Czech artists seek breakthrough through internet exposure


Every year, dozens of students in the Czech Republic graduate from art schools, but only a few of them actually succeed in establishing themselves on the art market. Two years ago, Jana Laštovka, herself a graduate of the Prague Fine Arts Academy, established a unique online gallery that specializes in selling works of young artists, helping them gain recognition. Since it was founded, the young Real Art gallery has sold hundreds of artworks.

I spoke to the gallery’s marketing manager, Zdenka Brázdová, and I first asked about the idea behind the project:

“It was my colleague’s Jana Laštovka’s idea. She is the founder of the gallery and she got the idea 15 year ago when she was studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.

“She and her fellow students were all painting and exhibiting, but none of them was actually selling any artworks and they had to work in part time jobs to make some money for art materials.

“So she collected photos of her fellow student’s artworks and tried to sell them to architectural studios for sale, but because there was no internet at the time, it didn’t really work very well.

“But she already had the idea and two years ago she established this on-line gallery and made it work.”

So what’s the idea behind an online gallery and what are the advantages of selling the artworks online instead of having a brick-and-mortar shop?

“I think the biggest advantage is the price of the art because by not having the brick and mortar shop we save a lot of money on renting space. That’s why our provision is lower than that of normal galleries and that is reflected in the final price of the artwork.”

How many artists do you currently represent and how do you actually select them?

“Right now we have 72 artists and we usually select them at the final shows of the universities. Jana Laštovka usually goes to all these shows and looks for new talents.

“So one of the most important criteria is that the artists have to study at an art university or they have to have a degree. We can take artists up to five years after graduation.

“Another criteria is that the artwork has to be original and with really good concept. And we also only select positive art; we don’t want any negative art, for instance about war, because we think it’s important that our customers, when they purchase the artwork, have a good feeling about it.”

“Right now we have 72 artists and we usually select them at the final shows of the universities.”

You said that you only take artists up to five years after graduation. Does that mean that there is an age limit?

“There isn’t an age limit because sometimes even older people study at the universities but they can only enter five years after graduation.”

Do you only represent Czech artists or are there foreigners as well?

“Most of them are Czech but there is also quite a large percentage is from Slovakia and there are two artists from Germany and one from South Korea.

What kind of art works do you actually offer? Is it only painting and drawing or do you also sell sculptures and other objects?

“When we were starting it was only painting, drawing and collages but then we also included sculpture and 3-D objects, and watercolours as well. Mostly it is painting and acrylic painting but currently we also get lots of prints and photography.”

How many items have you sold by this day?

“For the last two years I think we sold around 700 items.”

And would you say that the situation is improving? Would you say that Czechs are interested in buying art?

“I think they are very interested. In the beginning we were not so sure but right now people do buy art and I think it is great!”

Who would you say are your typical customers?

“Actually we expected that it would be mostly young people but its more middle aged people, between 40 and 60 years of age, and it is usually professional people who work in finance or law.”

How does the purchase work? What if I am interested in seeing the painting with my own eyes? Is that possible?

“Yes, that is possible, and we do it quite a lot, especially for larger and more expensive paintings. The customer can come to Prague or wherever the artist is based to see the work and also meet the artists of they want.”

Do people ask you for your advice?

“Yes, they do ask for advice and we are very happy to provide it. If it is a very large work, we can also make a visualisation in their apartment.”

You are selling on-line, does that mean that you can sell all over the world?

“Yes, we can ship it, because the work comes directly from the artists’ studio, so it can be shipped all over the world. There are some countries we can’t ship to but most countries we can.”

As far as I know, you have recently opened a subsidiary in London. Can you tell me more about it?

“It’s a branch that is going to be promoting the artists at the British art market, because there is a huge market for young artists and people are used to buying art from artists who are not established on the art market yet.

“We thought it might be interesting for our artists to have their works sold to a different country than the Czech Republic or Central Europe.”

“I think the biggest advantage is the price of the art because by not having the brick and mortar shop we save a lot of money on renting space.”

What are your plans for the near future?

“In the nearest future we would like to promote our gallery in some art magazines and newspapers in London and also at some art fairs. Obviously we would like to make an exhibition. We have in mind an exhibition of prints because that’s quite easy to take over abroad.”

And what about here in the Czech Republic?

“In the Czech Republic we just had an exhibition a month ago which went really well and we do have some plans for after Christmas as well. But I think the main one is actually a new website which is coming in February.

“We are pretty excited about it because there is going to be lots of new features, such as filters for filtering the artwork where people will be able to set the price and subject. We do have a filter now but this one is going to be much broader.”