The dynamic between art and technology, much like that between fashion and technology, is an intriguing one. Combining creative genius with digital logic and beauty with function, it represents a unique intersection of two seemingly different worlds. Mexico-based Auxilium Art is attempting to do just that, achieving a seamless fusion between the artistic realm and the digital world, also adding a bit of philanthropy into the mix.
Founded in 2011, Auxilium Art is the brainchild of Bertha Morales, who a few years ago set out to find a way to combine two of her passions: art and philanthropy. While finishing her Masters in Art Therapy in New York, Morales also worked as an intern at an art studio that was part of a psychiatric hospital. She explained, “I discovered that the artists longed to exhibit their work, but there were very few galleries willing to do so. This left me with the need to build an exhibition space with the mission to create a link between artists and art lovers, and that also had a philanthropic twist.”
She went to work bringing her idea to life, and in February 2013, Auxilium Art commenced operations. A social enterprise dedicated to the sale of artwork online, the company’s mission is to promote the work of emerging artists while supporting non-profit organizations at the same time. How so? Not only does each sale, of course, benefit the artist, but the company also donates 10% of its income to charity, regardless of the profit from the sale.
In allowing each artist to choose the foundation the sale of his or her work will benefit, Auxilium is, effectively, building a community through which individuals engage directly with a specific cause. “The company promotes artistic and cultural development in Mexico, fosters collecting in a young market, and encourages social responsibility among our community,” Morales affirmed.
All of Auxilium’s artists are professionals, recruited from national grants, biennials and art schools or referred by professional curators. The works selected for the gallery are vetted based on quality, originality, price range and format as well as the artist’s background.
Though the gallery is designed to appeal to collectors from all demographics, most of the company’s buyers are individuals between the ages of 30 and 45. Most live in Mexico; however, Auxilium has sold abroad as well – and plans to do so more soon.
Art, Philanthropy, and the E-Commerce Route
Auxilium’s proposal is nothing short of ambitious, combining art, e-commerce and philanthropy. According to Morales, the dynamic is working out quite well:
We have found that the interaction between these sectors has been very organic. We love art and acknowledge its positive impact on society; therefore, we wish to serve as a platform from which to launch new talent. Also, we are keenly aware of the essential role that philanthropic organizations have on our community’s progress. And, the development of new technologies makes e-commerce easier every day. These three elements allow us to make art more accessible, and to create a network through which artists, non-profit organizations, and our audience can connect.
Though art is one of the last industries to evolve into e-commerce, Morales noted that the model allows her team to display a larger inventory and maintain low overhead costs – meaning a sustainable business in the long run. The virtual gallery also allows Auxilium to reach a much wider audience.
As mentioned, Auxilium donates 10% of the gallery’s gross profit from art sales to philanthropic organizations chosen by artists and vetted by the team itself – a rare move in the e-commerce realm. And thus far, the model is working:
From a financial perspective, in simple terms, it is a fixed cost that is built in to every sale. For Auxilium Art, donating 10% of our gross profit has been a reality from the first sale onwards. Our investors and artists know that they are working with a social enterprise, and they believe in and encourage our principles. Supporting non-profits with our income is not only fundamental for us; it is one of the values that differentiate us from other galleries.
Working in the e-commerce field has also required Auxilium to focus on customer service and ensuring clients know exactly what they’re buying, offering high-resolution images of art plus very detailed descriptions. To inspire confidence among buyers, the company also offers a seven-day money-back guarantee and ensures that each piece is shipped with a certificate of authenticity.
Focus on Team Dynamic – Not Gender
The Auxilium team is composed of nearly all women (one of the founding partners is a man), but it’s not something that Morales considers a major factor in making or breaking the company’s success – or having a huge impact:
I acknowledge and am deeply aware that the playing field is not an even one for women and men entrepreneurs in this country. However, we have been very lucky that this has not greatly affected our work. Our environment is filled with younger, dynamic, open-minded individuals who have been very encouraging and helpful to our enterprise.
The members of the Auxilium team pride themselves on their capacity for empathy, collaborative work, and the constant pursuit of personal and professional growth, largely reflecting the main pillars of the company itself. Its founding partners bring experience in art, design, technology and business, and other members of the team have expertise in the social sector, art curating, finance and graphic design. “This allows us to have a global perspective on the needs of the company and the market,” affirmed Morales.
Just six months since its official launch, Auxilium is headed in the right direction. However, as is the case with any startup, it has some adjusting to do. One area in which the company will soon be making changes is in its editorial content. Morales explained, “Our blog will no longer be a secondary force. We are working on a redesign that will integrate our gallery and editorial content into a single webpage. We will launch this new face of Auxilium Art in a couple of months.”
Auxilium’s proposal is certainly an inspiring and, what’s more, unique. Are we seeing a new brand of startup?