INTERVIEW: ROXANE BAEYENS, FOUNDER OF A TOUCH OF ART
Roxane (32) knows the art world inside out. Over the years, she got to know it from all perspectives, working for several artists, galleries and art spaces in Belgium, equipping her with a full understanding of its delicate inner workings. Here, she talks about her vision for a touch of art, how the art industry is changing, what keeps her motivated, and more.
What gave you the idea to create a touch of art?
It all happened very organically. For five years I worked as an assistant of Belgian painter Robert Devriendt, helping with administration and communication. Over time, I got to know the art world better and better, met a lot of artists, and listened to their needs. I realized there was a lack of services in this area and tried to figure out what I could offer to help. a touch of art gives answers to questions raised by artists – we adapt our services to the demand, to what artists really need. And actually not only artists: we soon also started offering services for galleries, non-profits and collectors. Especially beginning collectors are often thankful for a bit of tailor-made guidance in terms of how and where to start.
What about artists who are already represented - don’t their galleries offer these services already? Where do you come in?
a touch of art is not a competitor to galleries, not at all. I strongly believe in the gallery system, but not necessarily in the “old” one. Currently, there’s a positive shift in mentality taking place: more and more galleries are willing to work together and even share spaces, like Plus One Gallery and Sofie Van De Velde in Antwerp for example. Or look at Baronian and Xippas in Brussels. This is so important. Otherwise we’ll end up with an art world ruled by just a few mega-galleries. With a touch of art we want to contribute to preventing that and build an alternative. We want to support both artists and galleries. Galleries just don’t have enough time to deal with every single request by every single artist in their portfolio, because they have so much on their plate. It’s not that they don’t care! But sometimes artists can get frustrated. That’s where a touch of art comes in: We coach the artists to communicate better, we help the galleries with their PR campaigns, and also match them with young collectors, for example.
What services are demanded the most?
Subsidy files are a huge issue for artists, as well as for non-profit organizations. Artists also frequently ask for strategic advice, especially those who aren’t represented by a gallery yet. The curriculum in art schools is slowly adapting, but most artists don’t really know how to navigate the art world and get ahead – and I’m not actually sure they should. I don’t think artists should think strategically in the studio – it often leads to bad art. Many of them need help planning certain projects, such as publishing a book, for instance. Last but not least, communication is a troubling topic for a lot of artists. Keeping up with social media, writing compelling newsletters and having a captivating, up-to-date website can be pretty stressful tasks for them. Did you know the average user spends only four minutes on a website? It makes it hard to get your message across!
Why did you choose to work in the art world? What is it that fascinates you about art?
I think art is in service of life, in the way Nietzsche explained it. It helps you cope with life; it makes you truly see. However, I don’t think art needs to be political or engaged: it can raise issues, but not solve them.
What have you learned since you founded a touch of art?
I think the major takeaway is that you have to be really careful and discreet. I feel like in the art world it’s still a bit of a taboo to ask for help, for galleries and artists alike. It’s a particular world, with its very own rules. Yes, you can of course apply marketing strategies from other sectors, but you always need to adapt them to the distinctive characteristics of the art world.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I will never forget the first time I managed to match a gallery with an artist. It was such a great feeling. I just wanted to jump from joy. Other moments that make it all worth it are when an artist tells me “I’m so happy you are there to help”.
How is a touch of art different from the big agencies?
Everyone we work with we try to get to know on a personal level. When we do PR campaigns for example, we don’t just send out mass mailings. We try to be aware of every journalist’s likes and dislikes and know exactly what kind of articles, columns they write and when they get published. We believe that a personal approach is the key to success. But above all it’s important for us to work in an ethical way. Content always comes first!