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April 13, 2014

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Online art agency spreads magic

THE contemporary art world is now accessible to anyone with the advent of online appreciation and buying that transcend geographical boundaries and space.

With artwork being digitalized and accessible to everyone with internet access, art enthusiasts, industry specialists and art collectors are actively engaged and a dialogue is created between artists and the public. Emerging artists are more visible worldwide.

Llamart, an online contemporary art platform featuring a curated selection of cutting-edge Chinese and international artists, was founded in 2011 by Cedric van Riel and Mil Wang. It aims to make the beauty and diversity of art accessible to a wide audience and establish East-West cultural bridges.

“Contemporary art is a universal language bringing people from different backgrounds like us together without a translator. We wish to share the magic with more people,” said van Riel, who is French. He arrived in China in 2010 and met Mil Wang, who was working in the art industry in Beijing. Mil introduced him to calligraphy and ink-wash paintings.

They visited galleries, art fairs and museums in Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei and Hong Kong. They witnessed the boom in Chinese art and its impact internationally.

The expansion of e-commerce inspired them to launch their online gallery

“We wanted to bring art into new locations, not only online, and that’s the essence of Llamart,” van Riel said.

Llamart has organized three offline events and now exhibits art in New Heights in Three on the Bund and the Pullman South Shanghai through the end of this year.

Q: What are the pros and cons of a digital-based art agency?

Van Riel: The great advantage is accessibility. People can discover our artists and artworks without barriers of time, language or distance. It facilitates buying art with online payment. The little disadvantage is that the Internet can’t transmit all the emotions of meeting an artist in person. We try to overcome this by providing videos interviews of our artist partners.

Q: How is Llamart different from other artists’ agencies?

Wang: Its founders come from different cultural backgrounds, which is reflected in artists’ selection. Also, Llamart is the combination of the words “llama,” the animal known to be extremely curious, and “art.” It symbolizes the curiosity for art in all forms. Finally, we want to bring the magic of art outside traditional venues and bring it to more accessible locations. Our young, passionate and international team is  sensitive to new trends in art business and in technology.

Q: How do you select artists?

Van Riel: It’s based on artists’ backgrounds, reputation and potential. Most have graduated from art schools and studied further. We also welcome really creative geniuses. The selection reflects our identity and vision promoting innovative and multicultural artists. We have many Western artists living in China and Chinese artists living in Europe and America. This cultural mix is an unlimited source of creativity.

Wang: We are now selecting artists who studied traditional techniques and are using them in an innovative way like Zhang Dan, Tian Xutong, Tao Hongjing and Jiang Yuntao.

We are also selecting artists who learned Western oil painting and are mixing their skills with Chinese topics or techniques like Yang Xun and Liu Na.

The latest trend is art produced in China by foreigners like *LLND, Thomas C. Chung and Theo Marmolejo.

Q: What are your biggest challenges?

Van Riel:  The biggest challenge is demonstrating that contemporary art is not only for elites but can be integrated into people’s homes.

Q: Who buys your art?

Van Riel: Both Western and Chinese collectors. This is the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between France and China, so French artists are popular. We are gathering French artists including Francis Hungler, Marc Lecureur and *LLND for a group exhibition on the topic. Generally speaking, popular art is always the one you can easily display in your living room. Right now, it’s about traditional themes presented with innovative media and technique.

Q: What will be the next big trend?

Wang: Chinese will be more attracted by contemporary art, compared with traditional arts that currently dominate. It’s already a big trend that was started by the luxury fashion brands and is now heading to design. We see more Chinese collectors traveling to Miami and Basel to buy Western artists. We also believe art will be displayed more and more outside galleries and museums; we contribute in this trend.

Q: Tips for amateur collectors?

Van Riel: Just embrace the beauty and diversity of art! Be curious and try to know what is beyond every piece. Once you know more, select the one that touched you the most in an aesthetic or emotional way. Try to know the artists and their source of inspiration — this will help you to explain why you are buying this artwork to the people around you. You will be surprised at how many people can be touched by an artwork as long as they know the story beyond it.



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