The Curatorial Hub Helps Artists Get Their Fair Share

It reduces the pay gap between galleries and artists.

Art partiers at Bettina Hubby's Curatorial Hub. Photo by Steven Rimlinger.

THE GOOD NEWS:


Artists can earn more money without having to sacrifice their vision to the art market’s trends.

Bettina Hubby knows how to throw a party.

The Los Angeles-based artist has the unerring ability to find opportunities to celebrate, even when the occasion calls for more somber posturing. For instance, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy in 2014, she invited artists to contribute breast-related art for her project, “Thanks for the Mammaries.”

Even construction sites can become galleries when Hubby takes over. When the L.A. light rail line was extended to Santa Monica, she hosted a disco ball-lit dinner dubbed “Dig the Dig” for artists, patrons, and construction workers at the site of the former Santa Monica Museum of Art.

Hubby’s sense of inclusivity and exultation can be infectious. Her artistic practice has always leaned on community input and contributions. Accordingly, her latest venture, an online gallery dubbed Curatorial Hub, draws on her experience as an artist, curator, and collaborator.

Bettina Hubby and Saskia Wilson-Brown at Curatorial Hub. Photo by Steven Rimlinger.

The site is a natural extension of Hubby’s own work. “It started with rethinking my own process,” she explains, pointing to her other projects incorporating other artists. She’s also teamed up with her friend and frequent collaborator Saskia Wilson-Brown (founder of the Institute for Art and Olfaction) to showcase an eclectic mix of works that reflect their unique sensibility.

Combining Hubby’s curatorial spirit and Wilson-Brown’s organizational experience, they have created a site featuring pieces that, going for under $1000, are relatively low priced. “Saskia brings a fresh perspective,” says Hubby, adding that their past collaborations ended up being “bigger and more interesting than if [they] did it alone.”

Despite being a relatively young city, L.A.’s history of artist-run spaces dates back nearly 70 years. Today, these range from the fairly well established Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions to the raucous BBQLA hidden in the back of artist Thomas Linder’s studio — but few have successfully transitioned to the virtual realm.

Hubby hopes to change that. The works for sale at Curatorial Hub heavily represent L.A. and vary widely in terms of medium, theme, and aesthetic: Bob Dornberger’s sculptural “brick brushes” are for sale alongside Senon Williams’ delicate ink on paper and Nicola Vruwink’s quirky ceramics and jewelry.

Photo by Steven Rimlinger.

Hubby is interested in the tension that arises from an eclectic mix of works. It’s an opportunity “to have a dialogue and community,” she says, also citing the possibility of earning revenue from this venture. Curatorial Hub earns 30% on sales – significantly less than the typical 50/50 gallery split — and Hubby hopes the revenue earned from the site means she won’t “have to work a dozen other jobs to keep [her] own creative juices flowing.”

While artists on the site retain 70% of the sales, they are also responsible for packing and shipping their works (though they’re reimbursed for shipping costs). There are currently 50 artists represented on the site, a number slated to be doubled and then capped. Hubby currently has a waitlist of 40 artists who want to contribute work to the site, but she’s cautious about expanding too quickly.

In order to differentiate her site from other online art galleries, she emphasizes the community as core to the brand. “It’s more personal than other art sites. It’s like a fingerprint,” explains Hubby. Plans for the future also include new categories like books and prints, curatorial services such as framing, and content like visits to individual artists’ studios.

Hubby’s goal – curating an online gallery that’s friendlier and more welcoming than most – is aimed at the novice collector who may be more intimidated by the art world and its imposing white-box galleries. “People don’t even know where to begin to look,” laments Hubby, so Curatorial Hub is meant to be accessible for people who love art and design but find the gallery world daunting.

She’s hoping her initiative fills a gap most galleries are unable (or unwilling) to address. Working with her own gallery, Klowden Mann, Hubby’s trying to sell work that isn’t profitable enough for a gallery with overhead to bother with. The mix of artists includes some that have gallery representation and some that don’t.

Curatorial Hub provides a space for artists to sell work that isn’t their own website and that’s available between their own gallery shows. Hubby also hopes it’s a space for artistic experimentation, noting that artists “can play on a smaller scale or with objects outside of their normal practice.”

Most of all, she says, “It fits a niche that isn’t being addressed.”

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