A cross-cultural arts and crafts experience unfolds in Chelsea, Manhattan, with the opening of a new gallery space that fuses the traditional skills of Italian artisans with the new ideas of artists, designers and curators contemporaries.
Artemest Galleria, which opened earlier this month at 518 West 19th Street, is the first physical gallery and showroom for Artemest, a high-end interiors and lifestyle website.
The site, launched in 2015, connects more than 1,400 Italian artisans with an international audience of designers, architects and private clients looking for luxury furniture and handmade objects, ranging from something from as small as a standing marble cake to leather sofas and Murano glass chandeliers.
The new 5,000 square foot multipurpose space operates like an art gallery, with exhibits changing every three months; an event space and office where architects, interior designers and other clients can plan projects and source decor, furniture and lighting.
Artemest Galleria is currently hosting an exhibition titled “Blow”, intended to showcase the skills and craftsmanship of Murano glassblowers as seen through the eyes of Caribbean native artist Bradley Theodore.
The space is filled with large and small-scale works by Theodore, which have a Pop Art feel — and are nothing like anyone’s idea of a traditional Murano glass chandelier. There are giant installations of pineapples and palm trees, a colorful glass sculpture by Frida Kahlo, and mirrors adorned with skulls hanging from a background covered in hand-painted wallpaper.
Theodore’s works were created by Italian glassblowers Ongaro e Fuga; Fratelli Tosi; Luci Italia; Specchi Veneziani; Multifaceted; Venice Factory and Covi e Puccioni.
‘Blow’, which premiered in June at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, shows just how different Artemest is from other furniture and interiors showrooms.
Artemest Galleria, and the exhibitions it plans to host, are the co-founders’ way of telling the world that traditional craftsmanship is not dead, dying or dusty and that millions of Italian artisans continue to use centuries-old skills to make everyday objects.
“The goal is to invigorate the crafting world without making it dumb,” says Ippolita Rostagno, co-founder and creative director of Artemest.
“We’re trying to take people’s notion of craftsmanship out of the dusty closet, shine a new light on it, and show what it really means to be contemporary. Craftsmanship is not only tied to tradition, or to a specific type of old world, maker culture. It can also be invigorated by the influence of artists, designers and people who have traditionally not had access to this incredible wealth of craftsmanship and design,” she adds.
Artemest Galleria plans to bring in a different artist, curator or creator every three months who will align with different artisans and create new works for a series of exhibitions.
The New York-based Rostagno, a fine jewelry designer who grew up outside of Florence and studied sculpture in the Italian city, is passionate about the country’s traditional craftsmanship.
Rostagno was originally going to call the website Italy.com, so keen was she to promote the country’s artisans who were struggling to survive in a rapidly changing digital world.
“This whole adventure started as a passion project for me. I could see all these artisans closing their businesses and I was so disturbed by that fact because I knew the customers were there,” says Rostagno.
She teamed up with co-founder Marco Credendino, who had worked on the corporate and strategy side of the Yoox Net-a-porter group. Their aim was to bring together Italian craft businesses on a single, organized platform and present them to the rest of the world.
Artemest aims to do for Italian artisans what Farfetch did for small multi-brand retailers, by handling international marketing and offering a sales platform, as well as digital and customer services.
Italy is estimated to have over 1.3 million small arts and crafts businesses, many of which are family businesses, employing over 3 million people. According to Rostagno and Credendino, many of these companies have been left behind by the Internet boom.
In the beginning, when Credendino was setting up the technology and the logistics side of the business, Rostagno “travelled through Italy by train looking for all the little craftsmen in every nook and cranny. I told them: ‘There will be a website, and we will sell your beautiful things.’ And some of them looked at me like I had two heads,” she said.
Artemest sells in all categories, including home and living, decor, art, and furniture. The highly curated site has its own magazine, with articles and profiles of craftsmen, interior design elements and lush editorial shots.
The opening of Artemest Galleria was the next step in the journey, a way to meet the needs of the existing community and promote Italian artisans to a new audience.
Credendino says the opening of Artemest Galleria has been crucial to the development of the brand, as it allows the company to “tell many different stories, engage and re-engage with customers” and create a like-minded community that is passionate and supportive of high-end craftsmanship. .
“E-commerce will always be our core business, but in markets where we already have a strong customer base, we want to be in the community. We want to build physical spaces where we can meet our customers and invite them to view new collections. he says.
Rostagno adds that New York was a natural place to open the first Artemest Galleria because “it’s the mecca of all design companies. Architects and interior designers are based here and the United States is our number one market, so it made sense to have a physical space where we can really meet our community.
The new space is located on the ground floor of a building designed by Annabelle Selldorf of Selldorf Architects. It is located opposite the David Zwirner Gallery.
Rostagno says she and Credendino preferred the artsy downtown neighborhood to New York’s furniture district because they wanted to focus on the intersection of arts and crafts rather than portray themselves as a other furniture and interior store.
The new space also has a garden, where Artemest plans to host events and showcase outdoor furniture starting next spring. In addition to the garden and the gallery, there is a project room, a sample room and an office space for meetings.
In the future, there will be workshop space for architects, interior designers and private clients to work on residential and commercial projects and preview finishes, fabrics and materials.
Credendino adds that New York is just the beginning. The business partners plan to open three more showrooms over the next three years, most likely on the West Coast of the United States and in the Middle East.
Their ultimate goal is to expand beyond Italy, to appeal to craftsmen and artisans around the world and help them market and sell their creations using Artemest’s technology, services and logistics.