[Interview] Art Store Insiders ② Talking Curation with Elise Van Middelem
Welcome to part two of our series spotlighting the artists and institutions behind The Frame’s one-stop art shop, the Art Store.
In part one, we met illustrator Hyun Kim, who discussed how The Frame has helped his playful illustrations find a wider audience. Here, we turn our attention to the curation process in a wide-ranging interview with the Store’s official curator: a world-renowned art advisor who’s spent the last 15 years creating bespoke art experiences, Elise Van Middelem.
Q: What are your main responsibilities as The Frame’s Art Curator & Advisor?
My responsibilities range from researching and recommending artists, to contacting the right partners, selecting specific artwork, and defining key categories.
Q: How long have you been curating art for The Frame?
In 2016, Samsung and [Swiss designer] Yves Béhar reached out to me to collaborate on The Frame, and I was immediately attracted by the possibility of demystifying the art experience. For me, art is a second language – a lens that has helped me understand people from all backgrounds and cultures. Our goal was to make The Frame’s art collection accessible to anyone in this way, which is why it includes artists from the four corners of the world – from Southeast Asia to Canada, and from South Africa to Europe.
We decided to start with a wide selection of artworks covering a variety of categories, including Landscapes, Architecture, Wildlife, Drawings, Digital Art, Action, Still Life, Patterns, Urban Abstract and From Above. This offered The Frame users the feeling that they owned a curated art collection of museum quality.
The names of the categories speak for themselves. However, within each one, my goal was to find artwork that transcends the experience of traditional wallpaper or stock photography, and to replicate the feeling of entering a digital gallery exhibition in which every artwork has been carefully selected. The curation and integration of an Art Store within The Frame came at a later stage.
Q: How have the artists and partners you’ve collaborated with responded to The Frame?
The artists I’ve worked with see it as a great idea that could really change people’s perceptions about how art can be displayed. They’re excited by how it invites art into your home so it can affect you in your own space, at your own pace, and in your own time.
Q: How do you come up with themes for new collections?
The initial set of themes for the Art Store grew naturally out of the creation of The Frame’s art collection. It was a wonderful base to work with and expand from.
Today, themes come with moods. Ideally, we would want anyone to be able to find artwork that fits their mood of the day.
If you take a look at the Art Store’s most popular pieces, you’ll find that the majority of users are drawn to images depicting tranquil scenery, and to the works of the Old Masters. Examples of the former include the Art Store’s most viewed piece, Julia Contacessi’s “Odyssey,” as well as Liesl Marelli’s calming “Ripples of Low Tide II” and Sandy Dooley’s playfully colorful “Painting for Mary.” Classic pieces like Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and “Almond Blossom” have also struck a chord, which shows that users are most interested in artwork that brings a bit of Nature, or beautiful scenery, into their homes.
Q: Is there a collection in the Art Store that you’re particularly proud of?
I hold the experience of curating the first collection of artworks for The Frame very close to my heart. It was a unique opportunity to collaborate with various artists from around the world to create the most comprehensive, accessible, and stunning museum-quality art collection, exclusively for The Frame.
Through the hands-on experience of curating that collection, I learned what works really well on The Frame. In that way, each collection feels very personal, and each means a lot to me.
Q: In a word, how would you describe your curation process?
Q: What do you find most exciting about helping people discover incredible works of art?
Like many of my colleagues in the art world, what I find most exciting about The Frame is that it lets art affect you in your own space and in your own time. The Frame has the potential to change our perception of viewing art – how it is approached, collected, and displayed. It allows anyone to learn about art through living with it.
Q: What kinds of artwork would we find on your Frame?
I love to display the drawings of Clare Rojas and ruby onyinyechi amanze, which are available in The Frame’s art collection. Moreover, there are also some wonderful works of art that allow us to bring nature into our homes! Decorating your living space with the landscapes of Cody Cobb, the ‘natural world’ photography of the BBC, and the V&A’s beautiful wallpaper patterns is a fun way to ‘rewild’ yourself during these extraordinary times!
Q: Could you offer any details on what you’re curating right now?
The goal with The Frame was always to create collections that would transcend cultures and backgrounds, amongst other things. These extraordinary times have left us wanting to bring nature closer to our homes. That’s the main idea behind a collection we’re launching soon, called “Biophilia.”
Nature-based collections – for example, artworks depicting flowers in spring or the sea in the summer – have proven particularly popular with Art Store users. I am very much looking forward to seeing our newest nature-inspired collection make its debut.
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