Meet the Self-Taught Curator Selling Art Without a Gallery
ArtSFBlog founder Pablo de Pinho gave us the secret to finding your niche in a seemingly-impenetrable art market.
Maedchen in 3D by Tal R - printed by Lubok Verlag, all images were chosen and curated by Pablo de Pinho and are courtesy of ArtSFBlog.
It’s been nearly three years since artist, musician, and curator Pablo de Pinho launched his online art gallery ArtSFBlog. Since then, the company has sold art to buyers from San Francisco, L.A., New York, London, Poland, Alaska, New Zealand, and many others in between. Now, de Pinho is looking to expand ArtSFBlog’s outreach, including opening a physical gallery in San Francisco, investors willing.
De Pinho was born in Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. At a young age, he moved to Los Angeles, before relocating once again to San Francisco. In the city by the bay, de Pinho attended the San Francisco School of the Arts, received a Bachelors of Art in jazz performance from San Francisco State University, and later a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute. He can currently be found in Montreal, Quebec, studying entrepreneurial business (and making art) at McGill University.
In a life dedicated to the creation, study, and admiration of art, de Pinho’s decision to start a business such as ArtSFBlog seemed more or less inevitable. During his studies, the young entrepreneur spent his free time working for art galleries, stores, and websites, curating shows, and interviewing his fellow artists.
“Finding my company's niche in the market came to me gradually as I photographed art that spoke to me,” de Pinho tells The Creators Project. This was back in January of 2014. “As I travelled that year documenting art, I would gather small art works from studio visits with contemporary artists to curate small art shows in San Francisco. After a while curating shows and working with galleries, the thought of creating an online store to sell art worldwide felt like a positive expansion of the service I was already providing.”
De Pinho’s multipurpose platform is space by artists and for artists. He explains, “the artists themselves are the biggest contributors to my business. They were the initial investors of my company, and they were the first ones to believe in the potential of my business. In result, the online store is a service for the artists first of all, which in turn provides more than half of its earnings to the artists.”
The website’s blog—a blend of interviews, articles, art fair information, and fashion and design reporting—is just one of the many things that makes de Pinho’s take on selling art online special. “Traditional art galleries utilize panel discussions and artist talks as a way to educate its buyers and overall audience about the work they exhibit,” he explains. “The blog portion of my website works similarly, helping the audience understand my online store's visual aesthetic and curatorial style.”
While the store and the blog clearly borrow their models from the traditional gallery, de Pinho emphasizes that ArtSFBlog is a complement, rather than a replacement. “Many galleries that I look up to, have expressed their respect and interest in my business, sharing with me tools and techniques to grow. They see my business as a new platform for generating art accessibility, which does not rival with traditional art galleries.”
Which is not to say de Pinho is hesitant to join in the fray: he sees physical exhibition spaces as one of the next big steps in ArtSFBlog’s expansion. “Traditional art installation is always a key factor to contextualizing contemporary works,” he says. “The space itself will amplify the relationships between artists and their works, ranging in styles, genres and media. It is important for the general audience and art collectors to experience the artwork in its appropriate physical environment, taking note of how art works relate spatially and conceptually to each other. Texture and three-dimensionality are impossible to capture with a camera.”
De Pinho’s camera, however, comes pretty darn close. Navigating ArtSFBlog is not like scrolling down Sothebys' website or even clicking around on your average gallery page. The curator has seamlessly converted an online store into a carefully curated online space, one that unabashedly exhibits its founder’s aesthetic. “I intuitively learned a curatorial style that focused on combining art works based on elements of art: shape, color, line, and form.” As he explains further, “For example, arranging sculpture by colors, a room with only red sculptures. Or an installation with black and white drawings ranging from figurative to abstract. Or perhaps an arrangement of two distinct media like photography and paintings.” Over time, De Pinho says that he has realized that his self-taught aesthetic, “is the most important aspect of [his] business.” He continues, “To me, curating is a narrative of art, which illustrates how I see the world.”
De Pinho’s curatorial choices on ArtSFBlog also illustrate how he chooses the artwork he features. “I always prefer to see artwork in person,” he says, “to have in-person studio visits with artists, and to sell art in person to collectors. However, art exposure should always be international and a gallery should not limit its range based on pure location. An artist should be like a touring band, they should be granted the opportunity to expose worldwide, forming an international community.”
With this philosophy in mind, de Pinho’s site features works from around the globe: Stockholm, Philadelphia, the UK, Brooklyn, Leipzig, and Tel Aviv, and many others. These works consist of paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, zines, and books from a melting pot of artists young and old. What do they all have in common? “I agree with artists that choose to focus their energy on creating art and not on reading and interpreting their works to the audience,” the curator says. As a result, ArtSFBlog is home to both established contemporary artists such as Alex Katz and Barry McGee and to up-and-comers like Lil Kool, Ellie Andrews, and even de Pinho himself.
When I ask the artist what it feels like to be able to feature his own art on his site, he responds, “So many artists, like Ad Reinhardt, have proven that there is no rulebook to follow when it comes to selling art in a global market. Yet, there are always people that insist the art world has its unwritten rules one must follow religiously. [By] starting something unique, I didn't think about following certain gallery trends or art world trends. I see that I have put together a platform that does not only belong to me, but all the contributing artists combined. And since I am an artist as well, I also utilize this tool I have created.”
“One of the biggest lessons that I learned as an entrepreneur is to create my own job instead of trying to find a perfect job or to climb some fictional ladder,” de Pinho reflects. For this entrepreneur, that means also not being limited to one project. Next year, he plans to curate a show with three other entrepreneurs at Good Mother Gallery in Oakland, along with two others at Module Paris and Encore Brussels.
“As an artist and entrepreneur, I want to be doing the best possible job I can envision,” de Pinho continues, “And this to me is having the opportunity to travel the world for work, engaging in the contemporary art dialogue, helping artists produce and showcase their works.”
Find out more about Pablo de Pinho’s online gallery on ArtSFBlog.