Conversation with Eva Ruiz from Alternativ, the Spanish office in charge of organizing the program for collectors. Estampa 16. Chapter 87 (Bis)
An art fair that hopes to reach an international audience, generate strong sales, and have any sort of successful future must have a program focused on building relationships with a specific group of collectors. This type of program must put forth the best possible image of a country’s art scene: its best galleries, its best artists, its best managers, in short, everything that will provide the fair with high-quality services that meet the needs of any type of visitor, particularly collectors. This is an important strategy, not only for encouraging sales, but also for strengthening ties and creating a cultural fabric that will encourage the exchange of knowledge, the coming together of common interests, and the promotion of artists, critics, and curators.
Today’s collectors are knowledgeable and well-informed. They follows every current exhibition, every gallery opening, every show at museums and cultural institutions, read specialized publications and, therefore, are informed of everything that is happening in the art world. As such, these collectors carefully choose the events that they will attend. The fair must make an effort to be irresistible to these people who are fundamental to the successful functioning of the art world internationally.
In this edition, Estampa has launched a special program for a small group of European collectors that has been carried out over the four days of the fair with terrific success.
The project was developed by Arternativ, an incubator consultancy firm that develops creative strategies and content for players in the art market. Specifically for fairs, galleries, and artists. This young enterprise is managed by Eva Ruiz, a professional who has developed projects such as Art Lima-CAP and Crossroads Art Show London, for which she designed the commercial strategy for galleries of different countries, for the international press, and a special VIP program, in addition to curating one of the sections of the fair. Among their clients are The Armory Show NY, ARTBO, Walling Cuba and Proyector Video Festival.
Estampa has provided me with the opportunity to speak with Eva Ruiz, to whom I am immensely grateful for sharing her time and showing me such warmth and generosity. This was our conversation:
Laura: In a company like yours, what is the key to finding a place at fairs and national and international events?
Eva: The key is knowing how the art market works internationally and having a network of professional contacts and collectors that is broad enough to be able to offer a variety of consulting services at any fair. It means being thoroughly up-to-date and working actively with collectors, both new and old. And in this job, it is necessary to travel. We are a company made up by creative professionals as well as experts in marketing who are familiar with the internal structure of a fair
Laura: How did you select the collectors that participate in the program? What are the principal characteristics that interested you?
Eva: In the first place, we analyze the history of the fair and where it might be possible to position ourselves taking into account the market’s current over-saturation and the economic potential of the fair. Estampa is a local private fair with a long history that is following a different path from when it began (as it should). For the first time it intends to attract collectors from abroad and for that purpose the following was necessary:
1. To find a group of collectors that might be interested in the program that was being offered by the participating galleries.
2. To publicize the fair, as it is not known abroad.
3. To start with a small group of people of different ages and nationalities (France, Germany, Italy, Argentina) that was interested in getting to know the Spanish market. For that purpose we asked a small number of collectors a few brief questions.
It was also important to know whether or not they would be attending ARCOMadrid. We did not want to bring the same collectors, although there might be some cases of people wanting to know more about the art scene in Spain and returning to Madrid.
Laura: Did you have another program with the same characteristics as a point of reference for designing this project?
Eva: We are specialized in exclusive, small-scale VIP programs. We offer quality and customize many of the options that we provide to the fair and to collectors. We advise them ahead of time and program visits to local galleries and artist studios so they can better get to know the fair’s proposals. We do not always follow a specific program. On occasion, as with the Armory Show in New York, we cannot experiment as much. But at most art fairs, we try to contribute ideas that will adapt to needs as they arise. A good example of this is what we did for ArtLima, Peru-CAP. The segmentation of the audience is increasingly important. Each one demands different services.
Laura: What differences did you observe between the profile of the Spanish collector and the European one?
Eva: It is difficult not to resort to clichés in this case. But one could say that the Spanish collector is still more conservative, something which, in my opinion, is at odds with being a good collector.
The Spanish collector travels less in search of art than those from other countries and is still more influenced by the current trends. Having said that, I just had the pleasure of getting to know a group of ten collectors who were in every way as sophisticated as the Europeans. But we need to create a critical mass for “sustainable collecting”, as Chema de Francisco called it, like that that already exists in France, Belgium and Germany. I like to introduce Spanish collectors to other European ones. The resulting synergy is always terribly enriching. Visiting other collections and speaking with other “minds” is the best way to make collecting grow.
Laura: What strategies have you come up with to attract international collectors to Spanish projects?
Eva: We are fortunate in that Spain continues to attract foreigners. We have proposed a very personalized plan for getting to know the Spanish culture, our artists as well as our cuisine. I must say that I believe that working with small numbers of people has greater impact. The results this year have been excellent. They have acquired work primarily by Spanish artists. Additionally, the influence of “word-of-mouth” over time is crucial. It will help us attract more people each year.
Laura: Knowing the collectors of today must be fundamental in your work. What are their artistic concerns? Do they allow themselves to be guided or do they have very defined tastes?
Eva: Technology has changed our way of living, perceiving and experimenting. In music, how we access information and even social relationships. The famous millennials are well informed and, at the same time, request a lot of information. They spend more than thirty hours per month in social networks/websites, so they they are constantly receiving information from galleries and news about art. This is something we have to take into account. Recent surveys show that the youngest generations of collectors see more art through electronic devices than in museums and galleries. Loyalty to galleries and fairs has been lost. Today one has to place more emphasis on guiding them and giving them access to information or a fair through a good VIP program, or a strategy that will allow us to become familiar with their personal tastes and be able to provide them with artists they will be drawn to.
Laura: How do Spanish art and galleries differ from those of other countries? Are they important to the project or is it more integrated and global?
Eva: They are important. I believe in the strength of the local in the international. “Glocalism”. That is how we work at Arternativ. There are already other great fairs that draw the same strong international galleries. Collectors want to add something exotic, different, and specialized to their calendars. I’ve always said that there is good art everywhere you travel. It is a question of being able to access it.
Laura: How do you think collectors will move around in the future? How can we help?
Eva: As I said before, collectors needs specialized information online, but they also need a network of contacts and annual trips to galleries in other countries. I believe in encouraging visits to galleries through events such as “Gallery Weekend”. I believe in creating bridges between different cultures and collectors as a collaborative effort. I believe in a collector who is increasingly active and involved in the promotion and preservation of each country’s cultures. And at the same time, a collector who focuses on global collections that mix cultures and artists that have been discovered in places other than ArtBasel. And without a doubt, I believe that digital art will become a part of our lives. Although painting will never die.