase,​ ​interest-free​ ​across​ ​ten months, ​is​ ​an​ ​amazing​ ​idea​ ​and​ ​we​ ​are​ ​thrilled​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​Own​ ​Art. 


OA: What​ ​questions​ ​should​ ​new​ ​collectors​ ​ask​ ​about​ ​pieces​ ​they​ ​are​ ​interested​ ​in?

KD: The​ ​most​ ​important​ ​question​ ​is​ ​whether​ ​you​ ​love​ ​it​ ​-​ ​do​ ​not​ ​buy​ ​a​ ​piece​ ​for​ ​an​ ​investment​ ​as​ ​it is​ ​near-impossible​ ​to​ ​predict​ ​whether​ ​the​ ​art​ ​you​ ​buy​ ​will​ ​make​ ​you​ ​a​ ​fortune​ ​in​ ​years​ ​to​ ​come. I​ ​would​ ​always​ ​say​ ​that​ ​it​ ​is​ ​dangerous​ ​to​ ​buy​ ​a​ ​piece​ ​solely​ ​for​ ​investment​ ​purposes​ ​because the​ ​art​ ​market​ ​is​ ​so​ ​unregulated​ ​and​ ​volatile. If​ ​you​ ​love​ ​it,​ ​then​ ​whether​ ​it​ ​rises​ ​in​ ​value​ ​or​ ​not​ ​is​ ​immaterial.​

​The​ ​art​ ​I​ ​have​ ​at​ ​home​ ​on​ ​my wall​ ​makes​ ​me​ ​smile​ ​every​ ​day. If​ ​you​ ​love​ ​the​ ​artist’s​ ​aesthetic,​ ​but​ ​are​ ​not​ ​sure​ ​about​ ​the​ ​particular​ ​work​ ​the​ ​gallery​ ​is  showing,​ ​ask​ ​to​ ​be​ ​put​ ​on​ ​their​ ​mailing​ ​list​ ​so​ ​you​ ​will​ ​be​ ​the​ ​first​ ​to​ ​hear​ ​about​ ​new​ ​work​ ​or​ ​a new​ ​show. 

​If​ ​you​ ​are​ ​buying​ ​photographic​ ​art,​ ​make​ ​sure​ ​you buy​ ​a​ ​limited​ ​edition​ ​piece​ ​(all​ ​the​ ​art​ ​we​ ​sell​ ​on​ ​Subject​ ​Matter​ ​is​ ​limited​ ​edition).​ ​That​ ​means only​ ​a​ ​certain​ ​number​ ​are​ ​ever​ ​printed​ ​and​ ​so​ ​the​ ​value​ ​is​ ​protected.​ ​The​ ​smaller​ ​the​ ​edition size,​ ​the​ ​better​ ​-​ ​we​ ​sell​ ​many​ ​of​ ​our​ ​artworks​ ​in​ ​editions​ ​of​ ​5​ ​or​ ​7,​ ​meaning​ ​there​ ​are​ ​only​ ​5​ ​of those​ ​images​ ​available​ ​worldwide.​ ​

We​ ​also​ ​supply​ ​authenticity​ ​certificates,​ ​signed​ ​by​ ​our artists,​ ​with​ ​the​ ​edition​ ​number​ ​on​ ​them​ ​-​ ​every​ ​gallery​ ​should​ ​do​ ​this,​ ​so​ ​if​ ​you​ ​don’t​ ​receive  one​ ​you​ ​must​ ​ask. 

The Power of Girl by Lakwena McIver

The Power of Girl by Lakwena McIver

OA: You’ve​ ​helped​ ​female​ ​artists​ ​to​ ​gain​ ​recognition​ ​where​ ​they​ ​have​ ​been  underrepresented.​ ​Which​ ​women​ ​should​ ​we​ ​look​ ​out​ ​for?​

KD: I ​love​ ​all​ ​the​ ​women​ ​we​ ​represent​ ​and​ ​simply​ ​couldn’t​ ​choose,​ ​they​ ​are​ ​like​ ​my​ ​family!​ ​But​ ​I  would​ ​say,​ ​look​ ​out​ ​for​ ​all​ ​of​ ​them,​ ​they​ ​all​ ​have​ ​interesting​ ​stories​ ​and​ ​create​ ​beautiful​ ​work. Outside​ ​of​ ​our​ ​Subject​ ​Matter​ ​artists,​ ​I​ ​adore​ ​the​ ​sculptor​ Rana​ ​Begum,​ ​who​ ​works​ ​mainly​ ​in metal.​ ​I​ ​think​ ​she​ ​is​ ​incredible.​ The​ ​artist​ ​and​ ​muralist​ Lakwena​ ​Maciver​ ​-​ ​we​ ​worked​ ​with her​ ​on​ ​a​ ​project​ ​over​ ​the​ ​autumn​ ​and​ ​her​ ​work​ ​is​ ​brilliant.​ ​So​ ​strong,​ ​so​ ​powerful​ ​and​ ​utterly impeccable;​ ​the​ ​amount​ ​of​ ​work​ ​she​ ​puts​ ​into​ ​a​ ​piece​ ​is​ ​mind-blowing.​ ​I​ ​also​ ​love​ ​the​ ​collages of​ ​Danielle​ ​Krysa​ (also​ ​known​ ​as​ ​the​ ​art-blogger​ ​The​ ​Jealous​ ​Curator)​ ​-​ ​they​ ​are​ ​whimsical​ ​and utterly​ ​charming.​ ​We​ ​are​ ​also​ ​obsessed​ ​with​ ​her​ ​blog,​ ​I’d​ ​highly​ ​recommend​ ​it!    


