In preparation for Art Challenge, we spoke to Conrad Carvalho, Gallery Director at Oaktree & Tiger Gallery and Founder of the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize. He will be a coach and mentor at the event. Read below to learn more about Conrad’s work and his thoughts on the emerging art market.
1. Conrad, you are very involved in promoting emerging art with Oaktree & Tiger Gallery and the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize. Tell us more about the projects.
Oaktree & Tiger gallery aims to discover ‘early’ emerging artists and launch them through promoting them, giving them careers guidance and giving them exhibitions. We also do corporate art advisory – a useful tool to help place more work by emerging artists. My clients tend to be what I call ‘early’ collectors, people that want to start buying fine art and invest well but they need help, education and guidance.
The Emerging Artist Prize offers all entrants whether they win or not. We host free informative talks to help their art careers and promotion on our social media profiles. The 25 artists that are shortlisted get further promotion and a group exhibition. The winners get the cash prizes (totalling £6,500) and solo exhibitions in London in autumn 2016. It’s our second year now and it’s already become a popular and renowned art prize.
2. Prior to this, you were a commodity derivatives trader. What motivated you to move into the art world and how difficult was the transition?
I’d been a trader for a long time and I was lucky to get pretty much where I wanted to get to in a short space of time. It was time for me to learn new skills and be an entrepreneur. I also had wanted to be an art collector but found that I much more enjoyed working with artists and art projects than buying an artwork to hang on my wall and stare at it. I get to learn a lot more this way too. It was incredibly difficult and still is, but I survived the first few years just executing rough plans and getting things done (i.e. I avoided planning/thinking too much) and accepting that I’ll make mistakes and will be able to move on and evolve. It’s exciting being back on the steep learning curve I had in the first few years of my trading career.
3. You are now organising the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize for the second year running. How has the project evolved? Was anything easier than initially expected?
All my projects start off looking simple but then problems happen and it gets complicated. I always find that my initial vision is smaller than what is actually achieved, partly because I’m constantly inspired by new ideas which I incorporate into what I’m doing along the way. I don’t set myself targets, it’s always just to achieve more and more. Nothing has proved easy I’m afraid!
4. 2016 has just started. What does it hold in store for you?
Last year was my best year in the art world, and 2016 is looking even better. The Emerging Artist Prize is bigger than last year’s so far, but apart from that I’d like to try to stop working so much.
5. From your point of you, what are the main challenges facing the emerging art market?
A main challenge is that there are too many emerging artists all trying to grab attention. Online art sales still seem difficult and may not work in the long run due to the fundamental nature of ‘fine’ art. And a last idea is the growth of art markets across the globe and how easy it is to see art from anywhere, not just your home country.
6. How has it evolved with the rise of the internet, social media and online marketplaces?
The internet has made things easy and harder to see – there is just far too much which makes it hard to focus on any one thing and fall in love with it. Social media companies are monetising everything that we want to use their platforms for, so it becomes more difficult for emerging artists on a budget to promote themselves. Online marketplaces have made finding and buying lower priced art easier, but still seems to fail with ‘fine’ art because falling in love with an artwork is caused by more than just viewing a JPEG on a monitor. We are seeing new start-ups connecting people with art in fascinating and ingenious ways – these are the developments that I find the most exciting for 2016 and beyond.
7. Finally, what advice can you give to those who want to launch their own start-up in the art industry?
My advice is to learn why fine art is a different product to everything else that you learn about at business school, realise that many people are in the art world just because they enjoy it and planning/thinking too much will hold you back. Actually, one last tip; compared to the finance world, people like to meet/collaborate/brainstorm on crazy (innovative!) ideas solely because it’s fascinating and fun to work on, even though making money with it might be a distant dream!
Inspired? We look forward to seeing you at the Art Challenge.