A new look for an old craft

A new look for an old craft

An innovative artist has found a way to make art interactive and accessible to everyone


Alice Zhang says everyone should be able to talk about and buy art, not just the rich or experienced.
Alice Zhang says everyone should be able to talk about and buy art, not just the rich or experienced.
Photo: Warton Li/SCMP
The internet has changed everything, even ancient systems such as the art scene. At least, this is what Alice Zhang, founder and owner of online art platform Mischmasch Gallery, has found.

Born in Hunan and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, the 26-year-old graduated with a Fine Arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design in the US in 2006. After graduation, Zhang worked as a graphic designer in New York and London. Her favourite pastime was visiting art galleries, and it soon sparked a bright idea.

"I went to a lot of great exhibitions which were held in some obscure, remote places. The art shows were amazing, but as the artists were not famous, they couldn't make it to a proper venue or gallery," she says.

Zhang, who has a keen interest in the internet and technology, began to develop a website where she and her friends could share their artworks. She realised its potential for other artists, and decided to move to Hong Kong, and launch Mischmasch in December 2008. As well as the online platform, Zhang runs a small studio in Central.

Choosing the German word Mischmasch, which means "a collection of unrelated things", led netizens in Europe to think it was a German website. The misunderstanding turned out to be a good thing, as several European artists expressed interest in getting involved. There are now more than 1,200 featured artists from all over the world, including the US, Germany, Italy, France, Britain and Asia.

The site showcases more than 3,000 pieces, ranging from traditional works such as paintings and sculptures, to new media and video presentations. For every piece sold in the studio, Zhang takes a commission of 50 per cent of the fee. For the live auction to be launched in April, a commission of 10 to 15 per cent will be charged.

Rather than a static display, Zhang wanted the platform to be interactive, so she set up a voting system by which users can pick their favourite artwork when browsing the site. The most popular artist then appears with their artwork on the front page until another artist is voted. This has made the site youth-oriented and more fun, says Zhang.

"It's all about transparency. Galleries used to be closed for a group of collectors or buyers. But the internet is open to all, and so is my platform. It's a good venue, especially for young and emerging artists, who can talk about their work, and hopefully sell it, too," says Zhang.

One such artist is local painter Emily Lau Wai who has been part of Mischmasch since the beginning. She has been voted as one of the most popular artists.

"The website allows us to show our work to people all over the world. We can also get feedback directly and immediately," says the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts graduate, who teaches art part-time.

"Mischmasch has made it possible for me to sell my work online. So far, I have sold more than 10 pieces to buyers from Hong Kong, and also Britain and the US. I think the platform is user-friendly and well designed.

"It allows people to share and view people's work from anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day. A traditional gallery can't offer that."

Zhang believes what she has created represents the future. "I think buying art on the web will be the trend in the next 10 years. And the challenge is how we use technology to create humanity, authenticity and empathy," she says.

"My virtual art gallery will never replace one's experience of visiting a real one, but it has changed the relationship among artists, galleries and the public."

Visit www.mischmaschonline.com to learn about artists and their creations



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