ArtStar: Setting a High Aesthetic in Accessible Contemporary Art
When Chrissy Crawford Corredor founded ArtStar in 2010, her mission was to make high-quality art accessible for young, new collectors, especially at a time when funds were tight for many in the wake of the recession. She saw there was “a gap in the market between poster-based wall décor and blue-chip fine art,” and in response, started ArtStar as a pioneering source for contemporary art in that niche.
In the years since, ArtStar has built a strong reputation, as well as an impressive corporate and hospitality client roster that includes WeWork, Soho House, Bonobos, Four Seasons, and Cole Hahn, among others. The company has also been featured in publications such as Elle Décor, The New York Times, Glamour, The Economist, Apartment Therapy, The Wall Street Journal, Fashion Magazine, and Refinery 29.
Since moving ArtStar’s office to the St. James Building at 1133 Broadway just a few months ago, Chrissy says the new location has made such a difference for them that they are already looking to expand within the building and open up a showroom space. Chrissy is a big fan of the NoMad neighborhood, and lives in the area as well. She loves being able to walk to work with her dachshund, Brian, who has come out of retirement to assist in the office.
We recently sat down with Chrissy to learn about the history of ArtStar, the state of her industry, and where she sees things going from here.
How did ArtStar come about, and how has it grown since you founded it in 2010?
ArtStar was a product of the recession. I was working with a lot of young collectors and I saw their budgets depleting. I also saw a lot of artists really struggling; they would go from having a waiting list to having maybe one sale a year. We started ArtStar as a way for young collectors to still be able to access art – make it easy, make it affordable, put it online, offer framing, offer free shipping. And it’s another revenue stream for artists. We do all the printing and framing, and then, we send the artists a check once a month so they can continue to make money off of their work.
We moved more towards a B2B model in 2014. We do work with a lot of interior designers on residential projects. We also work with larger companies like WeWork, Convene, The Palms Las Vegas, Cole Hahn, Bonobos, Peloton, and more, to help with the art for their showrooms, retail spaces, and hotels.
What makes ArtStar stand out as a source for fine art?
Everything on our website is curated. We’re different from other art sites that have thousands of images and thousands of artists. We carefully vet each artist and image on our site. Every artist on ArtStar is a professional – most of our artists have MFAs and gallery representation – so you know what you’re buying is a good piece of art. Also, everything on the site is a limited edition. It’s all numbered, and it comes with a Certificate of Authenticity signed by the artist. It does sell out and it does hold its value – it’s not a poster. Also, all of the art is exclusive to us. We’re not exclusive with the artists, but we are exclusive with each piece that we sell.
How do you find these artists and pieces? Are there certain criteria that you look for?
We go to art fairs, galleries, studio visits… We’re constantly searching for new artists. We rarely take submissions, because we do have such an aesthetic. We find that people come to us for a certain look, and we’re very good at curating that look. We only take artists that we personally would want in our home. Every time we’ve taken an artist that we’re not crazy about, they just don’t sell. It’s very much our curation and our vision that guides our success.
How would you describe the look and brand that people come to you for?
It’s really fun, young, poppy, and colorful. We love color. A lot of our work has a sense of humor. We find that if we do generic abstracts, they just don’t sell as well. We like things that have neon, or text, or some sort of wit or whimsy to them. People come to us because they like our sense of humor and our work has a sense of personality.
Tell us more about your work with corporate and hospitality clients. How does the process work?
We have a trade program on our site that you can use if you are a member of the trade, which is primarily residential. We also have a hospitality art program and a corporate art program. You can sign up, and we send you an exclusive discount and different membership benefits. You get free shipping and you have a dedicated sales person.
For some projects, they want us to curate for them and send a proposal of ideas. For other projects, the designer knows what they want — they just take their promo code, load their cart, use their code, get the discount, and they’re done. It all depends on how you want to work: we can be really high-touch, or we can be completely hands-off.
How has your current location helped your business grow?
I think being based in New York has been helpful, and especially being in a building like this. Everyone is in your building. Interior designers, architects, graphic designers, businesses of all sorts… You can easily interact with people who make decisions for their companies and their clients.
Since we’ve been in this building, we find we’re constantly having designers just stop by, whereas we could not do that on the Lower East Side—we could not get anyone in that office. Here, people come in all the time, both from outside as well as from within the building community.
We’ve already started working with other tenants. Everyone in the building sort of uses each other. It’s also a good way to put a face to the name with your vendors and your clients. It’s been a real asset for us—besides the close proximity to Starbucks!
Do you have a favorite trend going on in today’s contemporary art scene? What patterns have you noticed within your industry?
We’ve noticed Europe is interested in and is more open to e-commerce now, so our European sales have grown. And, we find a lot of artists through Instagram now. Instagram is a huge marketing tool for artists. They can experiment with different ideas and get feedback from a lot of people. They can launch new work and immediately have feedback, orders, praise, and then they can tweak their art if people don’t like it. I think it’s an interesting platform now for artists, and they really need to use it as a tool to market themselves.
What works do you find yourself gravitating toward most on a personal level?
I love photography. I have a lot of our work in my home. I love work by Ludwig Favre — I have his rainbow piece in my kitchen. We have Ruth Adler… I like things with color. We have a very monochromatic home, and we use art as our color.
Where do you hope to see ArtStar going in the future?
We would like to expand our office and open a showroom. Also, we would like a deeper presence in California. It’s our second biggest market, and we just really believe in it. Expanding to the West Coast would be really valuable to us. And, we’re just constantly looking to grow our portfolio of artists.
Do you have advice for someone who doesn’t have experience, who wants to start decorating and collecting with purpose, and graduate from the poster level?
I think prints are a really good solution for new collectors, because their taste is going to evolve over time. When they start collecting, a lot of people spend their entire budget on one piece of art, like one oil painting, but they’ll want to be able to evolve. So, I think a print is a really good idea because of the price point. I would just buy whatever you like. I wouldn’t overthink it or try to make it a good investment. I would just buy what you want in your home and what you want to live with every day.