“Tell me what you collect, tell me how you collect, and I will tell you who you are.” – Jean Willy Mestach (1926-2014).
As the late artist and collector of African art Mestach aptly insinuates, assessing someone’s private art collection is a subtle yet indisputably revealing glimpse into their mind and soul. Yet, although what one collects will always be unique to each individual, how one collects is slowly yet surely following the trend of almost everything else: going online.
Indeed, the art world has undergone great changes in the last few years with the rise of digitized art commerce, as hundreds of online art selling platforms have been created worldwide in response to a growing demand. Whether in terms of genre, media or style of the artwork or in terms of the artist’s notoriety, the range offered by the international e-commerce websites is eclectic and expansive. Today, one can effortlessly explore a considerable chunk of the art market with the hope of finding and buying art that suits their taste, needs and budget.
But even though the online marketplaces for contemporary art are numerous, very rare are those centered on art coming from the Arab world. And that is why Artscoops came into existence. The Beirut based online art platform designed by mother and daughter, May and Raya Mamarbachi, launched less than a year ago and is the first one to focus solely on art from the Middle East and North Africa.
Artscoops gives one the opportunity to browse, discover and acquire contemporary pieces – mostly drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures – created by both renowned and emerging artists from the region (prices for individual pieces start from just $250 and can go up to $100,000 and more). It partners with artists, cultural institutions and various commercial galleries, both in Lebanon and abroad, in an attempt to showcase and promote the best of Middle Eastern art.
In addition to its ongoing informative listing of artworks and their respective artists, Artscoops also curates online exhibitions, which feature harmoniously grouped artworks that correspond to a specific theme. Some of the galleries they collaborate with in Lebanon include Mark Hachem Gallery, Agial, Art Factum, Galerie Janine Rubeiz and ArtLab, among others.
Once the desired artwork is selected, one can make secure online payments via PayPal, one of the world’s leading payment networks for e-commerce.
Another interesting area in Artscoops’s range of work is the online auction, during which it invites potential buyers by e-mail to participate and engage in a continuous bidding process that happens over a span of 10 to 14 days, receiving its peak bids in the final 48 hours. It has previously organized an auction in association with Paddle8, the specialized international online auction house.
The platform’s principal aim is to expose MENA artists to the world and to allow international collectors to get acquainted with their creations and be enticed enough to add some of them to their collection.But beyond just being a bridge between buyers and sellers, Artscoops offers precious advisory services that benefit not only the collectors but also those who have just started considering crafting their private collection. As a matter of fact, more and more young men and women in Lebanon are contemplating buying art. But while their initial instinct might be finding the pieces that would use to embellish their newly bought apartments and houses, Artscoops’ Co-Founder Raya Mamarbachi suggests leading them on a further step.
Beyond just discovering the artworks that embody their personal aesthetic choices and hint at their individual sensibilities, the novice buyer has the opportunity to make a more thoughtful selection.
Indeed, in her publication “Evaluating Art as an Alternative Investment Asset”, published in 2009 in The Capco Institute Journal of Financial Transformation (authored by Raya Mamarbachi, Marc Day and Giampiero Favato), Raya Mamarbachi examines the changing role of art and its newfound appreciation as a very attractive object of investment. “Returns are just as attractive if not better in art than the stock market” states the paper, an alluring idea that is developed throughout with conclusions that shed new light on art collection.
Therefore, with the aim of educating and guiding, Artscoops offers the services of its team of art consultants, among whom are Raya Mamarbachi, May Bendki Mamarbachi and Delphine Leccas. Their expertise can help any beginner to start their artistic journey, by introducing them to the type of artwork that echoes their preferred style, as well as guiding them on important matters of evaluation.
Norms are changing in all fields, and art is no exception. Although art pieces such as those auctioned at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Philips can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions, they comprise only a small part of the overall art market. The rest can be relatively affordable. And since it has now become possible to explore so much art in so little time, no matter one’s location, it’s just about the right time for budding art collectors to start the quest for the pieces that thrill them.