Art delivered to your door is only a fraction of the services offered via Kipton Cronkite and Christian Simond's newly launched website, @60" -- the Height of Art. The e-commerce, members-only gallery provides collectors a resource to access a highly curated roster of vetted emerging artists. First, you select from over 2,000 artists and their 11,000 pieces of artwork. Then comes the zing. Wait for it. Zing: SIN ("Sample It Now") Prints. Excuse me? SIN Prints: colored reproductions of the original artwork, watermarked and sized to its exact dimensions, sent directly to your door. As Dicaprio's Calvin Candie says in Django Unchained, "You had my curiosity, but now you have my attention."
Launched earlier this year, @60" -- whose name references the perfect height to hang art -- acquired all the necessary assets from Cronkite's previous outing KiptonART.com and added some panache. Not only does the site offer access to burgeoning artists, it curates exclusive sales and stylized online galleries, all selected by a trusted board of industry advisors that include an impressive roster of talent like Stephen Frailey, Chair of BFA Photography Program at SVA and Joseph Kraeutler, Partner at Hasted Kraeutler Gallery.
Extending the love to the artists themselves, the site offers @60" Studio, a back-end feature exclusive to interior designers, art advisors, and other art professionals. Within the virtual studio, artists can build personalized portfolios to display their work to prospective clients, work internally with their own team via the @60" Studio software, and create SIN prints to preview their work to scale.
To help celebrate the launch, I sat down with Mr. Cronkite and Mr. Simonds to give me a better picture (puns are the worst) of how this whole thing operates:
ERK: Can you both start by telling me something about you that I can't find scouring the interweb?
KC: I have a massive crush on Kristen Wiig. I once ran into her at an SNL taping and just blurted out "I love you." It just came out. Amazingly enough she said, 'Well, I love you!' and gave me a big hug.
CS: My friend and I once got so lost in the Badlands of South Dakota on a high-school trip. We wandered off from the group and started climbing the sediment hills, next thing we know we're gone, like way gone. Helicopters spotted us wandering the desert a day later, extremely dehydrated. There's a reason that place is called the Badlands, it's 120 degrees, no f'ing joke. Oh yeah, and Kathy Griffin once called me her "straighty" while at Buckingham Palace. That's equally interesting and unknown.
ERK: Talk me through the process of turning the initial concept into a fully realized business?
CS: Well, Kipton had been doing this since 2007 and had put together a roster of two thousand some artists. I came in with a group of people in 2011 with the vision was to take those artists and vet them down to a highly curated group that we could provide a platform for. Art is really one of the last luxury goods to be fully exploited on the Internet. I think it's the natural progression of where e-commerce is going in the luxury good market. So we brought together this team of people to take KiptonART and rebrand and relaunch it as @60". Marc Balet, the first art director at Interview magazine, helped develop the brand and the graphic design behind it. His team was instrumental in putting this vision together.
ERK: How many of those two thousand artists will be making the transition to @60" and how many will be new artists?
KC: KiptonART was built up over seven years, so with our curatorial team, we sifted through those artists and narrowed it down to a little over 70 artists for the new site. The goal was to have a consistent peer group of artists that are really on the same level; same trajectory in their art career.
CS: We work closely with galleries and offer guest curators every week. So not only did they come from the artists we sourced, they came from galleries. So, say an emerging artist or a mid-career artist is trying to establish themselves and get gallery representation, we offer a platform to give them a voice and help sell their work. Galleries come to us and say, "Hey I've got these three great artists that I might not have room for on my roster but why don't you guys put them in yours and see how their career grows?" The inventory is constantly refreshing itself as we have people coming out of MFA programs, referrals from artists, etc.
ERK: Let's say I know nothing about art or e-commerce, how would you explain navigating the site?
KC: First is creating a login; a user account. And then once you get to the home page, you'll see the curated sales. That could be an art insider, like an art gallerist, for instance Leone Benrimon. And then we have "Get The Look," so for people who might look up to an interior designer or a tastemaker, we photograph those people in their homes and they actually pick work from our roster of artists. We try to make it very user friendly and intuitive. They click on the curated sale, they learn about the curator, they see how they're connected in the art world, and they see what pieces they like.
CS: In addition, our News @60" has educational components. We've got an article that we just wrote about ten emerging artists that we think are next as well as studio visits with videos where you literally go into an artist's studio and take a look at their process and hear them talk about it. So if you get to the point where you're like "I really like this piece but I'm not sure i'm going to pull the trigger on a five-thousand dollar piece," you can order the SIN print, have it delivered to your house, and see what the piece would look like in its environment before committing. Kind-of similar to a Warby Parker or Birchbox sampling model.
ERK: Is it possible to commission an artist if we really take to their work?
KC: That's folded into the White Glove service, which includes all aspects of personalized art curation. Our team can help choose the right art for someone's space, collecting and investment preferences, while providing framing, shipping, handling and installation services. All done with white gloves, of course. I love this term from a visual perspective; so old school.
ERK: What's been the most exciting part of the collaboration thus far?
CS: I've known Kippy for about six or seven years. He has a passion for helping artists and he was before his time in terms of creating an online space for art. Gilt did it with fashion and One Kings Lane and 1stDibs did it with home décor. Because we were friends, I could see how much he was hustling -- the kid works hard -- and I just thought the idea needed to be updated and brought in line with where e-commerce is today. That's where myself and a few other strategic people stepped in and tried to help to develop this new voice that was disruptive and visually impactful. That's the most exciting part, I think, seeing the birthing process of this aesthetically beautiful site that also fulfills a functional need within the art community.
ERK: Is there any way in which you'd like to see the website grow over the coming years?
KC: Right now it's important that the art world sees us and that we maintain a focus on emerging artists and their work and bringing them to the collector's consciousness. Would we love to move into other aspects of the business? Yeah. And we have that plan. We want to start incorporating unique or limited edition furniture pieces.
CS: We have a great network of interior designers that really come to us as a one stop shop for art. They know that they can come to us, no third party involved, and curate the needs for their client's individual tastes. It became very evident while we were down at Art Basel talking to interior designers that they view their pieces as art. It became evident that this would be a natural progression for us to eventually start incorporating their pieces on the site.
ERK: It's a Sunday afternoon in NYC, where would you recommend going, gallery or museum?
CS: I'd have to say the MoMa because it has a design element, an art element, occasional performance art, it allows you to fulfill all those creative desires in one place. It's like a Long Island Ice Tea of creative juices. I could spend days in there and I've definitely made day of it, hit the museum, spend some time in the garden and then crush dinner at Modern. Good stuff.
KC: There are some great studios in Williamsburg and Bushwick. One of my favorite artist's studios is in Red Hook -- Jade Doskow. For the last four years, she's been documenting the sites of world's fairs around the world. She is also, not coincidentally, one of our top ten emerging artists to watch.
ERK: Thanks, boys.
Beginning on February 11th, @60" will welcome Danish designer Camilla Staerk for its Curated Sale. Known for her clean, minimal designs, she's established a celebrity following that includes Julianne Moore, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Liv Tyler and Helena Christensen. British Vogue called her a "future fashion star." Meanwhile, the "Get The Look" artist of the week is Co-Founder of Vaunte.com, Christian Leone. Ch-ch-check it out.