Last updated: 13 February 2015
As showcases like DeviantArt might indicate, talented Brazilian artists are currently in no short supply.
Their insightful, creative designs can easily be found on many online galleries, and are highly appreciated by shoppers around the world who consume their art in a variety of formats, available from online marketplaces of multiple countries. However, when it comes to selling their work to their fellow Brazilians the options available become somewhat restricted.
For one, these artists could try their hands at online marketplaces focused on handmade, customized products like Elo7, which has recently been established in the country and has already received foreign investment and announced plans to expand in Latin America. All kinds of items can be found on their virtual store shelves, from wedding invitations to floor mats, vases and paintings. Though not defined as a high-profile gallery of artwork, it can be a great place for artists to test the waters of online retail in Brazil, particularly for those that experiment with different formats of decorative items.
The next step for gifted Brazilian drawers, illustrators and visual designers would be to try the county’s online galleries who merchandise quality prints of artwork, the largest of which is the Urban Arts franchise. Created in 2006, the gallery rapidly gained traction in the Brazilian market, opening its first physical store in 2011 and currently holding 16 affiliated stores in the country. Their business model is simple, derived from many foreign companies and yet largely unexplored in the country: artists submit their work, are selected by the gallery’s curators and receive a 20% commission for every print sold on their website or 10% for prints sold in stores.
Though unmatched in terms of providing visibility in Brazil, Urban Arts focus on working as an art gallery might be off putting to artists, especially for their contractual exclusivity clause which prevents exposed works from being available in national other outlets.
Artwork imprints on clothing and decorative formats
The Brazilian consumer audience, even if not widely recognized as one of the main consumers of art in the world, have developed a taste for home and decorative items sold online. Recent research by market intelligence provider E-bit indicates that this is the seventh largest sector of Brazilian e-commerce, responsible for 7% of all orders in the country. Many print on demand stores in this sector have recently been launched in Brazil, combining the offering of decorative items with the artwork of local designers and, this way, enabling a viable outlet for artists. Not only that, they tap into the items Brazilians buy the most through e-commerce: fashion and clothing.
One of these initiatives is Colab55, the self-pronounced pioneer in the production house model in Brazil. The startup from the city of Rio de Janeiro draws inspiration from international companies and allows artists to submit their work to be printed on demand and on multiple formats, like shirts, mugs, cell phone casings and cushions, while being able to set their desired sales price and receive royalties accordingly. Meanwhile, all functions of manufacturing, sales and shipping are handled by their platforms. And on top of all this, contract terms free artists to commercialize the same artwork elsewhere, whether inside Brazil or not.
“Almost every artist we talked to prior to the website’s launch said they would love to see products with their artwork - and had actually thought about it at some point - but did not have the time/money/experience to handle to whole process. We manufacture, deliver and even manage customer relations, like post-sale and bringing customers to the studios through a system similar to matchmaking. Our artists love it, they are really impressed with the ease and zero cost of the operation”, says Barbara Veloso, a former interaction designer for Google who co-founded Colab55 with partners Breno de Oliveira and Maria Eduarda Bandeira.
Her work, and the ones of over 200 artists, can be found on the website’s studios, or individual pages where each designer posts their art to be seen and purchased in any of the chosen formats. The structure is laid out to provide a sense of a social network, or an art hub, as the creators call it. “It is hard to find a community which encompasses that many national artists with amazing works”, recalls Barbara. “For the future of this segment, we bet on an innovative model that is almost handmade but at the same time scalable, in which on demand production and attention to customer care provide the uniqueness searched for by consumers.”
The showcased designs are inspired by various sources, from pop culture icons to geometry, collage and graffiti, often with elements of humor mixed in. As many of the country’s consumers start investing in elaborate decorative apparel that reflects their individual tastes, the broad range of styles and the ease for designers to introduce their work to Colab55’s marketplace could prove to be the definitive factors to the initiative’s success in Brazil.