An online art marketplace provides its buyers with the opportunity to help social good organisations across the globe.
by Portia Ladrido
Before art was widely democratised, it was perceived to be a sector that only belonged to the upper echelons of society. Whilst artists of the 19th century had to be supported by immensely wealthy art patrons so they can keep creating, artists of the contemporary period have had more opportunities in pursuing their craft without being entirely dependent on their patrons.
Today, art, much like any other commodity, can be consumed in various forms, largely because of the internet. Devika Sarin, the founder of Art of Kindness, a marketplace for artworks, made use of the digital space as its venue for selling art. But she pushed this idea even further by injecting a social good aspect to her platform. For every product sold, the buyer can choose an organisation to support, where a portion of the proceeds from each sale is given to their social impact partners across the globe.
Art of Kindness had their first pop-up digital exhibit in London late last year, and Sarin talked to INKLINE about how the idea of that came to be, as well as how this ‘art for social good’ platform was born.
INKLINE: What’s the story behind Art of Kindness? What urged you to start the project?
Devika Sarin: Art of Kindness started as a family passion and grew into a thesis for my MBA at Imperial College. My dad is in the art space and so I have had exposure to the world of curation and provenance and all of the unique stories that accompany art and the collector. My background was in finance and social impact, and I thought that uniting the two could prove to be something really unique. To me, art and philanthropy are the perfect fit as both are supported by patronage, passion, and the love for mankind (the root of the word philanthropy).
I: What is your personal background? How did you get into this line of work?
D: I studied economics and environmental studies, have always been passionate about the arts and music. Professionally, I worked in finance for many years before doing some work in microfinance and for non-profits. I then pursued an MBA at Imperial College which prompted me to continue the idea and do the research needed to make it into a business, and provided me with the network and skills to do so.
I: What are the challenges that you have encountered in operating Art of Kindness?
D: Starting any business from the ground up is very challenging as it requires you to wear many hats and think deeply about how to build the bones of an organisation. Not coming from the art world, it was a challenge to build relationships with artists and collectors and put together the various partners that make up the Art of Kindness ecosystem. For us, it is all about shared resources for shared benefit, so keeping that in mind has always been a priority and it can be challenging when you are prompted to adapt to a very diverse set of industries.
I: How do you choose the social-philanthropic organisations that you partner with? Can you give examples of these organisations and why you chose them?
D: All of the organisations we work with are chosen based on specific criteria, these relate to transparency, integrity, storytelling being at the root of the organisation, and a strong reputation for achieving impact in their respective issue sectors and geographies. It was important for me to offer a variety of organisations as philanthropy is a personal thing, and these organisations work across multiple areas like water, sanitation, energy, environment and women’s empowerment all over the world.
One of the organisations, Charity: Water, works to provide clean water to every person on earth and is great at using technology to tell their story and relay the impact you can have on a developing community. They shared their VR video with those at our exhibition which really provided viewers with a deeper understanding of their work and how a contribution could help.
I: Why do you think art plays a role in doing social good?
D: The role of arts in society is extremely important in the wellbeing of humanity and promotion of creativity and innovation. Art has the ability to transcend boundaries and encourage us to think and engage with issues and emotions regardless of the time or socio-economic climate. Therefore the ‘good’ and social value inherent in art can be utilised to promote the good in other areas, telling a beautiful narrative at the same time.
I: What has been the most gratifying thing about running Art of Kindness?
D: Meeting incredible and inspiring people, working on something that is powered by collective action, seeing an idea grow from the very beginning and being able to pursue something that I am extremely passionate about.
I: What was the exhibit like?
D: The launch exhibition was amazing! We were so grateful to everyone who supported us and helped make it a reality. I feel it was a good preview of our platform, with the works of the artists on display and technology that enabled viewers to learn more about the artists and the partners and Art of Kindness. Having members from the art, philanthropy and social impact community only helped enhance the experience further. We also had a night featuring a live painting by artist and yoga guru Dr Bharat Thakur that was broadcasted live on Facebook.
I: Where do you see it going in the next few years or so?
D: We hope to be fully functioning online in the next few years, extending our impact across art and philanthropy. We have exciting plans that we will uncover along the way as to how we will deepen this new Art of Kindness experience.
Portia Ladrido is a multimedia journalist specialising in social justice, culture, and the arts. She is a human rights journalism fellow at the Philippine Human Rights Information Center and the Metro Manila hub coordinator of the Solutions Journalism Network. She currently writes speeches for the Philippines’ first female socialist senator. Previously, she worked as an editor and writer at CNN Philippines.