With a strong focus on community and helping local talent, Access London were excited to find out more about DegreeArt.com and Co-Founder Elinor Olsen.
Where did the inspiration for DegreeArt.com come from?
It was whilst my business partner Isobel and I were studying at arts-based universities in London.
We became aware that there were many talented artists graduating without anyone to represent them during the early stages of their careers.
We had a unique opportunity to connect highly talented British trained artists with the art-buying public who were eager to support and own their artwork. We saw the burgeoning power of online and e-commerce as a clear solution.
Why did you choose Bethnal Green to open the gallery?
We were well advised in 2005 by a client who had been investing in property in the area for several years.
They told us look where the artists were and that regeneration often follows where they set up, and this was certainly true of Bethnal Green, which continues to be a hotbed of artistic talent.
He was quite right and we were able to establish an exciting gallery space here in an old 1950’s warehouse to showcase our artists and to be amongst other creatives.
What is the best thing about being in Bethnal Green?
It is only 15-20 minutes from Central London, the City, Westfield and Canary Wharf, making it incredibly accessible, yet the area maintains its unique East End atmosphere.
We share our street with everything from tech startups to taxi repair garages.
The area has benefitted dramatically from the development that the Olympics brought and with Crossrail coming we expect things to continue developing.
Whilst the changes have had the downside of some artists losing their studio spaces, we have a wealth of restaurants, bars, galleries and creative popups, which brings clients to the area to enjoy all it has to offer.
DegreeArt.com offer a range of services, commissioning artwork being one – is this commonplace in the art world?
Absolutely, this is a service that many clients take advantage of in order to create a piece that is bespoke to fit their needs. It allows work to incorporate elements that reference a special occasion, such as a wedding day or perhaps be a specific size to fit an intended space.
What is the starting price of a piece of art from DegreeArt.com?
Prices for a piece of original artwork start from £50.00, and we have artwork to suit every budget. We sell paintings, photography, sculptures and prints.
What, to you, makes a piece of artwork beautiful?
Art is completely subjective. We handpick and promote artwork by artists that have been formally trained and who show exciting potential to develop their careers.
I have the greatest admiration for artists as they are able to take materials, combine and blend them to create beautiful artwork that bring pleasure to us when we display them in our homes or workplaces.
My personal taste is for art that tells a story. I believe that art is the very best way to understand history and to create a legacy.
My husband and I have an eclectic collection of pieces that mean something to us. We have also commissioned several pieces, including portraits of our children and dog.
You are members of Own Art, the Arts Council’s interest-free loan scheme for buying art. How did you become involved in this?
Own Art is an incredible service that allows you to spread the payment of a piece of original artwork over 10 months, interest free.
It helps make artwork accessible and affordable. I have purchased most of my own collection using it over the years. You can apply online or in-person at the gallery.
How do you build relationships with the artists?
It is fundamentally important to us at the gallery that we have handpicked all of our artists.
We have established relationships with universities, allowing us to identify artists we would like to work with early on in their training, and we are constantly scouting for artists that stand out and have the potential to appeal to our customers.
On your website you state that your philosophy is “taking a vested interest in the development of the artist” – how do you do this?
If you look back at which artists have been most successful, it is those who were backed by a patron or dealer.
We believe fundamentally that galleries serve a vital role in the art ecosystem, identifying talent, mentoring the artists, brokering relationships with customers and ensuring provenance of artwork purchased.
We fulfil this role ensuring that our clients purchase hand-selected, quality artwork from artists destined for career longevity.
Which artists that you stock are ones to watch?
This is such a difficult question as I have so many, and the list constantly keeps growing as new artwork is added to our website daily!
I have been a huge fan of artist Sophie Derrick, who we have worked with since she graduated from Wimbledon. Her process fascinates me.
Most recently I collected a piece by digital collage print artist Alexandra Gallagher, who combines the past, present and future in her work.
Local artist Lauren Mortimer has recently produced a beautiful new series of detailed charcoal drawings which her collectors have been snapping up and that she has also made available as limited edition prints.
Additionally, we have recently begun working with a very exciting Chinese artist Mengyao Guo, who trained in London and creates beautiful geometric abstract works. I find her lines and choice of colours so pleasing.
Finally, our artist incredible portrait artist Nick Lord, who has achieved so much since his graduation including winning the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year award and painting sitters including Sophie Dahl, Hilary Mantel and Lance Sergeant Johnson Gideon Beharry VC.
Tell us about yourselves – what did you do before DegreeArt.com?
Since graduating, DegreeArt.com has been my sole career! I feel privileged to have found something that I am still to this day so passionate about, and a job that allows me to see new things and meet new people every day. Isobel and I have grown the business significantly over the past decade and continue to develop what we do. Most recently we have launched a platform, called Artellite, to allow other galleries and artists to sell art online.
You recently sold through our Bow office – how did you find your experience with the team and would you recommend Keatons to a friend?
Selling your home is not something you expect to be enjoyable! However, dealing with the Keatons team couldn’t have been a more enjoyable experience.
The whole process gave us confidence and the communication was perfect. You can tell that they are a real team, and the outcome of the sale completely exceeded any expectations we had.
I would absolutely recommend Keatons to my friends and family without hesitation, and have in fact already done so!
A: 12 Vyner Street, Bethnal Green, E2 9DG