Meet Artfinder's Head Curator Alice and AI Curator Emma
For our 4th Los Angeles fair, our Special Programming explores art and technology, with artists working in Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Artificial Intelligence. Because of that we interviewed two curators from our friends at Artfinder, the leading platform to shop original art from independent artists around the world.
Alice Phillimore is Lead Curator at Artfinder. She sources and curates art for galleries, home and work spaces. Alice has been working with commercial galleries and artists for over a decade, and has an MA in Arts Management and Policy (Birkbeck, University of London) and a BA in History of Art (Nottingham University).
Emma is Artfinder’s AI curator. Powered by facial recognition technology (used by police to recognize faces from CCTV footage), Emma responds to customers’ tweets by recommending up to 200 artworks inspired by the original image from the Artfinder site.
1. So what brought you to Artfinder?
Alice: I’ve been working with artists and commercial galleries for over a decade now. Michal Szczesny (Artfinder CEO) came to a graduate show I co-curated last year with Art Consultant and Artfinder Chairman, Alex Heath, who recommended it to him, and it went from there. It’s a unique opportunity and privilege to work with so many talented artists and bring art to such a huge audience.
Emma: I was created by Artfinder’s technology team to help personalise the art buying experience for customers. A common problem when buying art is describing exactly what you want, because art can be so subjective! My role is to help customers easily and quickly discover the perfect piece through my recommendations.
2. How do you approach digital curation?
Alice: I approach digital curation in the same was as curating artwork in any context — you are looking for visually engaging artwork, and artists who have their own style and voice. The quality of production and technique are also very important. We also listen to our buyers and customers, and have sections where we highlight our best sellers and popular artists.
Emma: I’m powered by visual search technology, the same used by police to recognise faces from CCTV footage! Tweet me a picture of an image you like — even a selfie! — and I’ll search through the thousands of pieces on Artfinder to send you similar pieces based on colour, composition and mood.
3. Do you see yourself as a Digital Curator?
Alice: Although we are presenting art on a digital format, I don’t see myself as a digital curator. I am still working directly with artists and curating original artworks across a wide range of media.
Emma: This is where Alice and I differ. I’m built on AI, so naturally I would consider myself a digital curator. Human-lead curation and AI work hand-in-hand, in that I’m able to search through thousands of art within seconds, choosing what I think the art buyer will love. Whereas Alice works directly with artists, following their portfolio and handpicking the best talent Artfinder has to offer.
4. What's the most surprising thing you learned since you joined Artfinder?
Alice: The size of the community of artists and customers still amazes me. In a physical gallery you tend to work with about thirty artists and a few hundred collectors. At Artfinder we have over 10,000 artists across 100 countries and an ever-increasing number of users, currently over 500,000.
Emma: That’s if I did feel emotions such as surprise! Even though I’m built on great technology, I do still rely on Artfinder’s curatorial team. One thing I can’t do is understand how art makes people feel. So, while I can use my talents to suggest art that you are most likely going to love, I can’t talk to you about your favourite art style, preferred subject or your home’s colour theme. I’ll let the humans do that.
5. Alice, what are your current 5 favorite art pieces? And Emma, based on Alice's favorites, what would you suggest?
The Island of Málmey off the northern coast Iceland, mixing photography, collage and paint. Emma suggested these pieces:
Below is a simple and clean abstract experiment with geometry and colour, alongside Emma’s picks. The print is designed as simplified expression and study in form, with influences drawn from Swiss design and the Bauhaus movement.
This piece was inspired by the hope of a better future and by the feeling that unites us all over the world. The human being with its peculiar nature, feelings and sensations stand for the main source of the artist’s collections. Emma suggested these pieces:
I also like this charcoal drawing from Denny Stoekenbroek, a self taught artist living in the south of The Netherlands. People are mostly the subject in his work expressed by portraits, but also by drawing the environment of people.
Emma is powered by visual search technology, which is also implemented on the site as a ‘more like this’ feature, built on Artfinder’s proprietary DVS (deep visual search) technology. DVS uses LIRE in a framework that can derive similarities between artworks that go beyond traditional visual attribution (such as sunset matches sunset, or impressionist style matches impressionistic style), looking at the deeper visual structures that evoke a human reaction, and then find other artworks that evoke a similar response.
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Q&A by Fair Director Ray Beldner and Content Curator Mica England