Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Saachi Artists' Myspace

Charles Saatchi is one of the world's brilliant admen. Forming Saatchi and Saatchi, with his brother in 1970, the agency captured British advertising imagination, including electing the conservative party, for which maybe they can be forgiven, and Margaret Thatcher, the first woman as prime minister, and which most agree, was mixed. (In an ironic turn, Thatcher was depicted as a child in a clever television ad for breakfast oats.) Saatchi and Saatchi later merged to giant Publicis and is now headed by Kevin Roberts who is known for his emotional branding and the value of industrial design as a branding element. Ousted from S+S in a boardroom battle, Saatchi and his brother formed independent M+C Saatchi. Meanwhile Charles took an interest in art. He correctly realized that artists' central problem of sustainability is that interested collectors and curators have no way of knowing they exist.

His first approach was to form a gallery and successfully promote the careers of young British artists which is now capitalized. His latest is YourGallery, for any artist, and STUART, a myspace for student artists. Student artists are posting photos and videos of their works, free forming self descriptions and friending other artists on the site. STUART is searchable by school. The site is still a bit primitive in function but has attracted ten thousand artists plus, primarily split US and UK, with no publicity.

The strength of STUART/YourGallery is that the process of artistic creativity is driven by artists communication one to another (David Hickey) and that a network of artists may allow navigation of the myriad of styles in the art world through the artists' self generated links. Galleries may contact the artists securely as have some. To date, only one artist I know in Portland has a profile.

Today, social networking sites, venture funded, are fetching valuations of $10 to 100 per member (Myspace 2005, Facebook rumor, today). A famous cartoon from 1993 quips "On the internet, no one knows you are a dog". The social networking field is so exuberant that one site is actually a social networking site for pets! So Saatchi's creation is a good bubble bet, as is art, booming with stock market's disposable income.

STUART/YourGallery's weakness is that artists are not the greatest demographic to sell things to, and selling is the raison d'ĂȘtre for the valuations. Ad revenue valuations are running at about $8 per year per subscriber leading, but growth rates of over 300% per year reduce that number in years' future. Perhaps Saatchi will invest early in a few of those artists' careers, generating excess cash. So far his track record is good, with Hirst's "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" - his famous preserved shark, fetching a multiple of 85 in valuation over 15 years. Another possibility is using the site for an ANP-style platform as I have written of previously.

What is the message? If you are a Portland artist, consider it part of your personal brand to the world to sign. It's free.