How A New E-Commerce Platform Is Creating Community in the Toronto Art World and Beyond
It goes without saying that artists pour their hearts into their pieces. Each work takes time, effort, and emotion. It is a vocation that is often underappreciated and overlooked in the classic umbrella of what we consider “work.” The unfortunate truth is, unless you’re an art dealer or artist, you don’t often consider how an art work arrived on a gallery wall. Or what happens to the artist after the work is removed. The mystification of the commerce involved in art dealings can lead to an undervaluation of the enterprise.
The facts are as follows: art by women makes up 2% of art sold and galleries can take over 50% of an artist’s earnings when a painting is sold—if the painting even makes it into a gallery in the first place. As a result, more and more artists are turning to e-commerce to connect with buyers.
Nuria Madrenas, a Toronto-based fashion illustrator and pop-culture artist, knew this struggle all too well and created an opportunity for herself and other female artists to be seen on the internet.
When looking for a suitable e-commerce platform to sell her art, Madrenas found nothing resonated with her. Not only was she disheartened by the lack of female representation in the art world, but the platforms available to her were either oversaturated with the catch-all term “makers” (referring to everything from painters to carpenters), or they were taking too large a percentage from the sale of her art.
When she started talking with other local artists in Toronto, particularly women, she discovered they were also suffering from the same problem. Over the course of a year, Madrenas cultivated relationships with female artists and developed the first e-commerce platform dedicated to them. She created the online art gallery Mrkt to correct the imbalance she and her peers where experiencing in the art market by advocating, promoting, and showcasing them while also ensuring they received a fair portion of the profits. “It’s pretty outstanding that this gap still does exist,” says the 25-year-old who single-handedly launched the platform this past December. The site functions just like an online gallery where the consumer can browse by artist or theme (Animals, Beauty, Celebrity, Fashion, Interiors, Limited Edition, Most Coveted, Originals, and Self Care).
It’s the community that most excites her, though. “Platforms like Instagram and now also e-commerce platforms like Mrkt are changing the depth of community at the moment,” she explains. Although, she cautions that as digital media evolves, so too will the definition of community. She prefers to view Instagram as an assistant rather than a substitute. “Without the rise of digital media, I wouldn’t have been able to connect and develop a community internationally beyond my current local network. So the fact that I’m able to do that and so many people are leveraging these channels to do that, I think is really promising.”
Madrenas began Mrkt with 21 artists, 80 per cent Canadian and the rest international, and has added five more in the last month. The rapid growth and overwhelming positive response online speak to a desire for connection between fellow artists and art buyers. “I feel tremendously excited about the community in the art world and the level of support between female artist specifically,” she notes. “I think that there’s so many great creative outlets that people are now leveraging to be able to not only share their art but to connect with people who share the same interests. A driver in creating and maintaining this business is seeing this community that we’re building and the level of excitement and appreciation for Mrkt, for what it stands for, the community of artists that we currently have, as well as the potential for the community [to grow].”
The art available through the online gallery views like a contemporary ode to femininity. It is oftentimes brash and unapologetic but done in vivid versions of traditionally demure colours—like a group of perfectly manicured hands flipping the bird on a fuschia background. The art celebrates women’s bodies in different shapes, colours, and styles. But overall, it seeks to represent different types of women and different styles of art.
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