Artsper met Joël Knafo, owner of the eponymous gallery located rue Véron in Les Abbesses, a neighborhood he wants to invest in order to create an artistic emulation with other gallery owners and cultural actors. He puts a first foot in the art world in communication agencies where he is both event organizer and artistic director of exhibitions and performances of street artists. He then opened his own gallery in 2014 and is since developing a practice of his profession very influenced by the digital and focuses on the growing momentum of the online art market. Interview.
How important is digital in the practice of your profession?
I have no secret about my strategy. From what I know today about the market dynamics, I need different approaches to distribution. First, the gallery is an important point, fairs are a 2nd point and the online a 3rd point. On each point, I do not touch the same people. I now put this model in place and it seems to work for me today.
In the gallery, I do my traditional gallery owner job, I put forward the artists I represent and support, I create projects with my collectors and with a network. Then I have to show the works and get them out of the gallery. By being on fairs, I reach another type of collectors, I gain a more international visibility. If I am interested in digital, it's after having identified a number of levers and a number of brakes.
"I am among those who truly believe in the online art market."
How do you define the dynamics of selling art online?
What I remember of all the communication that I have made is the fact of having contact points. It is important to reach people, many times, in many ways on the same issue. I think it's after having seen an artwork several times that a collector decides to buy it. The crush may exist but it is often linked to an experience that is multiple and that comes from multiple channels. I must reach people several times, I must reach them for real, at art fairs, as well as online.
Why do you believe so much in the online art market?
I strongly believe in the online because I realized how powerful the digital was in other areas and especially the luxury sector that had major reservations about digitizing. In the early 2000's, big brands didn't want to digitize, yet all the studies were showing that the potential was real. Then a few American brands started launching their collections on the internet and all the luxury industry followed. 10 years ago, this was inconceivable.
Do you think that many gallery owners have the same feeling you have on the online art market?
No, I do not think so. When I talk to galleries about my online experience, I see that many are cautious for several reasons. They first need to overcome an image problem. They can not be positioned on online market codes they may not be familiar with. I also notice a reluctance on price transparency, there is no privacy anymore. The artist represented by the gallery can also be an obstacle to digitization for he also wants to keep control over his image.
Do you differentiate your sales to Artsper collectors from those you make in your gallery?
When collectors purchase on Artsper, it totally suits me. I note that in terms of trust, buyers are secure on your platform. Today I come to tell me, I have a certain type of artworks and artists who can suit the online market and others that belong on one of the walls in the gallery. On some types of artworks, including prints and books, they may be adaptable regardless of the artist : I can offer them online and also in the gallery.
"I think the internet is a particular operating mode. Online you only find what you are looking for."
The artworks are the heart of our communication, what do you think of this strategy?
It must indeed put the works forward... No, actually you have to put forward the artists. The first input key are the artists. We first seek for an artist because we buy what I call "safe value" on the internet. This is even more obvious than in galleries, we seek for names that mean something. Because the risk of buying an artwork from an artist I don't know, from which I have a picture of average quality, which I do not realize what it will give visually in volume, is strong... There are lots of things you can not evaluate online. At one point, you will buy something you know or have seen elsewhere so you know you are not buying a fake.
Some artworks appear as sold in your online catalog. Is it a choice?
Indeed, this can make some collectors regretting not having bought it. It is also a risk, but it reminds the collector not to miss the next opportunity. There is also emblematic artworks from an artist that I leave visible on the platform. This will show extends of the work of an artist. I consider Artsper as an additional showcase for the artists I represent. This is a global showcase which needs to be consistent.