Athi-Patra Ruga’s iridescent art on black pioneers + more in Sculpture Garden
Unsung Art Online Shop in Cape Town
The virtual marketplace making once-off contemporary artworks affordable and accessible
The problem with the idea of acquiring art is, it’s a pie-in-the-sky sort of dream for the average person with an average-sized pocket. An original sketch is not the sort of purchase anyone puts in the same price bracket as, say, a pair of shoes or a kitchen appliance, and it’s certainly not the kind of buy you’d think of as being just on the other side of the Internet.
And that’s where online start-up Unsung Art turns everything on its head. The passion project of three Cape Town-based entrepreneurs, the new virtual store – it launched in March 2014 – makes quality, once-off artworks as affordable to the ordinary individual as any blender or set of boots and it puts pieces just a mouse click away from customers’ hands. Not to mention, it gives all those emerging unsung heroes (hence the name) of the local art world an easily accessible place to display their creations.
“It’s a platform that works both for up-and-coming artists who find it difficult to get into exclusive galleries and everyday people, who now have the opportunity to buy original works without breaking the bank,” explains co-founder Jess Kramer.
And the fact that it all happens in cyberspace helps to bring these two communities – the creators and the clients – together in a relaxed, unthreatening environment, encouraging a more down-to-earth culture around the act of purchasing art. As Jess says, “People tend to find walking through a traditional gallery quite intimidating, but Unsung Art removes the daunting part because you’re browsing from the comfort of your own home.”
That doesn’t mean it’s not serious business though. Almost all of the 18 (and counting) artists who sell their pieces through the portal work full-time in the trade, and while most are still in the earlier stages of their careers, a few, like Atang Tshikare and Robert Greeff, are internationally renowned, producing paintings and drawings that are now worth huge sums (they go for as little as R200 via the virtual platform). So, patrons of the e-store, which boasts a clean, sleek aesthetic, can count on getting brilliant value-for-money deals and scoring budget-friendly investment pieces.
Because the co-founders are aware that people have vastly different tastes, they’ve stocked the shop with a wide variety of diverse artworks in an assortment of mediums. There’s everything from pencil sketches, vibrant collages and watercolour paintings to ink drawings and striking photographs, and visitors to the super user-friendly site can browse through the various options easily and get a good feel for each piece’s look and size thanks to large visuals and a quirky scale that gives viewers a real sense of the dimensions. Most of the creations are unframed, but very soon, buyers will have the option to get their purchases edged in-house before they’re delivered.
Speaking of delivery, it’s both fast and fairly priced. Unsung Art will drop items off anywhere in South Africa within three or four days for around R70, which means that changing up your wall jewellery on a regular basis becomes a pretty effortless endeavour.
That’s the whole pull, of course: suddenly, thanks to this Cape Town-based virtual venture, owning artworks has become something of an attainable sort of dream, even for those watching their pennies – there’s nothing ‘pie-in-the-sky’ about aiming to be an art collector anymore.
Tip: If you’re not so comfortable with the idea of buying anything virtually, you can always pop in to Unsung Art’s studio in the Bo-Kaap to view the works in person.
The Bill: As already stressed, prices are a steal. Artworks cost between R150 and R1500 even though many of them are worth much more than this, and it’s also possible to buy gift vouchers to give someone special as a unique present. Payment is made in rands via the safe and reputable PayFast portal.
Eager to learn about other locally based virtual marketplaces? Read our overview of online stores in South Africa.
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