Vastari lets museums crowdsource privately-owned collectables for exhibitions

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Two female entrepreneurs and art lovers have come together to create Vastari – a link between art and technology that helps collectors and museums to communicate more effectively. Follow Innovation spoke to the Founders, Bernadine Brocker and Francesca Polo, who believe that there is no need to reinvent technology when you know an industry so well that just one twist can bring your business to the next level.

At TheNextWomen Innovation Summit, which took place this summer in Amsterdam, Vastari’s CEO Bernadine Brocker won the competition and impressed the Jury of 10 investors and financial professionals after successfully presenting her pitch. Before Vastari tasted the victory there was a journey full of hard work and testing interesting concepts.

At first, Vastari was founded to connect private collectors who were willing to share their work with museums for exhibition loans.

“Before we launched Vastari, the system was offline and a lot of opportunities for collaborations were missed because collectors didn’t have a source of information to be kept up to date with the events. As there wasn’t any centralised database, the collectors could only learn about the exhibitions once they open, which was obviously too late to contribute to with their artworks,” says Francesca.

Being in the right place, at the right time, Vastari couldn’t miss a chance to fix those ‘communication problems’, so they built a web platform which doesn’t have any time or geographical boundaries and automates the connections based on common interests.

Outside of the US and European markets, Vastari has representatives in China, Dubai, Australia and Brazil. Bernadine and Francesca are based in London, with developers located in Coventry and New York. “We believe in leaning on our people who work remotely. And it’s very helpful to have people in different time zones. You can be working with the museums in London during the day, speak to your web designer in New York in the evening and then in the morning, for example, we can contact more museums in China,” says Bernadine.

Regarding the actual working process with the clients, Francesca describes it as a quite straightforward method: “So there is a collection management system, where a collector can upload information and images of their pieces. A collector can choose to either keep it to himself for private management or to share pieces of the collection with the museums registered on the system.”

Francesca points out that institutions won’t be able to see the name of the owner attached, only the description of the piece.

Vastari also provides a second database, where museums can upload information in order to let the collectors know what they are looking for and what exhibitions they are planning. An email service integrated to the system allows the collectors and the museums to communicate in a private and convenient way.

“We were facing a bit of a chicken and egg situation initially because you need to have all of the objects on the system for the museums who may want to use it, plus we have to ensure that all of the museums are on the system for the collectors as well. So what we did is we made it possible for both parties to be reactive and active,” says Bernadine.

One of the Vastari’s distinguishing features is its approach to security and privacy. Bernadine and Francesca believe that trustworthiness is something that others might be missing.

“Everyone can do things anonymously, so collectors don’t need to disclose any personal details. Or in the case of museums, we don’t need to expose the name of each institution. Some museums can be protective about intellectual property and forthcoming exhibitions programme, so for example, if you are the British Museum and post a request on the system, you can do that anonymously so that no one will know that it is you working on that exhibition”.

“It’s nothing innovative really, we are not reinventing technology. It’s all about applying existing technology to the art world to make it more efficient in a similar way it’s been done in other industries before. Just listening to what other people say and thinking also helps us build the right product to respond to their needs”.

Vastari works with well-established artists, from antiquity to present day. Among the present ones are works from famous artists such as Anthony van Dyck, Salvator Rosa, Ai Weiwei, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

“We are not a part of any art entity, and we are supposed to be non-commercial to be able to work with museums. We are like Switzerland between the art non-profits and the commercial world.”