Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol. These may be some of our all-time favorite artists and unfortunately their artworks are either stored in a museum or a collector’s home. But, what if you could be inspired by them to curate your very own piece alongside a master artist from across the world? No need to wonder because Vani Krishnamurthy, Founder of CoCo Gallery, is here to make your artistic dreams come true.
Raised in Georgia, Vani lived ‘a perfect childhood,’ started training in classical Indian dance, Bharatnatyam, at the age of 5 and was always one to dance to her own beat in life. An alumni of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Business School, where she pursued her MBA, Vani consulted at BCG and Bain & Company. Sounds like a typical career, right? Well, not so much. Because Vani’s decision to spend a year in India after receiving a Fullbright scholarship changed everything and led her to eventually create CoCo Gallery.
Launched in October 2015, CoCo Gallery is an online marketplace that helps individuals and interior designers find the right artist to design original artworks on a commission basis. The main idea is to support artists and their careers in a way that protects them and their interests but to also give customers a platform for co-creation. Turning your Pinterest board into reality, if you will.
Vani’s first project as a BCG consultant was with the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, a first step into the world of arts management. And while in India, Vani developed courses, lectures, and workshops that fostered cultural diplomacy. “I studied temple culture during the Medieval times and the significance of dance and sculptures in portraying a way of life.”
Taking these two experiences together, Vani’s first baby was her own consulting firm in 2009 that helped artists meet the challenges and constraints that came with working in the art industry. “I understood frameworks really well due to my learnings. What I realized was that in the medieval times or any point up until now, people with means would commission pieces of art that were customized to their preferences. People were spending large amounts of money based on their inspiration, not the artist’s. But the problem was that artists cannot rely on their own work to sustain their careers, so commissions help them have a more predictable revenue stream.”
Knowing this, Vani found a huge gap in the market with people who want to buy art and have the disposable income (yes, you 30 year old something hustler) but didn’t really care to go to galleries. Hence, the idea of CoCo Gallery was born as a solution to a supply and demand epidemic; for those who wanted to buy art (the demand) and for artists to collaborate with the client to produce one of the pieces (the supply). By following the laws of economics, Vani was able to create a white canvas for both parties to paint on.
Why the Name
After many frustrating attempts at finalizing a name for the brand, Vani settled on CoCo, referring to the two words commission and collaborate and Gallery to relate the marketplace with art. Plus, it’s quite catchy! Fun fact: when Vani initially searched for CoCo Gallery on Google, a portfolio of images with a woman named Coco would show up but that didn’t scare her away. After all, Nasty Gal saw a high traffic of visitors through a porn site search result.
How It Works
With pieces ranging anywhere from $300 to $15,000, the process is very collaborative and the timing depends on the depth of the work, medium and location of the artist. It all starts with an idea submission from the client, based on which a portfolio is curated with the client’s budget and taste in mind. This portfolio is then sent to the client, who can choose an artist out of the few recommendations given. Once chosen, the client and the artist are connected via CoCo Gallery.
A contract between the client and the artist is drafted protecting the artist’s and client’s expectations for the finished work. Upon signing, a preliminary sketch is created and after rounds of feedback, the artist begins working on the final piece. How does one pay? A 50% installment is made up front and in the middle of the process; the company holds the deposits until the artist finishes half and delivers the work respectively, at which point the company transfers the money to the artist. It’s that simple and the connotation of a starving artist goes out the window!
Business of Art
In the beginning, Vani and her team spent hours scouting artists who were excited to work with someone else on a work of art. Today, the tables have turned as artists are applying to become part of the CoCo family. The buying clients range from interior designers to families to individuals who are looking for specific spaces or occasions. For example, a couple’s anniversary is coming up and they want to depict an inside story via a painting or someone looking to build a gallery wall of sketches that show places they’ve visited.
“It’s difficult to stand out in the art space today because art is really big. CoCo Gallery is different because we are not pretending that we should all be collectors of art and showing who the new top artists are. None of that matters, you don’t need to know anything about art, you don’t need to go for the top ones, you don’t need to invest in art, this is just art that is personal to you and will make you happy.”
“I have learned to take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt.”
Vani didn’t necessarily come from the visual arts scene but in the early days, she spoke to many experts who doubted her idea. Her learnings:
Don’t listen to everything everyone says. It is situational because many of them come from other industries and may not necessarily have the same vision as you do for your company.
Think big but in terms of steps, think small. Break big tasks into smaller to-do’s so it doesn’t overwhelm you and then check them off as you go.
So, get yourself asking #whatwouldicoco and find an artist here. Inspired by Vani’s work and feeling ambitious? Vani is looking for a Co-founder with experience in interior design or digital marketing. Email us to get connected.
Photo courtesy of CoCo Gallery.