Avant Arte: the Tinder for Art-Lovers

Words Oisin Fogarty Graveson  Photography Jussi Puikkonen  

Avant Arte

With no background in art, no entrepreneurial experience, what started as two young guys’ search for the next Picasso, became a global call to open the art world to everybody. Three years later, their Instagram’s about to hit the 500k follower mark, Unit London (one of London’s leading independent galleries) has commissioned them for a show and they’ve launched an app. Hell bent on building a platform for artistic discovery, this is Avant Arte.

“The Artist is Present”. That was the slogan of Jay-Z’s six hour performance of Picasso Baby at the Pace Gallery in New York City back in 2013. The pop icon stood amongst his audience, as they came straight up to him to truly connect. Raised to near-godly status by media fame, the mask was stripped away. Jay-Z stood face to face with his fans, performing not to them but with them.

It was that same song that inspired Christian Luiten and Curtis Penning to start Avant Arte, the art platform that in three years would grow at an impressive rate. 21 and 23, and with zero experience in art, but a diehard appreciation for music, the two Dutch friends had an idea. “In Picasso-baby, Jay-Z mentions a lot of artists from an older generation. Like Picasso, Rothko. We started thinking: who are the next generation of artists? Who is the Picasso of this generation?” So they began compiling a list, a long list, of work they thought stood out from the crowd. They didn’t look for it in galleries. The bleached white walls and hefty price tags always struck the guys as a barrier, instead they scavenged the internet.

Enter Avant Arte. It started on Tumblr, with Curtis and Christian posting paintings, photos, sculptures, anything they liked. “Good artist create art that will be part of art history, so the art had to be unique but also tell us something about this time.” People listened; starting with the Netherlands, then London, New York and further afield.

Avant Arte

The migration to Instagram is what really did it. Avant Arte grew from zero to 383,000 followers in just three years, at a rate of 10k followers per month. How? They took a guess: “Well, I think what we are trying to accomplish is to get people into art. The art world is a really elite world, and we are just trying to make it so everybody can enjoy art..”

“The Artist is Present” is now a digital reality.

Avant Arte has gone mobile since April 2016. Opening the doors of their virtually endless online galleries to everybody. The new app Invites curators to display exhibitions, artists to show or sell their pieces, and art lovers or collectors to buy or connect with artists they admire. The slogan from that Picasso-baby performance which inspired it all: “The Artist is Present”, becomes a digital reality. The world of art is open to everybody, for free, just as it should be. As they say in their manifesto: “All art, everywhere.”

What’s next? “We think the discovery part of art is going to continue online, not in galleries, but if you really want to buy artwork for your home, you need to see it offline. That’s why we are also doing shows.” With an exhibition starting tomorrow (January 13th) until February 2nd at Unit London, one of the UK’s leading independent galleries, Curtis and Christian can finally pull together the artists that they think are on their way to becoming the Basquiat, Warhol and Picasso of this generation.

Avant Arte

Jan Kaleb’s Pluriforme

Lionel Smit, who works with lifelike blue-faced sculptures will make an appearance, as one of South Africa’s most acclaimed artists, Christian said “we’re really proud to have him involved.” Australian born, Mark Whalen’s “expressions of satirical social narratives.” through “many different materials” will also be shown alongside Czech graffiti artist Jan Kalab’s amorphous blob hangings. “The use of colours in different sequences give an amazing effect. It’s really an eye catcher.” says Curtis. The list currently sits at 14 artists in total for next week’s exhibition. Will Avant Arte make their mark in the physical realm of art too? We look forward to finding out.