Name: Flora Alexandra Ogilvy
Where’s home? Notting Hill, London
Profession: Founder of Arteviste
Company Name: Arteviste
What did you study at university? History of Art at Bristol University (2:1)
Was it a clear-cut path in terms of what you would do after you left?
University had little impact on the business I now run. I’d been interning at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s in Paris during my high school and university summers as well as working as a freelance journalist and photographer for various publications, so I was already committed to a career in the art world. Although my History of Art (during which I taught life-drawing) degree gave me the background knowledge, it felt very separate from the business I was building at that point.
What is Arteviste?
Arteviste is a digital arts platform, which creates more accessible editorial, video and events-based content with a focus on the emerging art market across London, Berlin and New York. We work with companies looking to diversify or re-inspire their audience. Some of our collaborators are central to the contemporary art world such as Artnet, Pace and Frieze, but others such as Soho House, Connolly and S W Mitchell Capital are on the periphery, wanting to get a little closer.
How did the idea for Arteviste come about?
It began as a platform for young writers working within the contemporary art world to share exhibition reviews of other galleries and spaces. I thought that all the contemporary art content available at that time felt too jargon-heavy and needed to be a little more playful and accessible, and equally there were lots of young writers seeking exposure for their writing. Later, when we started to make money, we were able to develop the events and film-making side of the business to make it feel a little more dynamic as a platform. Then came the commercial edge, which helped our audience to grow and develop.
What were the challenges in initially setting up Arteviste?
I set up my business alongside my History of Art degree and found myself commuting from London – where I lived and ran the business – back to my lectures in Bristol. At the same time, I was taking cheap flights at odd times to cover art fairs and host events in New York in Berlin. Since then, my ability to manage time has definitely improved. I call it ‘compartmentalising’.
Who did you seek advice from and who really helped you in the early stages?
Because I started my business at 19, people were open to giving advice to someone that probably felt overly optimistic and naïve. I was persistent and probably a little precocious. Both my parents are creatives who have run their own businesses, which helped a lot, but I also have creative friends doing different things across the art world that have been incredibly generous with both their time and energy. It’s about being as useful as you can to them in the interim – hang paintings, edit texts, making introductions – so that when your time of need arrives, you feel comfortable asking for support.
Did you ever doubt yourself that you could do it?
Over the past few months I’ve been lecturing at different universities on the subject of ‘building a business in a tech-driven art world’, and I can assure you that the first one I did for Christie’s Education was absolutely terrifying, but now I feel much braver about opening up and sharing my story. I was convinced the audience would think I was underqualified or too young, but my perspective turned out to be useful to those also thinking about an entrepreneurial approach. As for the business itself, I didn’t really understand what I was getting myself into, so by the time I did, it was too late and I’d accepted my fate.
How do you market Arteviste?
The idea is that because our contributors, filmmakers and photographers work within the contemporary art world, everything they contribute is shared with their networks. We also host relaxed supper clubs in artist studios and collectors’ homes each month to spread the word. Social media is invaluable when it comes to visually promoting what we do. Our Instagram @arteviste_ is a daily task and I make sure that I’m publishing engaging portraits of the artists as well as engaging with different galleries, artists and collectors that we might go on to work with in the future. Instagram Stories is a brilliant tool for breaking down barriers; they always offer such insight into the day-to-day behind the lives of people that inspire me in the industry.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
We have a more human approach, because our content is all created by people working within the contemporary art world and the focus of our content is on telling the stories of the young artists themselves. Whatever industry you come from, we believe that knowing the artist’s story helps anyone to gain a deeper understanding of their work and makes it more accessible. The aforementioned supper clubs that we host monthly in different artists’ studios and collectors’ homes between London and New York also help to break down barriers and get conversations going without that feeling of exclusivity.
What do you wish you had known then that you know now?
That everyone’s working on their own project, so sometimes you can approach someone at the wrong time and it’s okay to let things go or postpone. When I started I took it very personally when I didn’t hear back from people or they weren’t interested in collaborating, but now that our business is up-and-running, I know how it feels to be a little overwhelmed and lacking in time.
What’s a typical day for you working on Arteviste?
Depending on how late I was the night before, I try and wake early to go boxing at Box Clever Sports or run in Holland Park before making some form of smoothie or porridge before I leave for work. Despite how painful it can be to crawl out of bed, I believe that in order to work long hours and be ready to travel at short notice, you need to be healthy. Instead of renting an office, we use Soho House as our work space, so we’re based between Shoreditch House, 76 Dean Street and the Electric depending on meetings or what events we’re hosting that day. I try to limit meetings to the mornings, and then give a lecture or do a studio visit in the afternoon before going to a series of exhibition openings. After that, I’m often giving a talk or going to a gallery dinner or maybe hosting one of our supper clubs. Unless they’re sponsored we’re cooking for everyone ourselves, so we’ll do something spicy and simple. Most evenings are work-related events, but the weekends are usually quiet enough to escape.
