The upper echelons of the art world are notorious for trading in obscene amounts of money, shutting out all but 1% of the 1%. As social media brings rising stars into people’s homes, a new generation of artists, collectors, and entrepreneurs are coming together to make art more accessible than ever before. Homecoming Gallery is one such destination, mixing insider and outsider talent, while making contemporary photography more diverse and affordable. I spoke to co-founder Karlijn Bozon over Zoom to find out more.
When Broadway shut down in March 2020, it was big news. The New York landmark, a global symbol for theatre in the heart of one of the world’s great cities, would no longer be touching the hearts and minds of people from all over the world night after night. Since the coronavirus tightened its grip on the world, movie theaters, museums, galleries, and music halls have all followed suit.
What’s left is an artistic void, a reminder of how the greatest cultural output needs a physical home. For most, these venues were a chance to connect with the redemptive value of art. It didn’t matter that pieces were on loan from the ultra-wealthy or that a concert would only last a few hours.
In the wake of the pandemic, the need for art in people’s lives on a daily basis became clearer. Historically, the biggest hurdle has been accessibility. Even upcoming artists, once “discovered” by the art market, are often subject to the same forces that make certain stocks red hot one second and bitter cold the next.
Somewhere in the middle is an optimistic space that brings the work of rising artists to collectors at prices within reach, making it possible for enthusiasts to experience the work of human ingenuity day after day from home. Homecoming Gallery is planting a flag in this space.
Founded by Karlijn Bozon and Nadine van Asbeck, Homecoming Gallery’s mission is to make contemporary photography buying and collecting more accessible, diverse, and exciting. By tapping a handful of curators whose tastes run the gamut, exceptional talent from all around the world is par for the course.
To learn more about the unique path Homecoming Gallery is carving in the art market, I spoke to co-founder Karlijn over Zoom. Read our conversation below.
Hey Karlijn, we’ve known each other a while now. Before we get into Homecoming Gallery, can you tell me about your career up until this point?
Sure, so I actually started my career in 2008 with a project in the red-light district, called red-light fashion. It was a project where we created working and living spaces, and window space for the most talented designers in Holland.
It was a really fun project and some designers went on to have huge careers. Jan Taminiau was one of the designers and now he does dresses for monarchs around the world, including our queen.
From there I went to work for G-Star, doing marketing and PR for Asia Pacific. It was 24/7 but really a lot of fun, working on emerging markets and with Pharrell on the launch of denim made from recycled ocean plastics.
And from there you went to work at Filling Pieces, right? Where we first met.
Right. I had known Guillaume (Philibert) for a while and learned that the brand was growing really fast. Once I joined, it showed me a different way of thinking. Before Filling Pieces, Amsterdam was probably mostly known in fashion circles for its expertise in denim, nothing like Paris, London, or New York.
Filling Pieces catapulted this new face of Amsterdam, all young creatives born or raised in the Netherlands but with roots in other cultures, who supported each other to get their brands and message out there. They were a movement right from the start, it was really inspiring.
I was still doing marketing and PR but spending lots of time talking with photographers and directors about their work, which I really enjoyed. It made me realize I wanted to focus more on the creative side of the business and that led me to join Halal as an agent.
It was really hard work because I had to basically learn that new role and that eventually led me to becoming Head of Photography. What I really loved about that role was that I could chat with photographers about what makes them tick and what message they try to convey with their vision and how we can progress those visions and ideas into shoots.
I begun to realize that a photographer’s personal projects are where they get to be totally free; they don’t have to include direction from whoever is commissioning them. At the same time, I had moved about 15 minutes outside of Amsterdam to renovate an old house and every time I pulled out some of the art pieces the home began to feel like more of a home.
“Homecoming is a safe, curated space for photography fans to get objective recommendations.”
That brings us to Homecoming Gallery.
Right. I realized there was such a gap between the amazing work you get to see when you work in the industry vs what is actually out there for collectors to buy.
Homecoming is the result of wanting to build a platform for exceptional voices because I felt they were being overlooked by a lot of people who end up, in the worst cases, on generic websites buying stock photography. I wanted to build a safe, curated space for photography fans to get objective recommendations.
Tell me about those objective recommendations.
We work with a growing network of curators from the industry who don’t receive any monetary compensation whatsoever. Launched with a mix of people from Sotheby’s, WePresent, Mendo, and Wallpaper* Magazine, they each bring their own experiences and expertise to the table.
They share with us their favorite artists and works, and then we have a discussion on which ones we feel fit our platform so it all feels holistic.
Is there an underlying theme tying it all together?
It’s one destination that houses multiple exhibitions at the same time, featuring artists from all corners of the globe. We make new releases and collaborations monthly so we can build a platform for exceptional talents and make photography buying and collecting more exciting, diverse, and inspirational.
Tell me a bit more about the diversity of talent.
It’s a mix of insider and outsider talent: people who are very much from prestigious art schools next to people who are self-taught and shoot on iPhones—but all hand-selected by industry experts. That’s what sets us apart from other online galleries.
Do you think that focus on diverse talent is just as important to collectors?
Absolutely. How we spend our money is almost like casting a vote, maybe even more so. It’s a way for collectors to embrace the talents and the visions they stand for.
“How we spend our money is almost like casting a vote. It’s a way for collectors to embrace the talents and the visions they stand for.”
What about the accessibility of this artwork?
People find it really daunting to buy into the arts. It’s not the price of a pair of sneakers. What we wanted to show was that you can buy work from really great photographers at quite an affordable rate—as long as you get there early.
We don’t necessarily want to dictate what people should buy but we want to create a culture on our platform for people to educate themselves on why an artist is producing their work in the first place. We do that through the curators’ selection process and through interviews with each artist.
Bringing something into your home, especially art, is so personal, so we want people to feel like they have a connection with the artist and to have insight into their creative process so they understand why something is priced a certain way. You’re not buying into that particular piece. You’re buying into the whole path that led towards that work and everything that will stem from that.
What about on the photographer side of the equation? Beyond just having a platform to sell their work, what draws them to Homecoming?
Homecoming is a gallery but it’s also a network. One of the most important things for photographers is to be able to directly interact with their potential audiences, empowering them to create freely.
It’s both a business model for boundaryless work and as a way to be seen by different key experts from the industry that they might not have encountered on their own. For example, if you’re in a commission space as a photographer, you probably wouldn’t be seen so soon by somebody from Sotheby’s or the other way around.
Can you go a bit deeper, using an artist on Homecoming as an example?
Definitely. One of our really great finds was brought to our attention by Holly Fraser from WePresent. His name is Derrick Ofosu Boateng and he’s from Ghana. He’s totally self-taught but making such powerful, joyful work about everyday life in Ghana.
When we first started talking, he had amassed a following in Ghana. Fast forward a bit and he just released his artwork for Common’s new album. Now he’s in the running to do a campaign for a global tech giant.
So it’s all about putting your work in different spaces than where you’re coming from, and the idea is that by mixing editorial commissions with fine art spaces—and all the different cultures and networks within each one—that it actually progresses as a whole.
Lastly, what do you hope to achieve with Homecoming?
We want to be a destination for the next generation of collectors who want real recommendations, know their research, their taste and style, and we want to give them a variety of great options from all worlds, angles, and viewpoints.
Lead image: Derrick Ofosu Boateng – ‘You Can Count the Seeds in an Apple’
Brock Cardiner is the Content Director of HERO® and the Editor-in-Chief of Elsewhere. Previously Brock was the Editorial Director of Highsnobiety.