OA: This month's Turner Prize 2017 winner ​Lubaina​ Himid​ ​is quoted in ​​​an article by The ​Guardian​​​ ​as saying that​ ​she​ ​was​ ​never​ ​overlooked​ ​by​ ​curators​ ​or​ ​other​ ​artists but​ ​she​ ​was​ ​never​ ​in​ ​the​ ​press,​ ​perhaps​ ​because​ ​her​ ​work​ ​“was​ ​too​ ​complicated​ ​to​ ​talk about”.​ If​ ​an​ ​artist​ ​chooses​ ​to​ ​deal​ ​with​ ​experiences​ ​of​ ​discrimination​ ​through​ ​their​ ​work,​ ​how​ ​can curators​ ​ensure​ ​they​ ​are​ ​seen​ ​by​ ​the​ ​public​ ​when​ ​media​ ​outlets​ ​see​ ​them​ ​as​ ​too​ ​difficult​ ​or confrontational?   

KD: The​ ​art​ ​media​ ​in​ ​particular​ ​is​ ​so​ ​conservative​ ​-​ ​but​ ​then​ ​so​ ​is​ ​much​ ​of​ ​the​ ​art​ ​establishment. There​ ​is​ ​so​ ​much​ ​amazing​ ​work​ ​coming​ ​from​ ​all​ ​over​ ​the​ ​place,​ ​so​ ​many​ ​interesting​ ​artists, curators​ ​and​ ​gallerists​ ​-​ ​but​ ​still​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​block.​ ​I​ ​also​ ​think​ ​that​ ​journalists​ ​-​ ​and​ ​this​ ​applies​ ​to journalists​ ​in​ ​most​ ​areas,​ ​not​ ​just​ ​art​ ​-​ ​struggle​ ​with​ ​anything​ ​they​ ​can’t​ ​pack​ ​up​ ​neatly​ ​into​ ​a  particular​ ​box.​ ​And​ ​Lubaina​ ​Himid’s​ ​work​ ​certainly​ ​would​ ​not​ ​make​ ​a​ ​neat​ ​little​ ​parcel! 

I​ ​came​ ​fairly​ ​recently​ ​to​ ​Lubaina​ ​Himid.​ ​Her​ ​work​ ​both​ ​resonates​ ​with​ ​me​ ​and​ ​fascinates​ ​me,​ ​as I​ ​know​ ​it​ ​does​ ​for​ ​many​ ​people.​ ​But​ ​why​ ​was​ ​this​ ​the​ ​first​ ​year​ ​that​ ​the​ ​Turner​ ​Prize​ ​was​ ​open to​ ​artists​ ​over​ ​the​ ​age​ ​of​ ​50?​ ​This​ ​directly​ ​discriminates​ ​against​ ​women​ ​in​ ​particular,​ ​who​ ​often sacrifice​ ​their​ ​artistic​ ​careers​ ​to​ ​raise​ ​children​ ​and​ ​then​ ​only​ ​pick​ ​up​ ​their​ ​practice​ ​again​ ​later​ ​in  life.​ ​I​ ​couldn’t​ ​believe​ ​that​ ​when​ ​I​ ​read​ ​it,​ ​it​ ​just​ ​felt​ ​so​ ​out​ ​of​ ​touch​ ​to​ ​me - especially​ ​when​ ​Rose Wylie​ ​is​ ​being​ ​celebrated​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Serpentine​ ​Gallery,​ ​and​ ​Geta​ ​Bratescu​ ​-​ ​aged​ ​92​ ​-​ ​had​ ​a​ ​solo show​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Camden​ ​Arts​ ​Centre​ ​earlier​ ​this​ ​year. 

This​ ​is​ ​a​ ​direct​ ​example​ ​of​ ​why​ ​the​ ​art​ ​world​ ​needs​ ​to​ ​change​ ​and​ ​become​ ​more​ ​open​ ​to​ ​new influences:​ ​why​ ​the​ ​snobbery​ ​that​ ​is​ ​so​ ​endemic​ ​just​ ​needs​ ​to​ ​disappear.​ ​The​ ​wider​ ​the  art-world​ ​grows,​ ​with​ ​more​ ​successful​ ​artists​ ​and​ ​more​ ​empowered​ ​art-buyers,​ ​the​ ​better​ ​for​ ​it! ​


Kitty’s art collecting tips

  • Make​ ​sure​ ​your art​ ​will​ ​fit​ ​in​ ​the​ ​space​ ​you​ ​have​ ​planned​ ​for​ ​it,​ ​including​ ​through​ ​any doorways​ ​you​ ​might​ ​need​ ​to​ ​pass​ ​through​ ​to​ ​get​ ​to​ ​said​ ​space
  • Don’t​ ​feel​ ​bad​ ​about​ ​asking​ ​a​ ​gallery​ ​to​ ​hold​ ​a​ ​piece​ ​for​ ​a​ ​few​ ​days​ ​while​ ​you​ ​consider​ ​it further​ ​(this gives you time to find a place to put it!) 
  • Be​ ​careful​ ​with​ ​what​ ​you​ ​buy​ ​for​ ​which​ ​space​ ​-​ ​a​ ​super-delicate​ ​painting​ ​won’t​ ​work​ ​on the​ ​stairs​ ​if​ ​you​ ​are​ ​constantly​ ​brushing​ ​past​ ​it,​ ​for​ ​example
  • Slightly​ ​off-topic,​ ​but​ ​this​ ​advice​ ​comes​ ​from​ ​the​ ​heart​ ​-​ ​start​ ​off​ ​by​ ​buying​ ​small​ ​pieces​ ​so you​ ​feel​ ​more​ ​comfortable​ ​in​ ​making​ ​a​ ​big​ ​purchase​ ​when​ ​the​ ​time​ ​comes. 


About Subject Matter Art

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#artintimidation #artcollecting #womenartists #femaleartists #affordableart

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