Connecting collectors and curators: Vastari’s Bernadine Brocker and Naqiyah Sultan
Vastari, an online platform connecting collectors with curators for exhibition loans, is bringing arts practitioners into the digital era, and a former Art Radar student is helping realise that goal.
Naqiyah Sultan, a former art journalism student with Art Radar, joined start-up Vastari in 2012. Together with cofounder Bernadine Brocker, Naqiyah and the rest of the Vastari team are working to optimise communication between collectors and museums, introducing a new, digital model to the notoriously traditional world of loans and collecting.
Established by Bernadine Brocker in January 2012, Vastari works to connect private collectors and museum curators around the world through an online platform. Consisting of four relatively young women, the Vastari team speaks over ten languages between them and comes from a diversity of backgrounds, from international auction house Sotheby's to private galleries. Bernadine and Naqiyah, who studied with Art Radar in 2011, spoke to us about developing the business model, making Vastari work in Asia and dealing with the stuffier aspects of the art scene.
How did you come up with the concept behind Vastari?
Bernadine Brocker [BB]: I was managing an art gallery in Mayfair and people kept coming up to me saying, “why is my Degas not in the Royal Academy exhibition?” Or, “why did no one tell me that there was a show related to Manet coming up?” “How do I pitch my work to museums?” I did some research to find out how a collector who doesn't do the networking and doesn't do the philanthropy would be able to access these institutions. I was speaking to curators to find out if they would be interested in something like [Vastari]. The overall response was positive: curators wanted to borrow works from collectors, but don’t because it takes too long to find them. It is a lot more straightforward if you as a curator just borrow from another institution or from someone you already know. Usually if curators do want to find a work in private hands they have to go through a third party, an auction house or a dealer, and a lot of the time museums don’t want to endorse the market, so they just stay out of the process completely.
When I found all this out, I thought, “wait a second. This is something that could easily be solved through some sort of anonymous correspondence mechanism online.” The key is having these art objects available for the curators to see online while making sure they’re not available to everyone, only specific people seeking works out for specific reasons. The art market is notoriously private, obviously.