In 2015, Lorenzo Uggeri swapped his job as an analyst in the steel industry to launch an online marketplace for fine art: Kooness.com. The platform now showcases work from over 600 galleries across the globe and last year, Uggeri appeared on Forbes’ prestigious 30 under 30 list in Art & Culture. We put the young entrepreneur in our 6 Questions hot seat.
1. How did you come up with the concept of Kooness?
Four years ago, I was at my friend’s house and a friend of hers gave her a piece of artwork as a gift. We were spending a lot of time trying to understand which wall the artwork should be hung up on in order for it to fit best in the space. At that moment, I thought of the idea to make an app with virtual reality [technology] to understand where the artwork can fit best.
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At that time I was working as an analyst in a big company in the steel industry. After I came up with the idea, I started studying the art business market, in particular the online art market and I found out that there were many different possibilities. I decided to quit my job and move to New York City where I attended a summer course at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art.
While I was in New York, I changed the business plan for Kooness. From the initial idea of virtual reality, I decided that Kooness was going to be an online marketplace where galleries could increase their sales and find collectors, and collectors could find artists and galleries.
2. Is the platform designed more for established collectors or new buyers?
Our motto is to transform simple customers today into the collectors of the future. The idea of Kooness is to democratise the art world and give access to people that are not really in the art market. From an outside perspective, the art market appears to be very closed off. People are often afraid to ask about prices and information when they go to galleries, therefore Kooness gives people the possibility to experience the art world in a different way. At the same time, we also have established collectors that use our platform since we work with over 600 galleries in 25 different countries, which gives collectors the chance to see new artwork from smaller galleries and young emerging artists. Therefore, we cater to both new and established collectors.
3. How are online art platforms impacting the larger art market?
Online platforms are completely transforming the art market. Many major auction houses are investing in creating their own online platforms to give clients the possibility to bid directly. The world is constantly becoming more digital and it is necessary for the art world to join in.
When I started Kooness, people were very sceptical since it was a completely new way of doing things and it made them uncomfortable. The segment of our platform is increasing, the revenue is double digits every year. In a couple of years, the revenue will come from the online platforms for galleries, auction houses and collectors inside the art market.
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4. What advice would you give to a first time buyer looking to build a collection?
I would give them the same advice as an experienced collector gave me the first time: buy what you like. I have talked to many experienced collectors, they all have told me the exact same thing: collecting is a process and you will never start out with discovering the new Picasso of this generation as your first piece. When you start collecting, your taste will change and you will start to develop an eye.
5. Which galleries should we be keeping our eye on right now?
I can not really name names as I work with many galleries. I was recently in Basel and there were many amazing galleries there, from established to new. There are also many great galleries from Milan that play an important role in the art world today such as Massimo De Carlo gallery and Francesca Minini. It is quite difficult to suggest a gallery since you find so many different things in each gallery, it depends what you are looking for.
6. What’s next for Kooness?
We have big plans. By the end of July, we will launch our blog chain platform for the certification of artwork. For a platform like Kooness and I think I can talk of behalf of my competitors as well, it is important to give the collectors something new every 2-3 months since the competition is very high. There are many smart and young people working in the art industry and everyone plays a small part from working the blog chain to working as an advisor. Therefore, it is important to embrace every aspect and include them in one platform, which is what I do with Kooness. I make improvements around every three months to give the collectors and users new ways to experience art in order to provide the best digital art experience.
Discover Kooness: kooness.com
Interview by Andrea Stenslie