Whilst often labelled an alternative investment, the art world itself is still steeped in tradition and dominated by a few well-established names or elite insiders.
This often makes it seemingly inaccessible to the everyday investor or to a budding creative, striving to make their mark.
It can certainly prove a difficult market to crack, but Marine Tanguy, one of the art world’s youngest CEO’s, seems to have done just that.
At just 21, she managed her own art gallery in L.A.
Now 29, she is the founder of MTArt Agency, one of the world’s first talent agency for visual artists, and she has also been tipped as one of Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30.
She has also been recently featured, alongside one of her rising art stars, Adelaide Damoah, in a campaign for the French luxury fashion house Chloé, no less.
MTArt Agency is an art talent agency that aims to support, bolster and nurture the next up-and-coming artists by connecting them with investors, collectors, museums, cities and brands, as well as covering the costs of studio space.
Whilst investors will usually look towards the value of a particular piece of work, MTArt’s focus is the individual behind the art, in turn re-asserting the merit of prioritising people-power for the success of any business.
In an increasingly tech-oriented world, it is a refreshing return to prioritising human expertise and talent over the anonymity of algorithms.
The concept behind her business was very much inspired by her time in California, where she encountered the numerous celebrity-orientated talent agencies on offer stateside.
I sat down with Marine in Soho to find out more about her vision, and to discover why she is choosing to invest in the individual as opposed to simply the artwork.
When I ask Marine what first drew her to the industry, she emphasises the impact of the visual upon our world and our lives. For her, art truly is all around us.
“Everything is visual…from what you look at on your screen, inside your home, visually it is inspiring. Art adds enormous value to our society and influences so many different environments”, she explains.
This focus on the impact of the visual is something she has touched on at a TedX talk she gave back in 2018, where she focused upon the importance of Art on our wellbeing.
Immediately upon talking to her, it is clear that she truly believes in her business concept – and with a valuation of £2.5 million – clearly others do too.
This is an impressive feat given the art world’s reputation for being at times conservative, insular and still very much male-driven.
When I ask her if she has perhaps felt that some may have seen her age or gender as an obstacle, she doesn’t seem fazed or discouraged.
She does however admit there are indeed pros and cons to starting a business so young.
Still, Marine says her youth has actually played to her advantage; giving her the latitude to make mistakes, bounce back and most importantly – to be bold.
She answers, “success is not built on people-pleasing, it is built on people that go for things.”
“It certainly was very as a ambitious statement, I don’t know if I could go back and make the same statement”, she concedes.
Nevertheless, ambition is clearly an important asset to her. And it’s something she is clear to highlight as a standout trait she looks for when scouting out her next art protégé.
Despite taking a prominent role in her business, Marine doesn’t specifically decide whom the agency takes on the books.
That task is down to a dedicated selection committee who filter as many as 200 candidates a month to decide who has what it takes.
She does however highlight that in order to succeed as an artist, one must not be faint of heart.
“In loads of talent industries you will get knocked down plenty of times, it’s that resilience, it’s athletic in itself. That’s what we look for. We take very few people. They don’t take no for an answer. They have such a high amount of what they can take because they really want it”, she asserts.
So, what does it take to succeed in setting up your own business venture? For Marine, the key to building a business with real momentum is staying true to your moral compass.
“Get as much experience as possible,” she urges. “You will make mistakes, you will make them…it is difficult to avoid that”.
“Define a business around the values you hold. When you haven’t slept its easier to pitch for something you believe in than something you have compromised for. Don’t build a business for the sake of it.”
When I ask her what’s next for the future of MTArt, she is still aiming high. She emphasises her ambition of securing the highest valuation for an innovative non-tech company.
“I want to show you that having a people business can have a high-value. I am interested in sharing in the growth of a businesses that is not just number obsessed.”
MTArt is already expanding quickly, having recently opened its second location in Paris, alongside its original London operation.
The agency also has its sights on the Asian market with Hong Kong, alongside of course the city of talent – Los Angeles.
On a personal note, I ask her to narrow down some of her favourite art galleries, which is perhaps a challenging task for someone who clearly is so passionate about all aspects of the visual.
She does however settle on a few spots in London, such as the V&A, which she hails in particular for the diversity of its exhibitions.
Another favourite she lists is the Tate Modern, which was also recently named as the UK’s top visitor attraction, overtaking the British Museum.