Any personality traits you have discovered about yourself along the way?
It can be tough balancing my ability to self-motivate with being quite emotional and prone to exhaustion. Especially as everything I do is about managing people whether they be a writer, filmmaker, photographer or artist – let alone my own social life. There’s also the companies we’re collaborating with, so adapting to their needs as well as thinking about the freelancers working for us and their schedules can be difficult. There’s no easy way to avoid getting run down in this industry, except be disciplined about sleep. Whether it be to explore, walk or write, I get out into the countryside without internet connection as much as possible and I think it’s incredibly important to take that time off to let your ideas breathe for a little while.
Any utter disasters along the way?
Last year, we hosted our first Arteviste supper club in the East Village studio of photographer Chase Hall and just hours before important gallerists, collectors and artists were soon to arrive we were still without table, chairs or cutlery. As they arrived, my wonderful friends had come together and helped me to make tonnes of sweet potato curry, raita and pomegranate salads. We were forced to serve dinner in mugs, or a random selection of bowls and (literally) vases. Our guests found themselves digging into dinner with chopsticks, random bits of cutlery and even their hands. Despite my fears, it felt so natural and the room was soon filled with love and laughter as a result. In truth, beginning a business when you’re very young with little resources makes you quite good at turning a disaster into something beautiful. Most importantly, it breaks down barriers.
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up Arteviste?
Last week’s screening of the film we made about Korean-British artist Sang Woo Kim alongside our evening ‘in conversation’ at Shoreditch House last week. Our team had worked on it for a few months, and after all the hard work – and some tears – I felt as if it captured Sang beautifully. Any event we do with Soho House is always exciting, because their audience is made up of a broad spectrum of creatives that always make it feel different. Without a doubt, the Soho House team have been our greatest supporters, encouraging us to host talks and panel discussions in both London and New York. In truth, without all of our collaborators, we wouldn’t have gotten far at all – especially without S W Mitchell Capital who generously sponsor our films.
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
If you want to work in the art world and run your own business, you will live and breathe it. You will often work through weeknights, weekends and holidays, but it’ll be wonderful, because you’ll be surrounded by inspired, motivating creatives. The easiest way to get hired or build a business in this industry is to know people and that can be done by attending lots private views (they’re almost always open to everyone – use See Saw to look them up) and exhibitions as well as building an online presence by writing for people or taking photographs. Put yourself out there and don’t expect to be paid for much initially, it’s worth more to get a foot in the door.
What do you think the next steps are for you this year?
Our commercial angle is helping businesses on the periphery of the contemporary art market to connect their audience with what lies within by creating more accessible editorial, video and events-based content for them. Not only is the art world having a moment, but there’s also quite a lot of money in it. We are currently working on collaborations with clients across the fashion, technology and finance worlds in particular, because their HNW audiences are often just as interested in collecting art. Personally, I hope that there will continue to be lots of opportunities to travel and broaden our audience over the coming months. We’re especially looking forward to continuing our Connolly and Soho House events in the Autumn.
What’s the dream?
To continue to build a strong business from telling the stories of young artists whilst continuing to develop my photography, film and writing skills. I feel so lucky to have been able to learn about filmmaking in particular over the past few months, which is something I never would have had access to behind the desk of a gallery. We’re getting there, but without my lectures, freelance journalism and consultancy work for other people, this business would not be able to survive, so I hope we’ll eventually make some profit. Eventually, I just want to be living somewhere remote in Scandinavia making art, exploring the landscape and cooking all day. For our generation, it feels oddly radical to eventually want something a little simpler from life.
Finally three tit-bit questions
In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are… Cooking for the people I love, discovering young artists that inspire me and getting out into the wild as much as possible.
When I look at my bank statement after a night out I usually… haven’t spent much, because the real upside to working in the art industry is that you can often be generously invited to lots of gallery dinners, openings and the odd late night.
The Twenty Mile Club is… an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to be inspired and motivated by hearing about the dreams, influences and (most importantly) the challenges of others. There needs to be more of a dialogue amongst young entrepreneurs, because it’s not easy and we’re all making sacrifices. When things do become overwhelming and you lose that sense of drive, it’s important to have somewhere to turn for help or advice.
Find Arteviste right now by clicking on the links below
Flora also works as a journalist, photographer and public speaker
Guest Lectures: Imperial College, Courtauld (October), Christie’s.
Journalism: Artnet, The Rake, Lula Magazine, Suitcase, The Gentleman’s Journal, Digiqualia .
Photo credit: Will Milligan