Aaron Isaac’s versatile and global upbringing gave him a first hand look into the existing gap between arts and society at large. To help combat this imbalance, Isaac founded Artifact, an online platform where artists have a voice and own their story. Artifact’s mission is to make art for everyone by reinventing how it is experienced and how artists are discovered. We sat down with Isaac to discuss the impetus for creating Artifact, its role in the art industry, and his hopes for the future of the platform.
What is your background? When did you become interested in art?
A large part of my identity and perspective comes from growing up in Singapore, where I spent the first 21st years of my life. I served in the Armed Forces and then left Singapore to attend Babson College. Upon graduating, I became a partner in a software outsourcing company in Poland with Marcin, our current CTO, which we leveraged to create Artifact’s technology platform.
In Singapore, I experienced both the benefits and trials of a rigid education system with little to no focus on the arts and as a result, the relationships it created between society and the creative industries. Being an artist or art professional was perceived as lazy and uninspiring, compared to careers in medicine, law, and engineering. None of my peers visited museums or galleries, nor were they encouraged or concerned to learn about art or the people devoted to the space. I made it a personal quest to prove that art is for everyone and art can be as present and important in our lives as music & film.
The first step in that journey was learning from my father, who was an artist himself. When I was younger, I loved asking him about his artworks, discovering a great deal about him through his work and the journey he would undergo to complete each one. I understood that artists go through a journey throughout their careers, where their perspectives, medium of expression and references to their life experience change and evolve. When my father would finish a piece, he could speak about it for hours, from every material, every brushstroke and inspiration. As he grew older, the same passion and willingness to explain his work would diminish. The stories that made me fall in love with his work, faded and importantly were not accessible to anyone but me.
I realized how little opportunity there was for the general population to learn more about this industry and the heroes that are a part of it. So came the solution to my quest, I wanted to capture the artist’s vision fresh, unedited, in their own words and in a sense, immortalize it. Giving access to these stories would also ‘humanize’ art, break up the jargon and give the public a much desired, more personal and intimate connection to a piece of art, the bridge between the public and art that I had always been looking for.
What was the impetus for creating Artifact?
Beyond my personal experience, I discovered information about today’s art and artists is fragmented, incomplete and cycled through countless intermediaries like galleries and PR professionals until so much of the conversation sounds like impenetrable jargon where the voice of the artist is unrecognizable.
Their sales page is on one marketplace, their exhibition history on static text scattered on the websites of different galleries, and their perspective on the piece reserved for those who can visit their studio—not to mention needing to update their Instagram, personal website, and more.
Artists and their work are a vital part of our culture. When information is altered, or worse when there is no place to capture the artist’s vision, identity and social critique, a piece of that cultural insight is lost forever. More importantly, artists themselves lose all their agency as others control their information, a vital currency in today’s world.
It starts once a gallery or dealer receives the ability to dictate the story, price, and purchasers of the work. It ends when the artist is given the number of pieces they should create and what their practice should consist of. This behavior is damaging to the legacy of the artist, the provenance of their pieces and collectors that own their works.
Artists deserve, just like anyone, to own their information and control how their art is experienced and communicated. This will allow artists to have more control over their careers, be more easily discovered and foster closer relationships with their audience. Beyond more agency for the artists, documenting the artist’s voice provides a richer and honest perspective of our time, one of the key benefits we have relied on art and artists to do for so long.
What is Artifact?
Artifact is where Artists have a voice and own their story. Our mission is to make art for everyone by reinventing how it is experienced and how artists are discovered.
Artifact is a unique immersive platform that allows anyone to uncover the story behind a piece of art and see how it is connected to the world around us, in the voice of the artist them self. Artists create interactive portfolios, making their work and their stories searchable to art professionals and aficionados all over the world. This networking platform brings together art professionals and artists by providing access to previously unrecorded and fragmented information about artists and art.
By giving artists a commonplace and an innovative art cataloging tool to document the entire journey of their artworks, Artifact delivers a much-desired closer connection to artists, a more approachable industry and a foundation for innovation in all its sectors.
How is Artifact bridging the gap between the public and the arts?
Artifact’s platform invites the public to engage with the artist and art like never before. Each artwork has its own URL, showcasing its unique profile of two viewpoints, the artwork’s ancestry – showcasing its journey through life from verified provenance to a geographic map highlighting the influences the artist had and symbols on each work that reference our surrounding environment and the artwork’s pulse – short answer questions highlighting the work’s reason for creation and the artist’s opinion of it. This viewpoint also includes pictures and videos of the creation process as well as any other media the artist would like to share.
By providing access to information on one global public platform, we tie every influence, reference, relationships, component, style, exhibition, course, showcase, and creating a welcoming and transparent environment for the public to engage with. Artifact invites you to develop a personal relationship, on your terms, with art and artists today.
Who is Artifact’s target audience?
The platform is dedicated to everyone, everywhere that has felt a sense of intimidation, mystery or lack of understanding towards the industry, art and the passionate stories & expressions tied to it all.
We found artists to be a large part of that group. We exist first and foremost to serve them. Artifact’s interactive portfolios act as a facilitator and complementary tool to all art marketplaces, both physical and digital. Given that all the information in the artist’s portfolio is tagged, they can be searched and sourced from a large variety of touchpoints, expanding the paths between artists and galleries, curators, collectors, and the general public. Launching in the next few months, Artists will also be able to apply to open calls/career opportunities as well as seek the advice of mentors and industry experts, as a result, providing benefits to all types of art professionals.
What are you hoping for the future of Artifact?
Artifact provides a valuable benefit to every stakeholder in the art world, bringing a historically fragmented and siloed together for the first time. By making the artist’s voice an integral piece of any art experience, Artifact can simultaneously foster a deeper and more meaningful level of public participation in emerging art and equip artists, galleries, academic institutions and other art professionals with the tools to realize the potential of their newfound audiences. We are creating a foundation based on access, storytelling, and transparency.
Artifact will guarantee art and artists are never out of reach, make the language of art more inclusive, encourage people to purchase art and build relationships with artists, allow artists to control their own careers, empowering them to side-step expensive and time-wasting industry traditions, and pursue & connect directly with art professionals, and ultimately, increase the viability of being a fine artist as a profession.
What are you excited for this year?
This year, we took Artifact online so there is a lot to look forward to. I am excited to see both the vision and product exposed to various communities in the art sector. Our team is incredibly passionate about the movement and is constantly looking for new opportunities to take Artifact to new heights. Although the current product has room for painting, sculpture, installation, and drawing, we will be releasing functionality for video, performance, digital mixed media, collage, and printmaking later this year and a host of other new services.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I remember sitting at home during college as an analytics major at the time. I came across two quotes by Joseph Bueys that I believe also fueled this 4-year journey of research, interviews and product building:
“I think art is the only political power, the only revolutionary power, the only evolutionary power, the only power to free humankind form all repression…”
“A total work of art is only possible in the context of the whole of society. Everyone will be a necessary co-creator of a social architecture, and, so long as anyone cannot participate, the ideal form of democracy has not been reached. Whether people are artists, assemblers of machines or nurses, it is a matter of participating in the whole.”